Sub-genre of heavy metal developed in the early and mid 80s. Although the term had appeared in three notable instances between 1983 and 1985 (Death's "Death by Metal" demo, the German "Death Metal" compilation record and a track from Onslaught's "Power From Hell" LP), it is the Possessed debut "Seven Churches" that is widely regarded as kicking off the movement.
Possessed's use of abrupt tempo changes, gutteral vocals, unusual phrasing and Satanic overtones separated them from the more light hearted, punkish sound of thrash metal. The death metal template would continue to develop as Necrophagia, Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary and Autopsy released their respective debuts. These groups generally focused on horror-movie inspired blood and gore as well as occultist themes. By the 1990s, death metal had exploded in the underground and a number of influential bands rose to prominence. Additionally, if anyone wanted to call themselves death metal, extreme distortion, low guitar tunings and excessively fast tempos were mandatory.
Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Dying Fetus and Deicide presented a percussively driven flavor of death metal, while Death, Cynic, Hypocrisy, Atheist and others prided themselves on more intricate and melodic guitar work, as well as lyrics dealing with social and political issues. Among the most extreme bands included both major Disgorges (USA and Mexico, respectively), Devourment and Mortician, who focused on very low tones, both in the guitar tunings and vocal approach. This was in direct contrast to melodic death metal bands such as At the Gates, the later work of Carcass, and In Flames, who often explored tones above middle C, rather than primarily or exclusively focusing on the bass strings.
The accessibility of melodic death metal (and the public's exposure to increasingly aggressive rock) has lead to deathcore, in which groups such as Job For a Cowboy, Winds of Plague and the recent work of Cryptopsy combine the death metal aesthetic with modern hardcore and other accessible styles.
There are a number of other fusion styles that have developed over the years, including the black metal/death metal hybrid "blackened death metal" (Archgoat, Angelcorpse, Blasphemy). Deathgrind or death grind combines death metal with grindcore (Aborted, Circle of Dead Children, Origin). There are also experimental groups such as Portal, Gorguts and Negativa, who use death metal as a basis to explore a number of unusual rock stylings.
Cannibal Corpse is perhaps the most highly recognized band in the death metal community, and one of the few that has sold over one million albums.
Sub-genre of heavy metal that was developed throughout the 80s and early 90s. Venom's 1982 release, "Black Metal," is responsible for coining the term. The LP was full of Satanic camp, sloppy playing and raw production, as well as singer Cronos's growled vocals. By 1983, Hellhammer had formed and played an even more minimal style than Venom. As they matured, they changed their name to Celtic Frost and would eventually become known for transcending several extreme styles, including thrash metal, black metal, death metal and doom metal.
Bathory is perhaps the most notable black metal group from the 80s. The first three albums ("Bathory," "The Return," and "Under the Sign of the Black Mark) provided the listener with buzzsaw guitars, low fidelity production, shrieked vocals and simplistic phrasing, making Venom seem tame in comparison. By the end of the decade, frontman Quorthon had taken the sound into a "viking metal" direction, slowing down the tempo and distancing itself from Satanic overtones.
There were other groups in the 80s that were influential to black metal, including the thrashy sound of Sodom, the Venom-esque aggression of Italy's Bulldozer and the traditional sound of Mercyful fate, whose frontman King Diamond was among the first to wear the Kiss-like makeup that has become known as "corpse paint."
In the early 1990s, Norway would be primarily responsible for the development of second wave black metal. A number of musicians who felt that death metal had become stagnant decided to separate themselves from the flock by paying tribute to 80s black metal while establishing new ideas for the young genre. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved and Satyircon all began releasing albums that, while individually unique, had many of the same elements. This included extensive use of tremolo picking, open string playing, standard tuning, shrieked vocals, and lyrics focused on occultist themes. Additionally, pinch harmonics and palm muting were rarely heard. Several of these musicians were also known for burning down Norwegian churches, perhaps as a way of protesting the prominence of Christianity in the area. Another controversial element of black metal were groups such as Absurd and Graveland, who had National Socialist leanings.
Outside of Norway were a number of influential groups, such as Dark Funeral, Beherit, Impaled Nazerine, and Behemoth. Other groups such as Mystifier, Archgoat and Belphegor, successfully combined black and death metal. Other fusions include ambient black metal (early Burzum, Blut Aus Nord) and folk metal (Finntroll, Korpiklaani). And much like melodic death metal, there is also a melodic branch of black metal (Graveworm, Rotting Christ, Dimmu Borgir). Recently, groups such as Forgotten Tomb and Amesoeurs combine shoegaze/emo with black metal, an unlikely combination, perhaps a reflection of black metal's occasional commercial appeal.
Darkthrone is the most well known black metal band, releasing several influential albums throughout the 1990s before leaning towards a punk inspired style.