As a part of my recent full genre guide to death metal, I wanted to make an ultimate list of the best death metal bands. This will be a massive one. 20 is not enough, 50 is not enough. Let’s do the 100 best death metal bands!
These are my personal favorites, some cult bands will most certainly be ranked below lesser-known ones. Some readers will be triggered, internet metal style. But I bet it’s going to be an entertaining read, and hopefully you will find some underrated death metal bands you didn’t know about.
Some factors I look at are:
- Overall discography quality
- Songwriting and lyrics (of course)
- Riffs, energy, power and all the other obscure adjectives we associate with quality death metal
- Pure melodeath bands (In Flames, Dark Tranquillity etc.)
- Death/doom metal
But before we begin…
You’re here to check out death metal bands, after all? Well, I’m in one – and one of the purposes of this epic-size content is to make you listen to it. This is Desolator, old school death metal for fans of Immolation, Morbid Angel, Bloodbath and more. If you dig the song, please stream/download our music from Bandcamp and follow us on Facebook.
Best death metal bands, 100-51
- 100. Runemagick
- 99. Blood Incantation
- 98. Sarpanitum
- 97. Volturyon
- 96. The Chasm
- 95. Necrophobic
- 94. Demilich
- 93. God Macabre
- 92. Convulse
- 91. Benediction
- 90. Demigod
- 89. Vallenfyre
- 88. Baest
- 87. Dying Fetus
- 86. Repugnant
- 85. Gorguts
- 84. Hideous Divinity
- 83. Goretrade
- 82. Death Breath
- 81. Behemoth
- 80. Unleashed
- 79. Gorement
- 78. Facebreaker
- 77. Possessed
- 76. Vital Remains
- 75. Demonical
- 74. Lykathea Aflame
- 73. Dead Congregation
- 72. Ulcerate
- 71. Abhorrence
- 70. Akercocke
- 69. Atheist
- 68. Cattle Decapitation
- 67. Afflicted
- 66. Brutality
- 65. Torture Division
- 64. Funebrarum
- 63. Burial Invocation
- 62. Divine Empire
- 61. Incantation
- 60. Interment
- 59. Vomitory
- 58. Puteraeon
- 57. Asphyx
- 56. Fleshcrawl
- 55. Jungle Rot
- 54. Mass Infection
- 53. Disincarnate
- 52. God Dethroned
- 51. Scent of Flesh
50. The Curse
Let’s begin the top 50 with a hidden gem – Sweden’s The Curse. Sadly, the reincarnation of Kaamos has only released one EP, but it’s a damn good slab of old school Swedish death metal.
49. Lost Soul
Poland is filled with quality death metal, and Lost Soul is certainly one of the best. Personally, I’m not that crazy about the super-ambitious newer material. However, 2005’s “Chaostream” kicks ass.
Cryptopsy’s first two albums are righteously counted as classics in both brutal and technical death metal. The band may sound a bit silly at times, but the music is insanely intense, abrupt and chaotic.
Amoral plays a catchy take on progressive death metal. Or well, played, before the band switched vocalist and released the terrible album “Show Your Colours”. Shitty power metal aside, that doesn’t make 2005’s “Decrowning” any less awesome.
The first two Grave albums “Into the Grave” and “You’ll Never See” are mandatory pieces of Swedish death metal. Both are raw high-quality examples of the style well-worth checking out, even if they don’t reach the heights of Dismember and Entombed.
45. Hail of Bullets
Most people would rank Asphyx (#57) over this one, among their Martin van Drunen-fronted projects. I have to say I prefer Hail of Bullets, though – especially the first album “…Of Frost and War” (2008). The songs are both catchy and epic. Not to mention the guitar tone, which is insanely heavy.
44. Malevolent Creation
There’s no denying the longevity of this band. Peak Malevolent for me is probably 1995’s “Eternal”, but the band has managed to release 13 full-length albums at this point, and most are good.
A new-era slam band among all the classic death metal bands?! Well, indeed. Degrade’s “Lost Torso Found” happens to kick unbelievable amounts of ass. So much that it even captures spot 43 on this list.
42. Bolt Thrower
Bolt Thrower is one of the most consistent death metal bands ever. Their last album is probably my personal favorite, but whichever one you choose, you know what you’re getting! The often mid-paced war metal music style is also equally recognizable and influential. So many bands play it, but the original is the best.
Hypocrisy is most known for their melodic death metal material, resulting in big songs like “Roswell 47” and “Eraser”. But in the early days, the band was pretty damn brutal. Tägtgren’s love for U.S. death metal resulted in a blend of Swedish and American death metal that’s well worth diving into if you enjoy either style.
Carcass are the pioneers of goregrind, being one of the most brutal bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The band also carried on to craft high-quality groovy and melodic material. Personally, I think the peak is 1995’s super-melodic “Heartwork”.
If the first two Dismember albums aren’t enough, you’re in luck. 1990’s “Dark Recollections” features a similar sound and mostly the same members. It’s a nice crossover between the early Swedish sound and a disgusting Autopsy-influenced edge.
Deicide might be just as famous for Glen Benton’s antics as the music, but there’s no denying the band has written quite a few classics. What death metal fan hasn’t been screaming along to “Sacrificial Suicide”, “Dead by Dawn” or “Bastard of Christ”?
37. Napalm Death
Few bands have been more influential for extreme metal than Napalm Death. And it’s not only influence – there are plenty of nice tunes in their discography. My personal go-to disc is 2005’s “The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code”.
Sweden’s Merciless was one of the earliest extreme metal bands around. Luckily, they were not just early, the songs are damn good, too! All four albums, including melodeath album “Unbound” and the self-titled comeback, are worth checking out.
Sceptic is one of Poland’s most underrated death metal bands, if not the most underrated. 2005’s “Internal Complexity” is a perfect mix between high-intensity rhythms and semi-melodic Death-influenced leads. I’m very surprised that the band isn’t right up there with the greats.
When you discuss Dutch death metal, Pestilence is usually the first band that comes up. And why not? The first two albums are great examples of early, energic death/thrash. Not to mention mr. van Drunen’s possessed vocal performances.
Few bands have weaved melody into death metal as well as Vehemence. The best example is ballad “She Never Noticed Me”, a crazy mix of acoustic guitars and death metal extremity. Truly an interesting band with unique ideas – sadly they have once again disbanded.
The first three Decapitated albums are prime technical death metal. Most people seem to go for the first two, but my favorite is the super-aggressive “The Negation” album”. Whatever album you choose from that era, you’re bound to get some quality death metal music.
Aborted is one of the most well-known and long-running brutal death metal bands, and the notoriety is deserved. I mostly listen to their classic, 2003’s “Goremageddon: The Saw and the Carnage Done”, but there are plenty of other catchy tunes in the band’s discography.
Why do all cool death metal bands call it quits? Well, who knows? One thing I do know is that France’s Kronos is one of the coolest bands I’ve ever heard in the technical and brutal death metal sphere. The band’s unique selling point is how it manages to weave in epic melodies perfectly, into an otherwise ultra-brutal sound.
Anata was on the way to make it big on the booming early-2000’s technical death metal scene, but things went wrong and the follow-up to “The Conductor’s Departure” never arrived. It’s sad, because the band is one of the most interesting tech-death acts, and it felt like its musical journey had just started.
28. Murder Squad
It’s pretty damn impressive for what’s virtually a tribute band to have a position as high as this. But when it involves musicians from Dismember, Entombed and Autopsy, things like that can happen. This is just disgusting back-to-basics death metal in all its glory, topped off with some of the sickest vocal performances to match.
Desultory is one of the most underrated Swedish death metal bands, fusing a groovy take on the old school style with sorrowful melodic sensibilities. This was done very early, before the big melodeath boom. A sadly overlooked band with many good songs and an interesting mix of influences.
I must admit I’m somewhat lost touch with Nile and their Egyptian-influenced ideas over the last few years, but I think this spot is well-deserved. After all, the band has written a lot of cool stuff, 2005’s “Annihilation of the Wicked” being the peak for me.
25. Cannibal Corpse
It’s hard to do this without including Cannibal Corpse at some point, and #25 is the spot. The band’s live shows may be running more and more on autopilot, but there’s no denying the insane amount of classic songs in the CC discography.
The first two Obituary albums are immortal death metal classics, and it’s always fun to witness the band live. John Tardy’s vocals, the hardcore-influenced grooves and bassy guitar tone makes the band one of the most easily recognizable.
23. Severe Torture
My favorite Dutch death metal band reaches #23. Severe Torture knows how to riff, groove and simply beat the shit out of the listeners, so the band name definitely fits.
Sadly, this underrated Danish death metal band only put out one album back in 2005. But it’s a really cool one, mixing groovy riff-based death metal with some slight atmospherics. The songwriting is both intricate and catchy, so I’m surprised to see that so few people have heard about Usipian.
When it comes to a whiplash-inducing sonic onslaught, few bands do it better than Hate. The band is just as Polish as it gets, rocking slight black metal influences, extreme blastbeat attacks and well-placed headbanging breakdowns.
20. Morbid Angel
Morbid Angel as number 20?! Blasphemy, insanity, bla bla bla. Fact is that the band really only has three high-quality albums in their discography. Sure, albums F and G have some hits, but it’s nothing that really competes. Don’t get fooled into thinking that I’m shitting on “Altars of Madness” though, it’s a monumental masterpiece.
As underrated death metal bands go, few are more so than Kaamos. Both records are top-notch examples of Swedish death metal, and it was sad to see the band fade into such obscurity after disbanding. Don’t miss out on Kaamos if you haven’t heard them!
Monstrosity is mostly famous for being the previous band of Cannibal Corpse vocalist George Fisher. And that’s a sad situation, because of two things: Monstrosity is a better death metal band than Cannibal Corpse, and, not to mention, Monstrosity’s best material doesn’t even feature Fisher. Want to explore why I’m making such bold statements? Listen to 2007’s “Spiritual Apocalypse”.
17. Edge of Sanity
Despite its fame, Dan Swanö’s Edge of Sanity feels underrated when it comes to Swedish death metal. The discography has plenty of classic songs and riffs, and the newer material is also a good introduction to progressive death metal.
The first two Entombed albums are some of the most important death metal ever made, and the blueprint for the Swedish style. Discography-wise, the band may have made some missteps, but there’s no denying “Left Hand Path” and “Clandestine”.
Insision is one of the least Swedish-sounding death metal bands from Sweden. The band is also way underrated and forgotten. It’s insane to me, because it’s some of the tastiest death metal out there. Somehow the band manages to have the frenzy and brutality from the U.S. brutal/tech-death scene, while also having catchy hooks that feel quite Swedish. Just overall a very good death metal band.
Psycroptic, and more specifically “The Scepter of the Ancients”, is some of the wildest technical death metal ever created. I’m usually not a fan of thin guitar sounds and machine-like precision, but when it comes to this band it works perfectly. And they manage to sound damn groovy and catchy while doing it.
13. Hour of Penance
My pet-peeve with technical death metal is how clean and polished it can sound. But if you keep the blazing playing and add unbelievable amounts of aggression? Well, chances are that you’ll sound like Hour of Penance. I love the abrupt super-aggression of this band. Very good lyricists, too.
12. Misery Index
Taking crust punk attitude into death metal can work really well, and Misery Index is solid proof. Definitely one of the most pissed off bands ever in the genre. Haven’t heard them yet? Start with debut album “Retaliate” and the super-intense “Dissent” EP. You won’t regret it.
Bloodbath was a big part in starting the new old school death metal movement, and also getting Opeth and Katatonia fans into the style. The nasty chainsaw guitar fest “Resurrection through Carnage” and modern-sounding EP “Unblessing the Purity” are my favorites, but there’s plenty of good stuff throughout the Bloodbath discography.
Vader is one of the longest-running death metal bands, and pretty much all the material is great. The band has sounded the same for 30 years, but I’m still excited to hear a new album every time one comes out. I have massive amounts of respect for that level of dedication and quality.
Autopsy’s two first albums set the standard for grotesque, primal death metal. The riffs are sickly groovy, and the vocal style is absolutely deranged. I also find the band’s newer material way over par for a reunion band. Legendary status, well-deserved.
Infini-what? Screw it, we all need some Australian technical death metal in our lives. This is a gruesomely underrated band that’s best described as a more melodic, sophisticated take on Suffocation. The songwriting is fantastic and the riffs are even better.
Benighted are the kings of brutal death metal to me, especially the “Identisick” album. It’s not easy to have a unique and instantly recognizable style in brutal death, but if one band has it, it’s Benighted. Not to mention the insanity of the live shows, which is definitely something to see for yourself.
6. The Crown
The Crown has been a death metal favorite of mine for longer than I can remember. Most people know them for “Deathrace King”, and that’s also my favorite. The mix of ferocious death/thrash, melodic death metal and pure rock n’ roll is awesome, and I can’t see any other band pull it off in quite the same way.
Suffocation started about by pretty much defining brutal death metal with their debut “Effigy of the Forgotten”. Yet, that’s not their finest achievement, at least not in my opinion. The band had more in them, more specifically 1995’s “Pierced from Within”, one of the best death metal albums ever.
4. Blood Red Throne
The power of the riff is big in death metal music. And if you’re looking for riffs, there’s nowhere better than Norway’s Blood Red Throne. My favorite disc is “Altered Genesis”, but you can’t really go wrong with any album.
Dismember are the kings of Swedish death metal for me. The whole discography is solid, but the first two albums and the “Pieces” EP is the where the band truly excelled. Not to say that the rest is bad though, on the contrary.
Immolation is probably the most consistent death metal band out there. To hear albums like “Majesty and Decay” and “Atonement” from a band that’s been running since 1988 is amazing, not to mention the twisted music style and increasingly passionate lyrics.
This choice is just obvious to me, both in terms of discography quality and influence. All the albums are great, and none of them sound the same. I think it’s one of those well-deserved places on the throne, which is pretty rare in metal.
100 best death metal bands – summary
So, there you have it – my 100 best death metal bands in a wildly mixed list. It was fun and challenging to compile, and I bet some will be triggered, while other will be happy to find new bands. Anyway, let’s see what this one will bring. Enough positive and/or negative attention will probably prompt me to make another similar countdown. And don’t forget to check out Desolator!
More articles about death metal:
25 essential death metal albums ->
My thoughts on death metal lyrics ->