Brutal death metal is a death metal sub-genre. As the name implies, brutal death metal focuses on taking the style to more barbaric, savage territories. The sub-genre’s groundwork was laid down in the early 90’s, with the early albums from acclaimed bands like Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse.
Brutal death metal evolved and merged with other styles, creating things like slam death metal and the many versions of grindcore and goregrind. I’ll include bands with some degree of slam and/or grind, since I considered them sub-genres of brutal death.
Many of the bands in this brutal death metal article are also mentioned in my guide to technical death metal. The reason is simply that many bands mix both styles. This guide is a part of my overall guide to death metal music.
- Stefan Nordström
- Vocalist, guitarist, music writer
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Member of Desolator, Soliloquium and several other projects
Listen to Desolator
My old school death metal band, for fans of Morbid Angel, Immolation, Vader and more:
Listen to Soliloquium
My progressive death/doom metal band, for fans of Katatonia, Swallow the Sun, Daylight Dies and more:
Brutal death metal – the genre giants
Check this part of the article to find genre essentials. Further down, you will find some of my personal favorites, including some very underrated bands.
Belgium’s Aborted is one of the most famous and long-running brutal death metal bands. They’ve created what’s, in my opinion, one of the premiere albums in the genre: 2003’s “Goremageddon”. “Goremageddon” merges really crushing brutal death metal with breakdowns and insane amounts of catchiness.
The album has small amounts of melody, and rocks a lot in a traditional sense for such a brutal disc. Aborted deserve their status as one of the most famous brutal death metal bands.
It’s hard to have a list like this without mentioning Cannibal Corpse. The band is one of the best-known in death metal overall, and has churned out well over 10 full-length albums in its long career. Some of the most famous death metal songs came from the band.
To this day, Cannibal Corpse still manages to stay high-quality, which is impressive, considering the massive amount of material the band has released.
Cattle Decapitation is one of the most unique brutal death metal bands, both in terms of sound and concept. The overtly anti-human themes are one defining thing, another are the wacky, but fitting, clean vocal passages from Travis Ryan. Not to mention the crazy video concepts.
The first two Cryptopsy albums are among the most well-known and highly regarded in both brutal and technical death metal. And damn, it’s some very extreme music for its time. The early super-brutality makes Cryptopsy both a history lesson and an entertaining listen.
Devourment are the kings of slam death metal. Personally, I haven’t been a huge fan over the years, but 2019’s “Obscene Majesty” changed my mind a bit. It’s one of those cases where the most famous band in a sub-genre actually also might be its best.
Dying Fetus is one of the most well-known brutal bands. Personally, I’m not a huge fan, but their influence on the genre, and also slam death, is undeniable. The band’s main selling point is how it manages to play breakdown-heavy music that still has a high level of technicality to it. Today, it’s not that special anymore, but it was back when they started.
To me, Suffocation’s debut “Effigy of the Forgotten” is the bible for the brutal death metal style. For starters, it outlined many of the vocal styles and riff approaches. It’s also just a damn good album that was before its time in 1991. Also, don’t miss out on my favorite Suffocation album “Pierced from Within” from 1995.
My personal favorites
Benighted is my favorite brutal death metal band for several reasons. The main reason is that they’re one of the most varied and unique-sounding bands in the style. There’s always something unexpected going, and the amount of intensity is unparalleled.
“Identisick” and “Insane Cephalic Productions” are both perfect albums, and there are several more goodies in the Benighted discography.
Hour of Penance
Hour of Penance is an Italian band that’s equally brutal and technical in their approach. 2008’s “The Vile Conception” made me a big fan, and the band has kept releasing raging death metal music since then.
What makes the band so good is that they combine insane technicality and intense aggression with a great sense of songwriting on a level that not many death metal bands of this type can do.
Possibly the most un-Swedish Swedish death metal band. Also one of the most underrated brutal death metal bands out there. Insision made some raging albums in the early- and mid-2000’s.
Sadly, the band disappeared into obscurity after that. But if you like brutal and/or technical death metal you should definitely give the first two albums a spin.
Misery Index is a truly angry band. What makes it truly great for me is how the band has a crust-punk approach to their death metal. Also, they’re one of the best death metal bands lyrically, which is a nice bonus. The band’s early releases, like debut “Retaliate” and EP “Dissent” are my favorites, but Misery Index always equals quality death metal.
Severe Torture is a Dutch band that feels very overlooked compared to many similar, famous bands. 2005’s “Fall of the Despised” and 2010’s “Slaughtered” are my favorites, both being shock-filled with memorable hooks and enjoyable brutality.
Other death metal sub-genre guides
Now that you, hopefully, know a lot more about brutal death metal, feel free to check out my other sub-genre guides. Links below! Also, if you’re on the market for some Swedish death metal, head over to Bandcamp and check out my band Desolator.