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30 Years, 30 Death Metal Albums: 1985-1994

Seven Churches

In the spring of 1985, four teenagers from California got together with a mission to make the most extreme, evil music known to man. The result, Possessed’s Seven Churches, gave birth to a new style of heavy music: “death metal.” In the 30 years since, the genre has become one of the most maligned in popular music. With its often violent or Satanic imagery, chaotic and dissonant musical structure and the widely derided use of “Cookie Monster” vocals, most people think of death metal as a godawful racket for angsty teenagers.

But those who have paid attention know better. In its three decades of existence, death metal has ballooned from what seemed like a passing fad to one of the most widespread and frequently played of any of metal’s ever-growing number of subgenres, with distinctive scenes popping up all over the world. Thriving on experimentation and musicianship, death metal is meant for the underground, and like so many things with cult followings, you either get it or you don’t.

The following is Part 1 of a list of 30 essential death metal albums, one for each year since the genre’s birth. Whether you’re a seasoned metalhead looking to see if your favorite albums made the cut or an indie kid who just wants to know what John Darnielle sees in this noise, we at Ruby Hornet hope you will find some use for it.

Travis Marmon recently moved to Chicago from the Detroit suburb of Clarkston, Michigan. He attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, where he was Sports Editor and then Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Wooster Voice. Travis has also contributed to print and online publications such as The Oakland Press, The Good Men Project, Detroit143, Imagine Sports Media and Alternative Press. He spends his spare time playing bass and getting mad about the Detroit Lions.

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