6.66 Most Ungodly Awesome ’80s Death Metal Albums

As Seven Churches by Possessed turns 30, horns up to DM’s gloriously gory groundbreakers.

From Hell it came in the mid-1980s and deep into the pitch-black heart of hard rock at most extreme it went. From there, the music and movement that would come to be known and (properly) feared as “death metal” went on to pound, pulsate, and devour all other remote representations at the further fringes of punk, hardcore, and heavy metal.

October 16, 1985 can be pinned as one logical launch point for death metal’s initial ascent. That’s when San Francisco Bay Area teenagers calling themselves Possessed lit up Seven Churches. The album pushed past thrash far enough to require a new genre name unto itself—one it handily provided for itself by way of its closing track, “Death Metal.”

That same year, Slayer also reconfigured thrash in its own image by way of the horrifically hard, dark, fast, and ferocious Hell Awaits. Slayer then slayed even harder, darker, faster, and more ferocious on Reign In Blood (1986).

Possessed’s debut, coupled with Slayer’s unprecedented one-two hair-raising haymaker, largely laid the blueprint for so very much of the death metal that would ever follow.

By 1990, Hades’ gates had burst open and death metal’s fire-geysers gushed relentlessly into appropriately intense locales such as infernally hot Florida, frozen-souled Sweden, and politically tumultuous Latin America and Eastern Europe.

The diabolical parade that subsequently poured forth included Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Suffocation, Master, and a newly mutated by way of Mentally Murdered) Napalm Death. Among the fearless labels that first took up the combustive cause were Combat, Earache, and Roadrunner.

In honor of death metal turning 30, let’s raise some horns high, hard, and heavily for 6.66 albums that pointed the way forward down DM’s left-hand path.

6.66 WELCOME TO HELL – Venom (1981)

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