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Death metal is an extreme subgenre of metal, most easily identifiable by its utilization of bass-heavy guitar distortion, harsh, often growled or grunted vocals, and particular brand of compositional density. Best known death metal bands include Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Suffocation, and Entombed, all of which had in their earliest years contributed codifying releases to the subgenre.

In the middle of the 1980s, the stylistic origins of death metal manifested; 1984 saw the release of a few EPs (Slayer - Haunting the Chapel; Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales) and several demos (Necrophagia - Death Is Fun; Possessed - Death Metal) from which the subgenre would initially draw its compositional and lyrical motifs. 1985 saw the first full-length death metal release in the well-known Seven Churches, the earliest identifiable distinction the subgenre made from other emergent forms of extreme metal.

By the end of the decade, death metal had developed regional specificities. Two particular regions of the United States yielded two particular sounds: California (Sadus, Terrorizer, Autopsy) and Florida (Obituary, Morbid Angel, Death); meanwhile, Sweden had developed a unified sound of its own (Merciless, Grotesque, Carnage, Nihilist). Other regions of the world followed suit, to include Brazil (Psychic Possessor, Mutilator, Sepultura), Britain (Cancer, Benediction, Bolt Thrower), and Mainland Europe (Necrodeath, Messiah, Sempiternal Deathreign, Pestilence).

1990 saw a worldwide surge of activity in death metal. Further subgenres were founded by seminal releases in the following years, with technical death metal (Gorguts - Considered Dead; Suffocation - Human Waste) appearing in 1991 and melodic death metal (Amorphis - The Karelian Isthmus, Eucharist - A Velvet Creation; Carcass - Heartwork) properly taking root in 1993. These stylistic schisms were the much more visible faces of death metal from the middle of the 1990s through to the middle of the 2000s.

After over a decade of scarcity characterized by throwback tribute efforts and understated misfires, the emergence of a new, third wave of legitimate, genre-appropriate death metal slowly became apparent. As early as 2006, the reception of Repugnant - Epitome of Darkness signaled a change in the common conception of the death metal aesthetic held by newer bands; by 2008, several like-minded record labels (Razorback, Nuclear War Now!, Hells Headbangers) and critically exceptional releases (Acid Witch - Witchtanic Hellucinations; Dead Congregation - Graves of the Archangels) had cemented the movement's permanence. .

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