The Most Popular Death Metal Bands- Who is #1?

Who is the most popular death metal band?

It’s one of those esoteric questions that wanders in and out of the mind without a quick Google search to offer a definite solution.  But today it dawned on me that if I don’t try to find an answer, it’s unlikely any one else will do a decent job at doing so.  And given the fact that is the number one site that comes up when you Google “death metal news,” I believe we have a journalistic duty to present the world with this information.

Since where to draw the line on what’s “true” death metal or not is a matter of opinion moreso than concrete fact, I determined that anything labeled “death metal” would be fair game whether it truly was a pure death metal band or not.  Therefore I’d consider melodic death metal, black metal, and even deathcore in an effort to find who had conquered the greater sphere of death metal.

Unfortunately, the Nielsen record sale tracking data is not public and often does not identify how well an album has sold for many years after its release.  Thus, I determined that the most accurate metric for mining this data would be to measure by Facebook likes.  Yes, I know it’s not an exact science- many fans aren’t on Facebook, and many people click a band’s like button without really listening to them.  But still, it was as good as I would ever get to finding who the most popular band in the greater bounds of “death metal” truly was.

I expected to see the favorites of the 90’s metal press and MTVX dominate- Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Decide, Death, and probably In Flames take the number 1 spot.  Imagine my shock, that only one of these bands even cracked the top 5!  I had always heard about Morbid Angel and Deicide had the highest album sales, but it appears neither band has been able to conquer the internet age.

So again, this list was populated within very forgiving boundaries (bands loosely considered death metal, whether or not I believed them to be), and the best metric I could come up with.  Also, DO NOT FUCKING EVEN THINK OF CONFUSING THIS AS BEING A LIST OF THE BEST DEATH METAL- IT IS QUITE THE OPPOSITE!!!  And finally, if there are any bands you think I missed please let me know in the comments below and I will gladly do a live update and give you credit- maybe.

Without further ado, here is – for the first time in history – a list of the most popular bands that people considered to be death metal, and an explanation to why I would endure the immense visceral hatred for even considering them:


#10: The Black Dahlia Murder (1.1 Million Facebook Likes)

Snatched up by Metal Blade Records when they were just kids, The Black Dahlia Murder entered the scene with a debut reeking of Slaughter of the Soul style At the Gates worship.  But because they had short haircuts and looked like metalcore kids, many labeled the band metalcore (the production and overtriggered drumming also did them no favors).  The label overplayed the metalcore presentation, and it proved to be an effective marketing scheme in the mid 2,000’s.  Over their career, Black Dahlia Murder would shed their metalcore aesthetics for a traditional death metal look and feel- even hiring famed cover artist Necrolord to design the cover for their third album Nocturnal.  Though melodic death metal fuels the band throughout, they have over their career created some decent death metal works.  But unfortunately, many fans will never have the patience to sort through their massive body of work to seek these out.  An example is provided in the above Dissection worship track, which I admit is a guilty pleasure of mine.


#9:  In Flames: (1.31 Million Facebook Likes)

As I said before, I believed In Flames would outperform all of the other bands on this list- but it looks like their mid-career switch to ripping off Korn albums didn’t work out as well as they had hoped.  As anyone who’s been into metal more than a month can tell you, In Flames are one of the original melodic death metal bands- and while “true death metal” isn’t the most defining characteristic of this genre (classic heavy metal is), In Flames still created death metal riffs, death metal compositions, and one or two kinda death metal albums.  The greatest effort of the band’s career, Subterranean (featuring Dawn vocalist Henke Forss), has the most death metal feel- although it still might be a little closer to Gorgoroth’s 2nd and 3rd albums than any death metal band.  (Editor’s note- none of the musicians on this release are even in the band anymore- ?!?!?!).


#8:  Underoath  (1.35 Million Facebook Likes)

Already I feel the knives out.  But unfortunately, many consider the first Underoath album to be death metal.  I do not share this view, however, I confess that there are some death metal songs on this album.   While it’s BAD death metal, and has lots of metalcore/hardcore/screamo elements, the most dominant style on some of these songs is shitty D grade death metal.  You’d have to be retarded to not acknowledge death metal characteristics to be present throughout.  Some of these riffs could easily be on a Suffocation or Devourment album, and the vocals- while not good- do hit the death metal range quite a number of times.  Trust me, it would be easier to act all Hessian and what not and say “oh there’s nothing death metal about this” but it’s not true.  Underoath played bad death metal in the early stages of their career.  There’s no way around that.  I’m sorry.


#7:  Behemoth (1.41 Million Facebook Likes)

It’s no surprise that after becoming a host of Poland’s version of The Voice, Nergal would guarantee Behemoth a spot on the top 10.  Though spending their early career playing some quality black metal, Behemoth switched to straight up cheeseball death metal in the 2000’s and hasn’t stopped.  The band still deceptively market themselves as black metal however.


#6:  Arch Enemy (1.42 Million Facebook Likes)

Are you shocked to find that Arch Enemy has more fans than In Flames, At the Gates, and all their other melodic death metal peers?  I sure was, but I guess the whole “female singer death metal singer” gimmick was big money in the long run.  Their first album, Black Earth, is standard Swedish death metal in the vein of Entombed.  Not bad, but obviously Angela’s entry into the band immediately accelerated their decline in quality.  Former vocalist Johan Liiva, whose man-card was decisively removed in 2000, must really hate his life by now.



#5:  Opeth (1.44 Million Facebook Likes)

Another band that I expected to be higher on this list, Opeth confounded the reviewers who tried to define their early works.  Playing what many at first believed to be long form blackened death metal, Opeth truly spent most of their career playing prog metal with death metal vocals/elements.  The early albums are somehwere in the realm of melodic black/death metal and experimental metal.  To say Opeth were once death metal is not exactly wrong, but it’s not exactly right, either.


#4: Cannibal Corpse   (1.9 Million Facebook Likes)

Probably the most death metal band on the list through and through, Cannibal Corpse have been playing non-stop since their controversial debut in 1988.  With an incredibly marketable brand, an appearance in Jim Carey’s hit film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and almost yearly tours/albums, Cannibal Corpse found a winning formula to success.  While their death metal is mediocre at best, it is admirable that they have managed to avoid the fierce temptation to include nu metal and metalcore elements into their music throughout their almost 30 years as a band.




#3:  Cradle of Filth (2.2 Million Facebook Likes)

Good…. let the hate flow through you.  I’m aware Cradle spent the bulk of their career playing gothic/symphonic metal.  I’m aware they marketed themselves as black metal more effectively than any other band.  But Cradle of Filth’s demos were pure fucking death metal, and one even made my list of best death metal demos.  Suck ass, soyboy!  It’s also entirely possible to argue that the first COF album is death metal, but I’m not going fight that one.




#2:  Sepultura (3.8 Million Facebook Likes)

Good to see the creators of one of the greatest albums in death metal history take the #2 slot.  Though Sepultura’s last true death metal album was in 1986, some elements have surfaced since, and they have been more successful than any other band who started as death metal and moved on to something else.  The band’s earliest work is some of the most spirited death metal to ever be created, so perhaps there was no need to continue in this direction as having conquered the genre at their very first full length attempt.


The moment of truth has arrived, brace yourselves….








#1 Suicide Silence (4 MILLION FACEBOOK LIKES)

For many bands, deathcore was a flavor-of-the-week trend that saw them get hot and then burn out into nobodies.  But Suicide Silence’s marketing tactics- which include the absolute domination of merch stock, a resonating (but utterly meaningless) band name, and relentless touring- have sealed their fate as the biggest band in any distant offshot of death metal.

Growing up in New Jersey suburbs, I was subjected to a lot of metalcore and deathcore.  Whenever I heard Suicide Silence, it just sounded like horrendously awful death metal and I never thought to dissect it any further.  Having now discovered that this band is more popular than any of the other heavy hitters on this list, I decided to take a listen to their early works to see if they warranted an inclusion.

The band’s first demo, recorded in 2003, sounds like every local metal band of that age’s first terrible attempt at playing death metal with some metalcore parts thrown in.  Though it was bad, and had all kind of garbage ranging from Mudvayne-sounding guitar effects to awful breakdowns, it was still death metal.  The worst death metal, perhaps, but death metal nonetheless.

In 2005, the band were playing straight up Cannibal Corpse-death metal with breakdowns.  If you remove the breakdowns, it’s just bad death metal.  The vocals are death metal, the drums are death metal, and the guitars are death metal.  Again, I cannot stress this enough- it’s terrible death metal- but it’s still death metal.

Supposedly, this band went straight up nu metal at some point, which is exactly what I’d expect from them.  But given that they had a number of death metal releases in their discography, Suicide Silence are in fact, by all means and without contest- the most popular death metal band.

Since many of you have never heard this band, I will be reviewing an album in the coming days to get you filled in at just who had the best death metal marketing scheme of them all.


Notable Exclusions:

Slayer (4.9 Million Facebook Likes)… many dumbass outsider non-metal fans think Slayer is death metal because of their aesthetics.  Musically, there is no death metal in Slayer though all of the early bands were heavily inspired by their sound.  Had I included them, they’d be #1, but it didn’t seem right.

Dimmu Borgir (1.9 Million Facebook likes) – Many outsider listeners cannot tell the difference between death metal and black metal and lump the two together.  Truthfully, in the greater scope of music, the DNA of the two genres is pretty closely related.  But since Dimmu does not, nor has ever, contained more than a few minute pure death metal elements, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to include them on this list.

Fuck you Brock, you son of a bitch!  You’re a poser and a fake!  Give me the most popular bands that are pure death metal through and through!  None of this melodic death metal or deathcore shit!



#5  Morbid Angel (688,000)

#4  Suffocation (712,000)

#3  Death (940,000)

#2  Behemoth (1.4 Million Facebook Likes)

#1  Cannibal Corpse (1.9 Million)

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44 thoughts on “The Most Popular Death Metal Bands- Who is #1?”

  1. Charles Stuart says:

    Its interesting to me that In Flames is up there. I only knew one other metalhead who even mentioned them, and dismissively at that. Suddenly, in 2005 they became massively popular in the metal scene I was in. “Hey bro, check out this new band I found!” At that point they’d been making mediocre music for 15 years and it was very strange that a band would ‘peak’ at such a late stage in their career. Or maybe us hicks up in the mountains just don’t catch on as fast. I really haven’t heard anyone talk about them since like 2006.

  2. Svmmoned says:

    Wow, Sepultura? How?

    1. Brock Dorsey says:

      Brazil is big

  3. I am the wack blizzards says:

    There is most definitely death metal in slayer, you’re trolling or dumb if you can’t hear it

    Clickbait trash

    1. Korrektor says:

      You are correct

    2. Kreator's Extreme Aggression says:

      The solo section in Crypts of Eternity. Necrophiliac and Kill Again are more extreme than Death.

      1. Cynical says:

        Necrophiliac, in particular, was basically a lost track from “Altars of Madness”, aside from the vocals (and the fact that it predated “Altars…” by four years).

  4. T. Desecration says:

    “Since where to draw the line on what’s “true” death metal or not is a matter of opinion moreso than concrete fact”

    Things sure have changed around here over the years

  5. Reduced Without Any Effort says:

    Musically, there really is not a whole lot distinguishing early death metal from more extreme late speed/thrash metal (pick your term) other than vocal harshness, especially bands like Slayer. I’d definitely say Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood are straddling that line.

    1. Charles Stuart says:

      The vocals on Pestilence’s “Consuming Impulse” sound like punk rock vocals to my ears, and that album is definitely death metal.

    2. I am the wack blizzards says:

      Reign in blood is 45% speed metal, 35% death metal, 15% thrash/hardcore or thrashcore or whatever you want to call it

      1. Reduced Without Any Effort says:

        I can get behind that but I’d qualify it by say there’s a tad more death metal on Hell Awaits, but here we have Dopey saying Slayer has no death metal in it at all, yet a band Underoath does even though that song he linked is 100% metalcore indistinguishable from like, Arkangel. The guy just has no clue at all when it comes to metal music.

        1. I am the wack blizzards says:

          Yeah that’s about right I guess

          Also that final 5% I didn’t mention would be heavy metal on hell awaits and hardcore on reign in blood

          1. canadaspaceman says:

            i am 100 % Polish, 100% Canadian too (where i was born), and 10% bald.
            How do I apply this on my tax rebate?

            1. I am the wack blizzards says:

              Paying taxes is for bitches

              1. canadaspaceman says:

                actually, they usually owe me every year

  6. RAiner Weikusat says:

    Brock, I want to fuck you in he ass. I think I love you.

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      Your comment made all pandas very sad today.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      If you listen attentatively to the start of the first track of this very nice Human Serpent album[*],

      you’ll find a perfectly expressed reply to your post.

      To commemorate an occasion, this is also specially dedicated to every woman who ever wrongly claimed I had been making physical advances to her because she couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t want to. I can.

      [*] Judging from past experiments, this is unsuitable for people who like Sacramentum because they’ll end up believing that they’re listening to Marduk[**].

      [**] It’s probably also unsuitable for people who like Marduk – I guess there must be some – because they’ll probably confuse it with Sacramentum.

      1. I am the wack blizzards says:

        My friend it’s not hard to imagine why you would not make advances toward a female

  7. Mister Syre says:

    I am sadly amazed when I see this dreadful Sepultura album’s merits being mentioned anywhere. It sounds like unskilled teenagers trying to rip off early slayer with their retarded friend growling in a sewer pipe.

    1. Charles Stuart says:

      Obviously Roots is the superior album. And Soulfly is the superior band.

    2. Korrektor says:


    3. canadaspaceman says:

      For most of us, yeah, early sepultura is not a “go to”, but if you collect demo tapes, it is brilliant stuff.
      You either dig crazy, obscure underground metal like that, or you’re a fag.

      1. Brock Dorsey says:

        I have to disagree. I consider this the best death metal album after The Slerp of Sullen Eyes and The Somberlain

        1. I am the wack blizzards says:

          The somberlain??

          Now I know u trollin

        2. Obituary's Cause of Death says:

          The Somberlain sucks.

  8. Falsehammer says:

    Is this what DMU has been reduced to? How the mighty have fallen, Brock you should stop already this shit is embarrassing.

    1. Nicholas Vahdias says:

      We are constantly churning out the goods, how has DMU fallen

    2. Korrektor says:

      Shut the fuck up asspipe

  9. NWN War Metal Tranny Rapist says:

    No! Underoath and Opeth are shemale music! Suicide Silence is trannycore!

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      i was unaware that transexuals were so prevalent with NWN black metal culture.
      I only have your comments for proof to go by on this site.
      I will promptly sell off all my NWN vinyl.

  10. whatever is dead says:

    i like those cradle of filth demos too

    1. NWN War Metal Tranny Rapist says:

      He who listens to any Cradle of Filth is an estrogen filled needle away from being a full blown shemale, and I will rape you!

  11. canadaspaceman says:

    Yes, there is a diffference between “most popular” and “best”. Many people do not know the difference.
    Not going to say what bands should have been included at this time on that list, as I have zero clue how to check out/prove statistcs.
    You know, before facebook, wasn;t popularity judged on the nimber of friends/fans on myspace?
    Then around 10 years ago, as facebook was still getting well-known, many metalheads still preferred to use to list their fave bands and discover what was popular and comparable to what they liked?

    You may not know (if you are too young), or might have forgotten, but in the 1980s (especially ’84-86) in fanzines, Slayer WAS called deathmetal, I think especially due to the Hell Awaits album.
    Hell Awaits has a pummeing, smothering, claustrophobic feel to it, and it is pretty “deadly” being strangled and suffocated!
    But outside of that LP, and maybe the Haunting The Chapel EP, Slayer probably should not be labelled death metal.

    That’s pretty cool Cannibal Corpse is near the top of the list. Those early albums are still great examples of what a standard death metal sound should be.
    I didn’t appreciate them as much in the late 1980s after attending a few of their concerts, as the PA systems always made their songs sound like the same muffled blur, one after another.
    The closest I think I have felt of that live experience was listening to the German brainacss BLOOD sort of mimicking this feel/experience on their album “Impulse to Destroy” !

    Arch Enemy had a male singer…. totally forgot about that.
    Heard them at that time on some compilation CD’s and it was decent, but then when they got a broad to sing, THEN everybody decied they were hip?

    1. Tigerland says:

      What you say is true…
      If you check out Slayer’s blistering performance in the Dynamo, Eindhoven in 85.The sheer power and intensity of their sings is the Death Metal, the tremolo riffing in songs like Chemical Warfare, Kill Again, Show no Mercy is in the Early Death Metal stages…

      1. canadaspaceman says:

        ok, will check… probably got a download

    2. I am the wack blizzards says:

      Early arch enemy was just too mediocre to have any impact

      But suddenly tits

      The international media have been fixated since for literally no other reason

  12. Martinicomy says:

    Hi All im newbie here. Good article! Thx! Thx!

  13. canadaspaceman says:

    I like some Underoath, and Cradle of Filth, obviously the earlier material.
    Opeth, never cared about them.

    1. I am the wack blizzards says:

      Under oath isn’t even good for metalcore, the only decent stuff from that scene would be shai hulud, 7 angels 7 plagues, maybe a couple poison the well tracks, basically the less metal in metalcore the better it turns out

      1. Jerry Hauppa says:

        Are you from Milwaukee?

        1. I am the wack blizzards says:

          Never been there, though I am a resident of eagleland, I avoid the northern midwest

  14. RIP DMU says:

    Slayer is under Death Metal in the DLA, right on this very website

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