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 deathmetal.org 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.
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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