Where did the term "death metal" come from?

One of the best and most fun aspects of heavy metal is that it is shrouded in lore and debate. There are some things that keep metalheads engaging in the same conversations about the same things, over and over again and with ceaseless passion.

The true origin of the term death metal is one of those essential pieces of history that is still contested. Perhaps, because there may simply not be one true, definitive answer.

One thing that seems certain, however, is that 1984 is when the subgenre's name was first uttered into existence in any meaningful way.

Three Uses of Death Metal in 1984

  • Mantas, "Death By Metal" demo

Okay, this one probably shouldn't even count!

It doesn't bear the exact term "death metal," but since Florida's Mantas, who would later change their name to Death and embark on an incredibly influential and pioneering career in death metal, it's worth mentioning as a footnote.

  • Possessed, "Death Metal" demo

Hailing from the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, Possessed titled their first-ever demo tape "Death Metal." It features a title track that would be re-recorded a year later as part of the band's Seven Churches debut album.

This debut is often cited as the first death metal album, while others contend that Death's Scream Bloody Gore, which arrived two years later, is the first true death metal record.

Much like Venom's song "Black Metal," Possessed had put forth a bold new term to help signify that metal was splintering into more new and exciting sonic areas.

  • The Noise Records Death Metal Compilation

Noise Records, which famously issued titles by several pioneers of various brands of metal, put out a four-band compilation in 1984. It featured, curiously enough, three power metal bands (although that term hadn't been coined yet) — Running Wild, Dark Avenger and Helloween — as well as Swiss pioneers of extreme metal, Hellhammer, who would later become Celtic Frost.

Noise Records, 'Death Metal' Compilation
Noise Records

Best Death Metal Album of Each Year Since 1985

Here's our picks for the Best Death Metal Album of Each Year Since 1985

PLAYLIST: Early Death Metal

Over 175 songs! Listen/follow here.

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