Some may say that death metal is dead— but I disagree. Death metal, ironically, is very much alive and thriving. Over the past few years, new death metal bands have been hitting the scene left and right. Some of the bands who started this trend are Gatecreeper, Creeping Death, I Am, and Frozen Soul. Now we have bands like Sanguisugabogg, Undeath, Tribal Gaze, Vomit Forth, 200 Stab Wounds, Bodybox, Phobophilic, and many others that are invading the sound waves and proving why death metal is alive and here to stay.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… How did the rise of “new wave” death metal come to be? To answer this question, we have to start where it all began — Florida during the 1990s.
Before death metal rose from the grave and cast its wrath on metal listeners, thrash metal was king. The genre played a major role and was a gateway, an open door for new listeners to join the metal community. Thrash metal influenced punk and, later, hardcore. But it also influenced and helped create death metal.
Bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, Kreator, Possessed, and Autopsy are the staple pieces of death metal during the mid to late ‘80s and early ‘90s. These bands helped open the door for other bands to follow — the ones that made death metal what it is today. Bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Decide, and Obituary are known as the pioneers of the genre. But that’s not the only thing they had in common — they resided in Florida. The home of death metal.
During the ‘90s, death metal was thriving! It was a new and innovative take on heavy music, and there were only a few record labels that were highlighting the dark, heavy, and horrifying sound. For several years, death metal was on top. But as we entered the 2000s, things began to change.
Nu Metal hit the scene and suddenly that became the genre many people listened to. While death metal was still causing torment and bands were creating killer music, it became a niche genre that had an underground following. Its days of – for a lack of better term – mainstream success was seemingly over.
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen the rise of several sub-genres and categories; such as metalcore, deathcore, tech death, melodic death metal, blackened death and black metal, and more. But traditional, old-school death metal was still on the scene. Bands like Suffocation, Incantion, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, and etc. were still holding down the fort. But for several years, we hadn’t seen many “new school” bands hit the scene.
But that all changed around the mid-2000s.
Metal fans, publishing companies, record labels, and radio personalities will claim that we are in the era of a new wave of American death metal — and they are absolutely correct! However, as I began doing some research, I found several posts, Facebook groups, and threads that argue that this new wave of death metal began around the 2000s and 2010s. As a word person, logically, I would have to agree with this description because death metal began in the ‘90s. So, of course, any death metal bands that appear after that time are considered “new school.” But the “wave” of new school death metal didn’t start until around 2017/2018.
Around 2017 and up to today, an abundance of death metal bands have emerged and taken the metal community by storm. But what makes these relatively newer bands different? Well, there’s a reason why I mentioned the formation of “old school” death metal at the beginning of this scrawl — these up-and-coming bands are bringing back the traditional, old school death metal sound.
You would think that these new bands were seasoned, veteran acts by the way they create music. But they aren’t — they’ve only been a band for a few years! But I think the “wave” of this new kind of death metal found it’s stride in 2021. This is when I began to hear more about these bands. It seemed like new bands and albums were coming out and being announced all the time — especially in 2022! Last year was THE YEAR for new school death metal. What a time to be alive! And a death metal fan!
But how did this rise come to be? What caused the wave? I think a paragraph from my Undeath album review of It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave explains new school death metal perfectly:
“So, while many of the icons of Death Metal carry on in their respective veins of the genre, they also serve as examples – as mentors of sorts – to many in a younger generation. This younger generation (my generation) is recapturing the sense and imagery of 90’s Death Metal. Mainstream music continues to obsess over the same tired, safe, and controllable pop culture. Because of that fact, Death Metal (ironically) lives! Not just the music, but the culture is alive and well in and with a new generation. And my generation has incorporated it’s own identity into the movement, identifying it as it’s very own.”
Additionally, I also think that the trends, music, and fashion from the past are making a reappearance. Think about it, this has happened throughout the years! The trends in the ’70s and ‘80s were popular a few years ago (and still are today). The style from the ‘90s have been in for a while now, and appearing from the horizon is Y2K fashion. While I wish they would keep this era of pop culture wrapped up, early 2000s trends are now becoming mainstream again.
So, like fashion and trends, the style of music can repeat itself. The sound of the bands that helped create the genre of death metal is coming back into the media. Old school style of death metal is here to stay for a while — and I’m not complaining! I love the bands and music coming out today. New school death metal invaded almost my entire 2022 AOTY list!
However, bands today are putting their own twist to the sound. While the foundation of the music is straight from ‘90s death metal, many bands are incorporating hardcore riffs and the “hardcore hollar” within their song structures. Think bands like Gatecreeper, Creeping Death, and I Am. While all three are from Texas, that’s not the only thing they have in common — they play old school death metal that’s fused with hardcore. While some of the old-heads may not be too fond of newer band’s twists on the OG death metal sound, the newer generation (like mine) is eating it up! BTW, for those who insist on the old style, a newer band that toes the line is Sanguisugabogg.
New school death metal is going back to its bloody roots; but they are also adding their own flare to the sound. I can’t wait to see what this new wave of music has in store for us in the future.