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Powered by the genius of Chuck Schuldiner, Death pioneered the genre of death metal. Despite frequent member changes, the band was consistently brilliant until his sad death in 2001 at the age of just 34.
There is no doubt that Death is one of the most influential bands ever. Their incredible back catalog makes it very hard to pick out the best tracks but that’s what I’m going to try and do here.
So without further ado, here is my list of the best Death songs for you to bang your head to!
Let’s get started!
List of the Best Death Songs
1. Voice of the Soul
The first song on our list is from the band’s last album, The Sound of Perseverance. As with many bands, as time went on their sound became more mature and refined. “Voice of the Soul” is a great example of that as it’s all about the quality of the music.
The song is an instrumental and you won’t find a better one in the world of metal. You know that an instrumental is special when it takes you on an emotional journey. That’s exactly what this track does with its phenomenal soloing. Schuldiner had a great voice but it wasn’t needed here.
Symbolic hits you immediately with its driving riff which gets you rocking. Added to that you get incredible drumming patterns as the song increasingly gets more ferocious. Death was brilliant at creating epic death metal songs with many such as this being over 6 minutes long
Coming from their penultimate album 1995 album of the same name, Symbolic did show the band moving from pure death metal and inputting more of a melodic element. It resulted in songs such as this which received critical acclaim along with being loved by fans.
3. Spirit Crusher
The third song on my list is another that comes from the band’s brilliant final album, which was released in 1998. I mentioned how in the album Symbolic we started seeing more melodic elements and that was continued onto this record.
“Spirit Crusher” is one of the best examples of that. While it has brilliant songwriting and an impressive rhythm section, we still get that aggression fans loved. This is also perhaps the band’s best drumming track with simply breathtaking work from Richard Christy on the sticks.
4. Pull the Plug
With “Pull the Plug”, we take a trip back to the band’s second album Leprosy which hit our ears in 1988. While it has a different tone to their first record, it’s still a brutally good death metal album. This is a frantic song that is relentlessly good.
The lyrics are typically morbid and tell of the narrator being taken off life support, hence the title. The haunting lines are brilliantly sung by Schuldiner. The musicianship is very impressive in this song with plenty of great riffs and rapid drumming patterns.
5. Crystal Mountain
“Crystal Mountain” is a song that grabs you straight away with a stunning intro. Death produced many epic intros over the years but this was perhaps the best. It starts at 100% energy and it never lets up throughout the song.
From the Symbolic album, this track delivers an enchanting melody that plays a perfect backdrop to the heavy sound over it. You get some poetic mystical lyrics and phenomenal soloing. There’s nothing you can’t love about this song.
The last song we ever get from a Death album is “Painkiller”. The last track on The Sound of Perseverance, many regard this as the best Judas Priest cover ever. Originally released in 1990, this version more than does it justice.
Chuck’s voice helps to give a new dimension to the classic with many saying it was better than the original. I think they’re pretty close but there’s no doubting this was great. It was a great mix-up of two of the greatest bands to ever do it.
7. Flesh and the Power It Holds
“Flesh and the Power It Holds” is another one of Death’s songs which have a great intro. If you’ve ever tried to play this on guitar then you’ll know just how difficult it is. Despite their line-up changes, the quality of music never dropped from the band.
Through the years, we also saw Death perfect the art of the catchy chorus and this is one of their best. There are so many great parts to this song as you could talk in length about the solo, the guitar tone, or the lyrics. It’s a fantastic song.
8. Scavenger of Human Sorrow
We’ve talked a lot already about “The Sound of Perseverance” and the previous track is another song from it. This song, “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” is the opener from it. At nearly seven minutes long, it’s an epic way to begin any record.
This song has all the hallmarks that you’d expect from a Death song. That includes some incredible drumming and insanely good guitar work. The song has plenty of complexity and is a deadly meaningful song which are common traits from their later work.
Leprosy is one of Death’s most popular songs and comes from the album of the same name. Most tracks on the album are co-written by both Schuldiner and Rick Rozz but this is one of the exceptions as this is solely Schuldiner’s work.
There are a lot of times when listening to Death’s work where you curse the tragic loss of the great man. That’s the case here for me because it has his fingerprints all over it with the incredible ending solo and outro which showcase his genius.
10. Lack of Comprehension
“Lack of Comprehension” comes from an album that we’ve not yet talked about, Human. Their fourth record was a much different album from their others as we started to hear a great level of technical complexity and a further move away from gore lyrics.
This shows that change and ended up being its most popular song. What I love most about “Lack of Comprehension” is the killer riff that hits you about halfway into it. It’s pure brilliance and the reason this is many Death fan’s favorite songs.
11. Zero Tolerance
“Zero Tolerance” is another memorable song from the Symbolic album. It’s a lyrically potent song about how religions control those who believe in them. The title relates to the lack of tolerance that you may get in the eyes of God.
Musically, the song is unique for its naked drum intro that comes from Gene Hoglan. We then hear the guitar riff and the brilliant song kicks into action. The lyrics are great and the whole song takes you on a memorable ride.
12. Empty Words
With “Empty Words”, we stay with the Symbolic album. Rather than having the high-energy intro of many of their best songs, this one starts off much slower and creepier. After around 40 seconds, you then get hit with a wall of sound.
Chuck’s voice sounds epic on this track and everything about it is perfect. The lyrics are about the empty words that someone gives after they break up with you. Between those lyrics is one of the best solos ever heard on a death metal song.
13. Bite the Pain
With “Bite the Pain” we go back to their incredible final album. The lyrics are about someone going through a tough time and rather than letting it overcome them, they bite the pain. The mentality allows you to be the winner instead of the victim.
It’s a brilliantly frenetic song with the drumming, in particular, being outstanding. It’s powerful and the riff is melodically menacing throughout. There is plenty of love about “Bite the Pain” until it suddenly leaves you with its abrupt outro.
14. Suicide Machine
Lyrically, this is one of the most powerful songs that Death has. “Suicide Machine” is about euthanasia and how that most people don’t get to choose how they die, even when they are suffering. It seems that Chuck is advocating for people being able to decide.
We see this in the line “A request to die with dignity, Is that too much to ask? Suicide machine”. Musically, the song is typically brilliant with astonishing guitar work with equally good vocals. It’s from their Human album and shows their brilliant songwriting.
15. 1,000 Eyes
In their last few albums, we see a shift over to more philosophical lyrics and 1,000 eyes are the perfect example of that. The song is a scathing attack on the control that governments have over our lives with lines such as “age of advanced observeillance. A worldwide, foolproof cage”.
In terms of epic solos, this is up there as my favorite Death track and along with those solos you have some brilliant riffs. There’s plenty of anger throughout the song with the lyrical content perfectly delivered by Chuck’s vocal performance.
16. Flattening of Emotions
I mentioned the drum intro on “Zero Tolerance” but this takes it to the next level. It’s very unsettling in a way as the pitter-patter drums creep up on you like a creature gradually getting closer. The whole song then kicks in and the drumming becomes ferocious.
That drumming is backed up by one of their best guitar riffs. It’s the final track that I’ve put on this list from Human. It’s a brilliant album and with it being their fourth album, it showed their level of consistency that would continue right through until their last album.
17. Sacred Serenity
While their first two albums helped to change the game in the world of death metal, their last two albums are where we saw Death take their songwriting skills onto the next level. “Sacred Serenity” from the Symbolic album is an epic track.
This maturity is shown by the calm part in the middle of the song where it rests for a while before bursting back into life. Interestingly, the song is about how animals are able to live with a free mind unlike humans, and won’t be as aware of their deaths, hence they live in sacred serenity.
18. Without Judgement
Here we see another scathing attack from Chuck. This time it’s on how those in the public eye are judged and deemed guilty until proven innocent. It also implies that people judge others to distract themselves from their own failings.
The first part of the song already has excellent riffs and drumming but after the “when pain is acknowledged!” line, they take it to the next level. It’s one of their most complex songs and I think one of their most underrated.
19. Zombie Ritual
We couldn’t let the list go without giving a nod to their highly influential first album “Scream Bloody Gore” which is considered by many to be the first-ever true death metal record. It paved the way for their sound and also many other bands to come.
“Zombie Ritual” is the best track from it with its blistering brilliance. It draws you in with a subdued intro before exploding into its ferocious sound. It showed the songwriting genius of Schuldiner which we’d go on to see in much more of his work.
My final pick from their incredible Symbolic album, “Misanthrope” is another one of their songs that is underrated. The lyrics are a little crazy as they are about a group of extraterrestrials looking down on Earth and making some observations.
It’s an exciting song that is one of the fastest that they have ever released. The energy throughout it is incredible while also giving you that typically heavy feel. It’s an underrated gem from Death which is why I wanted to include it.
21. Story to Tell
My final pick comes from their final album. “Story to Tell” is typical of their superb guitar work and the whole musical composition is genius. This is especially true with the brilliant breakdowns and aided by the vocals and sensation lead.
It’s the perfect song in many ways and there is nothing not to love about it. The lyrics are about trust issues and how other people want to use you as a “story to tell” other people. As with many of Chuck’s lyrics, it’s a blistering attack that does not miss.
Justin is an audio engineer with years of experience in the field. He has been creating and playing music his entire life, but he really found his passion for engineering when he was introduced to Logic Pro at age 10. Justin has spent countless hours perfecting his craft and now works as a freelance engineer out of Boston, MA.