The History of Death Metal


Death Metal began in the mid 1980's several years into the Thrash Metal scene, it's origins along with Thrash Metal are both from Rock Music in the 1960's and 1970's. Starting with Black Sabbath in the 1970's during the Kiss (Rock n Roll Over, Destroyer) phenomenon. Black Sabbath (Master of Reality, Paranoid) were a heavier band in the early 1970's and had a large following along with Motorhead (Motorhead, Overkill, On Parole) later in the mid to late 1970's.

In 1980 the major record label  Polygram released the first Thrash Metal albums and began what was to become Death Metal. Polygram released Venom (Welcome to Hell, Black Metal) in the early 1980's along with Metallica (Kill em All, Ride the Lightning) and Slayer (Show No Mercy, Haunting the Chapel, Hell Awaits) which were the first Thrash Metal bands. The first major release of Thrash metal was with major label artist Ozzy Osbourne (Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman) after Ozzy Osbourne, the former vocalist of Black Sabbath in the 1970's left Black Sabbath to start his own band in Heavy Metal in 1980's with a more 1980's Metal sound.

Polygram working with Ozzy Osbourne on his first tours in 1980's as headliner after he left Black Sabbath brought with them on tour Venom and Metallica to launch Thrash Metal. Ozzy Osbourne along with other Major Label Artists Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were the main headlining Metal bands in the 1980's. Polygram using these mainstream artists promoted Thrash Metal by having Venom and Metallica tour with bands like Ozzy Osbourne.

Using the promotions from artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest Polygram launched Thrash Metal and included Motorhead from the 1970's rock music scene (Kiss, Black Sabbath) along with Venom and Metallica. Polygram then by 1985 Manufactured and Distributed the first Thrash metal albums and ran a large Thrash Metal Distribution in Canada , The United States and Europe. Bands included Venom, Slayer, Metallica, Destruction (Sentence of Death, Eternal Devestation), Anthrax (Fistful of Metal), Celtic Frost (Morbid Tales, To Mega Therion) , Bathory (Bathory, The Return), Infernal Majesty (None Shall Defy), Voivod (War and Pain, Roaaar).

Polygram also carried in their distribution other Thrash Metal artists such as SOD (Speak English or Die), Razor (Evil Invaders), The Accused (The Return of Martha Splatterhead), Mercyful Fate (Don't Break the Oath), King Diamond (Fatal Portrait), Sacred Reich (Ignorance, Surf Nicaragua), Megadeth (Killing is my Business), Overkill (Feel the Fire, Taking Over), Slaughter (Strappado), Anvil (Metal on Metal), DRI (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Dealing With It), Dark Angel (Darkness Descends), Death Angel (The Ultra Violence), Suicidal Tendencies (Suicidal Tendencies, Join The Army), Dead Kennedys (Plastic Surgery Disasters, Frankenchrist), Misfits (Walk Among Us, Earth A.D.). At the same time other major labels like Warner, CBS and Sony began carrying and distributing Thrash Metal artists and Metal Artists like Accept (Balls to the Wall, Metal Heart), Iron Maiden (The Number of the Beast) , Judas Priest (Ram it Down).

 

Thrash Metal Cassette Tape and LP Distribution in the 1980's

 

Outside the other Major Label Distributors (Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) the main Thrash Metal distribution was through Polygram. Although not all Thrash Metal Albums were distributed by Polygram they handled the majority. Other distributors were Sony, Warner and CBS for major label artists and also carried some other Thrash Metal  however the main distributor and label for Thrash Metal was Polygram.

Polygram began by launching Venom and Metallica in the early 1980's by touring them with Ozzy Osbourne after he left Black Sabbath to be a solo artist in the 1980's metal scene. Polygram used this to begin Thrash Metal.

In the 1980's Polygram made or carried a different version of each cassette tape or lp for Thrash Metal Bands in mostly each different Country. In Canada, most of the Thrash Metal Cassette Tapes and LP's were manufactured and distributed by Polygram. On each Cassette Tape or LP it says they were manufactured and Distributed by Polygram. In the sub print of the Cassette Tape or LP it said Metal Blade, Steamhammer, Neat, Combat and other labels which were the local labels where the bands originated in other Countries.

The main distributor and label was Polygram and they carried Neat, Combat, Noise, Steamhammer and other labels from the United States and Europe. Polygram also distributed many other labels from other Countries in Canada and these were the non-Polygram Thrash Metal versions of the Cassette Tapes and LPs and were the United States versions or Europe versions. On these albums it said only Combat  or Noise and other label names and were Imports carried by Polygram Distribution.

In Canada Polygram made and distributed it's own Thrash Metal albums like Metallica and Slayer but in the United States they were on Metal Blade. The Polygram versions in Canada were released directly on Polygram and they said their metal sub label Metal Blade in the small print. Metal Blade was the United States label and carried by Polygram in Canada.

In the United States Metallica and Slayer started out on Polygram which was their main label and distributor for their label Metal Blade, this is where Metallica started touring with Ozzy Osbourne when they first started because Polygram worked with Ozzy Osbourne's label. If Metallica was not on Polygram then there would have been no tour with Ozzy Osbourse because Metal Blade Records was too small to do this by themselves, the same with Venom on Neat Records.

Thrash Metal Albums in the United States in the 1980's did not say Polygram on them, they only said their local label like Metal Blade or Combat but they were distributed by Polygram. The US Versions of Thrash Metal albums only said the US Label on them Metal Blade or Combat but were distributed by Polygram in the US, in Canada the same albums said Polygram on the album and the US Version was the sub print.

Polygram was the main label, and some of their home videos were also on Polygram Video on VHS. The difference is in Canada Polygram was the Label name on the album but in the United States and Europe Polygram was only the distributor and was not printed on the record or cassette tape.

There may have been several versions of each Thrash Metal Album one for Canada that said Polygram on it for the Manufacturer and Distributor which was the main Thrash metal label, in the United States, England and Germany they only listed the sub label on the albums and had different packaging for each Country, then they were all Distributed by Polygram and Thrash Metal was out everywhere in the 1980's. Band's like Destruction would not have been able to make it if it wasn't for Polygram Distribution because their label was too small. Polygram distributed them to record stores in Canada and the United States in the 1980's to get them started.

Polygram shut down it's Thrash Metal distribution business in the late 1980's for Canada, The United States and Europe and then eventually Polygram went out of business and closed about ten years later in the late 1990's.

After Polygram closed its Thrash Metal Distribution, some of the Titles were carried briefly by Sony under the name Relativity. If the Cassette Tape or LP said Combat/Relativity on it then it was on Sony now instead of Polygram. In Canada it would have been Polygram/Combat and in the US just Combat and Polygram was the Distributor, then it switched to Combat/Relativity which was Sony. after Polygram closed.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's the distributor was Relativity so if an album said Relativity then it was on Sony along with the smaller label Combat. Sony also distributed thrash metal albums  for the smaller labels after Polygram closed and then after a brief period Sony closed Relativity. Today, Sony just distributes Thrash Metal and does not have it's own metal label.

 

The First Death Metal Albums

 

The first Death Metal albums were by the band Death (Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy) and Possessed (Seven Churches) in the mid 1980's on Combat/Polygram. Possessed were the first band to use the term Death Metal, the album Seven Churches is the first Death Metal album, Death is the first band to have the death metal sound that is out today. These bands are not in the same brutal Death Metal category as Death Metal bands today but they are the first actual Death Metal bands. The first Death Metal bands in the category were released by Polygram and are Death and Possessed. That is the actual start of Death Metal.

After the closure of the Polygram Thrash Metal Distribution there were no major labels signing new Heavier Bands in the Metal scene. Large Death Metal labels today started after the closure of Polygram and orginated from the Heavy Metal tape trade list in the classified section of Magazines like Metal Maniacs and older magazine in the mid to late 1980's, this ran until the early to mid 1990's. This is the Metal Scene where bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Entombed, Dismember, Amorphis, Carnage, Cannibal Corpse, Afflicted and Obituary started.

In metal magazines and small independent 'zines in the 1980's and early 1990's Thrash Metal fans posted their album trade lists in the classified sections in the back of metal Magazines like Metal Maniacs in order to get copies of albums by trading cassette tape dubs. Thrash Metal fans were buying albums like SOD (Speak English or Die) and Slayer (Hells Awaits) and trading dubs of it in the back of the metal magazines classified sections by posting ads and sharing album lists in the magazines, then they would buy cassette tapes at the mall on Polygram like Celtic Frost (Morbid Tales) and then trade cassette tape dubs on the tape trade list to get other albums.

Most Thrash Metal Fans didn't trade cassette dubs on the classified section they had the real ones. The tape trade list was other Thrash Metal fans who would buy a copy of Slayer (Hell Awaits) and then trade it on the tape trade list. On the tape trade list if from the metal classifieds if you bought one album like Slayer (Hell Awaits) you could get ten dubs back for it on cassette tape from other Thrash Metal fans who were also trading.

Everyone else had the real copies from Polygram and were distributed by them at stores in Canada like K-Mart. Most fans just bought the metal cassette tapes from K-Mart so no one used the tape trade list in the back of Metal Maniacs in the Classified section. Other people would get a copy of Venom (Black Metal) at K-Mart when it was on Polygram in the 1980's and then make ten dubs of it on blank cassette tapes and then trade copies of it in the classified sections of Metal Magazines in the 1980's and Independent 'Zines and Metal Maniacs in the 1990's.

If you look in the classified sections of old 'zines and magazines from the 1980's and 1990's the Death Metal bands in the scene with Carcass, Napalm Death and Entombed in the late 1980's early 1990's, had their advertisements for their Demo's posted in the classified sections of the metal 'zines and magazines. You would have been able to find band demo's like Carcass, Napalm Death, Entombed, Dismember, Amorphis, Carnage, Cannibal Corpse, Afflicted and Obituary in the classified section. This was the Death Metal scene in the late 1980's.

These Death Metal Bands like Amorphis and Napalm Death traded their Demo's on the tape trade section in the metal magazines and put them on the tape trade list with bands like Slayer (Hell Awaits) where people were trading dubs of Polygram albums, then people were able to hear their albums when they were trading dubs of Slayer and Metallica. At the same time Polygram was closing it's heavy metal distribution and there was no major label in Thrash Metal.

The early Death Metal labels were also posting ads for their labels in the classified sections of the back of the Metal Magazines where the tape trade list was at. These Death Metal labels had ads looking for bands demos while Carcass, Napalm Death and Entombed and bands in that metal scene were posting their demos on the tape trade list. Death Metal bands trading on the list with fans also had dubs of Carcass, Napalm Death and Entombed Demo's. The early Death Metal labels before they opened got copies of the Demo's from bands in the scene with Carcass, Napalm, Death and Entombed and that's where they started.

Collecting demo's from people posting ads like Amorphis, Afflicted, Hypocrisy, Carcass, Napalm Death and Entombed while the bands were promoting themselves in the tape trade dub list in the magazine classifieds is where those Death Metal labels got started, they got their bands from people posting demos in the scene with Carcass in the back of the magazines. When Carcass, Napalm Death, Entombed, Hypocrisy, Amorphis came out all at the same time they came from sending their demo's in to labels looking for bands in the classifieds sections of the magazines who were trading with fans on the tape trade dub list. By the time the early Death Metal labels opened they had a full band list, that came from demo's on the Tape Trade section of magazines like Metal Maniacs.

In Canada Death Metal and Thrash Metal comes from the band Death (Scream Bloody Gore) whose guitarist briefly played with the band Slaughter (Strappado), this didn't work out and Slaughter did their album on their own and the guitar player from Death went back to Death.

Bands in Canada in the Death Metal Scene and Thrash Metal Scene include Razor (Evil Invaders, Violent Restitution), Infernal Majesty (None Shall Defy), Sacrifice (Torment in Fire,Forward to Termination), Slaughter,ex-Death, (Strappado), Strappado (Not Dead Yet), Collapse (Destroying by Design, Mechanisms Of Oppression, Collapse, Sustainability), Kataklysm (The Mystical Gate of Reincarnation, Sorcery, The Prophecy), Cryptopsy (Blasphmey Made Flash, None So Vile), Gorguts (Considered Dead), Voivod (War and Pain, Roaaar), Overthrow (Within Suffering), Anvil (Metal on Metal), Annihilator (Alice in Hell).

 

Best Metal Guitarists in Canada

Dave Carlo -Razor, Jason MacKenzie-Collapse, Jon Levasseur -Cryptopsy, Jean Francois Dagenais - Kataklysm, Jeff Waters -Annihilator

Best Metal Drummer in Canada

Flo Mounier -Cryptopsy


www.deathmetal.ca