Why Florida? There are many theories as to why The Sunshine State became such a hotbed of death metal in the late Eighties and throughout the Nineties. The scorching weather and the bad vibes it brought on. The large population of old retirees, soon for their graves, a constant, in-your-face reminder of mortality. Those factors could have played a role. But Deicide's Glenn Benton might have the best theory: "Florida is a melting pot of degenerates," he told Revolver in 2009. "I used to say we were all kidnapped by our folks and brought down, and that created a camaraderie of angry kids."
Those angry kids changed music forever, and in celebration of their gory, groundbreaking work, we've compiled our picks for the 10 most crucial Florida death-metal albums of all time.
Funky bass lines, articulate lyrics, complex jazz chords and un-moshable rhythms comprise this unlikeliest of death touchstones. It works, too, mostly due to frontman Kelly Shaefer's Rolex-set guitar riffing and madman rants. Today's underground tech-death groups like Archspire and Obscura have yet to capture Atheist's singular mania.
Just one four-word song title on The Bleeding's back cover says everything you need to know about the album: "Fucked With a Knife." The last Cannibal Corpse album to feature Chris Barnes and his serial killer-obsessed lyrics, it remains these Buffalo, New York, transplants' most brutal release, lyrically and musically.
With just Focus to their credit until their 2008 reunion, Miami's Cynic foreshadowed the fusion of music-school chops and death-metal bluntness since heard in bands like Candiria and Behold…the Arctopus. Spearheaded by two ex-Death members, Cynic's incorporation of atmospheric jazz and robotic-sounding vocals still seem too futuristic for a simple "death metal" tag.
Death frontman Chuck Shuldiner arguably kicked off the death-metal genre with the raw yet influential Scream Bloody Gore. Nearly a decade later, Symbolic's taut musicianship and spiritual lyrical focus redefined death metal again and also closed a chapter on the band, who became more progressive on the following year's The Sound of Perseverance.
Nobody hates Jesus quite like Deicide vocalist-bassist Glen Benton, who crafted ornate lyrical blasphemies like "Intwist me in the lines of trifixion" (huh?) for each of Legion's eight stomping songs. Rumor has it Deicide's original recording of the album clocked in at 20 minutes, forcing them to re-record it at a slower tempos for an album-length 29 minutes.
Founded by ex-Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan, who reestablished Tampa as American death metal's recording HQ with his Mana Studios, Hate Eternal play a messy, rhythmic cacophony of growls, blast beats, and noisy guitars on King of All Kings. Balancing respect for death-metal tradition with bloodthirsty animosity towards just about anything else, the LP sets a standard few modern bands have come to surpassing.
Focusing on real atrocities rather than supernatural ones, Fort Lauderdale-via-Buffalo, New York, death troupe Malevolent Creation chronicled wars — military and urban — in Retribution's nine blasterpieces. Throughout, guitarists Phil Fasciana and a pre-Cannibal Corpse Rob Barrett embody death metal's machine-like, perpetual motion riffs, offset only occasionally by solos, including one by guest James Murphy.
Monstrosity's practically features a who's who of Florida death metal. Cynic guitar virtuoso Jason Gobel and bassist Mark Van Erp play meat-and-potatoes riffs, while future Cannibal Corpse frontman George "Corpsegrinder" Fischer make an auspicious debut, resulting in death metal's most mosh-worthy footnote.
Covenant was the first death-metal album released on a major label and by proxy the best-selling death-metal album since music industry statisticians SoundScan started counting in 1991. Co-produced by Metallica associate Flemming Rasmussen, the album features some of Morbid Angel's slowest songs to date (read: more commercial), but also some of their most satanic, lyrically.
Not the first Florida death-metal album or the most influential, Obituary's Cause of Death still made an indelible mark. The Tampa crew — helmed by brothers John Tardy (vocals) and Donald Tardy (drums) — were the first to balance chunky, sludgy riffs with melodic guitar solos, courtesy of ex-Deathster James Murphy. Plus, the elder Tardy's wordless grunts inspired a million incoherent vocals, including those of Mike Patton.