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Podcast Review: Heavy Metal Historian’s ‘The Origins of Death Metal’

Explaining a complex history in an easy to understand form, a podcast skeptic might be converted.

Kevin Ashley



Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to choose a single episode of a podcast about music to review . The choices were electric and interesting. Check out all the podcast reviews by browsing our music section

Normally, I am not one to listen to podcasts.

I have a lot of music that needs to be listened to, as well as many other things taking up my time. When the time came to finally listen to one (aka this assignment), I chose Heavy Metal Historian.

I was torn between “Lovecraft and Metal” and “The Origins of Death Metal” as both sounded very interesting (H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors, and I love death metal), but went with death metal, because, full disclosure, it was shorter. I listened to it on my laptop with headphones as well as during dinner.

I expected “The Origins of Death Metal”  to be an in-depth detailing of the genre’s origins. This episode does not cover the entire history, as there are other episodes called “The Rise of Death Metal” and “The Future of Death Metal”.

The episode starts off describing metal’s general musical roots in bands like Cream, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, as well as the historical roots of death metals elements, like growling vocals — first appearing in 10th century Denmark — morbid lyrics  —1600’s murder ballads —, and shocking imagery  — Kiss and Alice Cooper.

This history slowly expands with the musical characteristics that makes death metal its own genre, like the drum technique blast-beat­, which started in ’80s hardcore punk with bands like D.R.I.

Black metal is also mentioned, as early bands like Venom and Celtic Frost pushed their image into extreme territory, at the time, with Satanic imagery.

Thrash metal was the most important development for death metal in terms of sound and aggression. Slayer is a prime example, as their imagery and lyrics were extreme. Possessed, however, is credited with creating the genre in its recognizable form, as well as coining the phrase “death metal” on one of their early demos.

The band Death further cemented death metal as an official genre with their 1987 album Scream Bloody Gore, which combined shocking imagery and musical ferocity into one package.

Even Grindcore gets a mention on the epsiode, which is nice.

I actually liked this podcast a lot, as it’s more like a documentary of metal rather than a humor show. It lays out the complex history in an easy to understand form, and plays song examples to show the musical progression. I may actually continue listening to the “History of Death Metal” series just to see where it goes, and possibly even other episodes if they are all this interesting.

Consider me converted. Almost.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Kevin is a graduate from Central Washington University, where he was awarded a Bachelors degree in Professional and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Silverdale, Washington, where he explores new food and drink, goes to concerts, and works on personal projects.

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