Mandatory Metal: 5 Essential Death Songs

Death's Chuck Schuldiner, 1995; photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Heavy music is full of legendary bands boasting deep catalogs stacked with iconic songs — sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or what to consider their best. With that in mind, we present the “Mandatory Metal” lists, which collect what we consider to be the definitive tracks from various members of the metallurgic pantheon. Up today, Death, those Floridian death-metal originators turned progressive metal explorers led by the late, great Chuck Schuldiner. The group has many compositions to its name, but in our opinion, these classic cuts are Death’s most essential. If you disagree, sound off on The Pit Facebook page.

“ZOMBIE RITUAL”
ALBUM: SCREAM BLOODY GORE

An early demo track given new life on the band’s groundbreaking debut album.
Sample lyrics: “Vomit for a mind, maggots for a cock/With his ax the corpse will chop.”

“TORN TO PIECES”
ALBUM: SCREAM BLOODY GORE

Tracks like this hinted at Chuck Schuldiner’s penchant for melodic brutality.
Sample lyrics: “Pray if you want/Pathetic rancid cunt/Face reality/Death your final plea.”

“PULL THE PLUG”
ALBUM: LEPROSY

The group’s defining moment in the days before it morphed into a prog/death-metal terror.”
Sample lyrics: “End it now, it is the only way/Too cruel, that is what they say.”

“SPIRITUAL HEALING”
ALBUM: SPIRITUAL HEALING

A sprawling thrashterpiece buried beneath a mudslide of bad production.
Sample lyrics: “Blinded by the twisted ways you live/Kill for religion, will the Lord forgive?”

“THE PHILOSOPHER”
ALBUM: INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS

Precision riffing and jazzy bass work — uncommon elements in the death metal of its day.
Sample lyrics: “Where is the invisible line that we must draw to create individual thought patterns?”