Founded in 1983 by Chuck Schuldiner under the original name of Mantas in Orlando, Death was among the more widely known, early pioneers of the death metal sound along with California's Possessed. In the late 80s, the band was both a part of and integral in defining the death metal scene which gained international recognition with the release of albums by a number of area acts.
Together with Kam Lee (Barney Kamalani Lee), and Rick Rozz (Frederick DeLillo), Schuldiner started to compose songs that were released on several rehearsal tapes in 1984. These tapes, along with the Death by Metal demo, circulated through the tape-trader world, quickly establishing the band's name. In 1984, Schuldiner dissolved Mantas and quickly started a new band under the name Death. Tim Aymar, in an article written in December 2010, states that Chuck Schuldiner renamed the band Death in order to turn his experience of the death of his brother Frank years earlier into "something positive". Its members included the same Rick Rozz and Kam Lee. Another demo was released, called Reign of Terror.
In 1985, after the Infernal Death tape was recorded and released, Schuldiner fired Lee and Rozz in favor of Repulsion's bassist and guitarist, Scott Carlson and Matt Olivio, respectively. However, a drummer could not be found; consequently the band dissolved again. Schuldiner moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and recruited DRI drummer Eric Brecht, but he was not happy with this incarnation of Death and moved back to Florida without a band. There, in 1986, Schuldiner got an invitation from early Canadian thrash band Slaughter to play on their album, which he accepted, moving to Canada. This only lasted two weeks, however, as he found the situation not to his liking. He returned to Florida, then moved quickly to the San Francisco Bay Area again, where he joined with 17 year old drummer Chris Reifert. They recorded the Mutilation demo, which led to a deal with Combat Records, owned by Important Distribution (later becoming Relativity), that enabled them to record the first LP.