All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 13, 2016
There's always room for remembering some fallen heroes of Heavy Metal music, right?
Charles "Chuck" Schuldiner – the founder of Death and one of the pioneers and most important and appreciated figures of the Death Metal genre in general, passed away on December 13, 2001, leaving thousands of people from all over the world to mourn him. His legacy was well written through many memorable Death albums though, and what's certain is that it will never be forgotten what he did as one of the most noteworthy grandfathers for the extreme Metal genre.
Today, on December 13, 2016, it's been 15 long years since our musical genius/prodigy son left this world and we here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt thought it would be a nice idea to cherish the lifework of Chuck by simply asking from several musicians which three Death albums have been the most influential and memorable for them when they became musicians. The results were pretty interesting and even somewhat surprising, to say the least.
This is for you Chuck, and for the musical heritage that you left behind for all of us Metal heads around this dying globe! Your musical heritage will be cherished from one generation to another and you'll never be forgotten...
Special thanks to everyone who made this tribute to Chuck possible.
Your favorite Death album no.1?
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): This is going to be tough for me cause I first heard Death when I got my cassette of Leprosy, and was like wow this is awesome music and the songs were all very well produced, but, and I say but, Spiritual Healing is my number one. With James on the record I felt it was more musically sound of an album and the solos were just amazing between both James and Chuck.
Dan (NUCLEUS): Symbolic. When I first started exploring more into Death Metal when I was 17/18, this album was one of the first I checked out so it's stuck with me since. The lyrics and Gene Hoglan's drumming are my favorite parts of the album, as well as the song structures themselves. Easily one of my favorites and one of the best Death Metal albums of all time. Learning the songs on this album on guitar certainly helped my playing, as it would anyone's. It's not as complex as the previous two albums but still full of amazing and timeless riffs and solos.
Immu (FDMMF/ex-SLUGATHOR): I was gonna lie to myself and pick up an easy path by voting Scream Bloody Gore as a "clear" winner, as it's still kinda like the most CLASSIC Death album (at least to me). Maybe not the best-selling or best known, but THE classic era Death with all those old songs. However listening to all these albums again, I can't deny the excellence of Human. Where would I begin? I guess most consider the pure "Death-sound" to be the "90s one" – and I have to say that there is not much competition with this 1991 LP, even though I could disagree about such things with your typical "Hevi-Ari" a little bit.
Getting back to Human: everything just clicks, the whole thing is so fucking perfect! I can even compare this album to such best-known Metal bands as 80s Metallica, early 90s Kreator and early 90s Megadeth. I mean Death was so good in both songwriting and playing wise, but in many ways EVEN better than those bigger acts! They were way better than another Headbanger's Ball classy band Carcass too, as when Carcass changed style similar to Death's, it was just towards a more commercial thing. The difference was (as with when comparing with some other acts too) that Death had remained AGGRESSIVE!!! And there was a significant deal right there, as I don't think commercialism was so clearly the case with Death. But foremost this is absolutely one of the greatest "technical Metal albums" out there. If I should name any close competitors, only Legion by Deicide, Suffocation's first full-length, Effigy..., and Atheist's stuff comes to mind (the first two albums in particular), but if I'm honest, those records are nowhere near the brilliance of Human. Actually I like this album so much that I'm going to buy that crazy 2-CD version of it right now. I've owned only the original LP version for way too long of a time. Sometimes the most obvious ones are forgotten... Well, it's never too late to get something extra.
I first heard Human back in the mid nineteens (maybe 1994?) – a few years after it was released. I was 13 years as I borrowed it from the library. As I liked the cover, I knew that I was gonna like this album. It was a great treasure for sure, and I think I had to record it to a blank tape almost immediately (home taping is "killing music", I know... Ha ha... Just kidding! Anyway, that was how much we "stole free music back then)."
Actually Death's follow-up album after Human, titled Individual Thought Patterns, was probably heard by me before Human as at least the song "The Philosopher" was shown at Headbanger's Ball on MTV, but I still preferred its predecessor, by all accounts, as each track on Human is like a piece of a human body that keeps the system alive. Maybe Individual Thought Patterns to me is that "most commercial sounding Death album", and Human is just what it is. Despite the better production factors, you can't make an album like Human – and back in the day when I heard Human, I thought, "boy, this fucker is probably going to sell well!" ;) Anyway, how can somebody who is into real (Death and even Thrash) Metal, dislike this? Maybe some (B)lack Metal purists, but not me. Also, an additional attention should be paid when thinking about this album: I think it contained of a bit more progressive stuff too. Especially King Crimson was the band I liked very much also back in the 1990s, so I think this Death album was essential to me in that way too. I don't think I would've understood music like KC without hearing a bit jazzy Metal at first...
Human is the kind of an album you can listen many, many times all over again, and you ever won't get bored with it. Besides the complex song structures, it also has such an excellent musicianship. One always wonders how many goddamn hours per day these guys practiced together back in 1990-1991? Everybody on this album – Chuck, Sean Reinert (Cynic), Paul Masvidal (also in Cynic) and Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, etc.) – are so mind-blowing that you just have to admire them all after listening to the tracks like "Flattening of Emotions", "Lack of Comprehension", "Secret Face" or "See Through Dreams." I could just name-drop pretty much all the songs from this album. That's one thing but you can't really explain them. Just listen to them, and your jaw will be drop to the floor once again by sheer admiration! I don't want to analyze too much though (well, you have pretty much just done that already - Luxi adds in a sarcastic yet friendly way). I just like what I like, and the reason why I put this higher in the ranks than more classic 80s-sounding Death albums such as Leprosy and Spiritual Healing (and especially Scream Bloody Gore) is that I'm into bands that are able to develop musically, in a good way. Besides Death, a good example is Voivod that are one of my favorite bands too. Choose your path, but develop it how you want it to be developed. That's how I see it. Just like the lyrics of Death, they also developed to a more in-depth and philosophical direction. You can certainly hear the development of the band on this album, and for sure albums like Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance would have never been possible without Human either, I believe. The only thing which sucks, or at least makes me disagree with some, are those guys who think ONLY this kind of "musical Metal" is real (certain Death cover acts for example) and have no understanding nor guts to listen to likes of Scream Bloody Gore at all. Wimps! Oh well, next...
Fernanda Lira (NERVOSA): Leprosy. This is my favorite Death album! Not the best thought in my opinion, but my top favorite for sure! To me it's the perfect blend of Thrash and Death Metal, and the old school vibe all the riffs and drums have are my kind of thing in Metal.
Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): Human. This is first Death album I heard and I was straight away hooked by it. It was a perfection unheard at that very moment. The later efforts of many bands didn't have that extra ingredient – namely the moment of surprise. I am sure no one ever expected an album THIS progressive from Death after Spiritual Healing.
Daniel Olaisen (BLOOD RED THRONE): I started listening to Death Metal in 1991, with bands like Obituary and Pestilence, but when I heard "Suicide Machine" on a compilation-CD in 1993, I was sold. I'd never heard anything like it. The riffs, the vocals, the production, everything. I just had to buy the album and to this day, Human stands as my all-time fave albums regardless of genres. There's nothing negative to say about this album. 100% perfect!
Demonstealer (DEMONIC RESURRECTION): For me, The Sound of Perseverance would be my favorite Death album. It was the first Death album I listened to; I clearly remember the time as well. The album had just released and I was also a fresh entrant into the Metal world and I was blown away from start to finish. When those drums kicked in for "Scavenger of Human Sorrow" I could only imagine on octopus playing the drums since it sounded like he had eight limbs at least. Even the guitar riffs, it was Chuck's melodic brilliance at its best. I would say this album really influenced my playing and the kind of melodies and melodic ideas I play around with. This definitely made me a lifelong Death fan and made me want to explore the rest of the band's discography.
Nolan Lewis (KRYPTOS): Human. This was one of the very first Death Metal albums I had ever heard and it absolutely blew me away. In fact, it still blows me away to this day. This album has it all: Great songwriting, brutality, incredible musicianship, amazing lyrics, atmosphere, etc. It's the total package. You could say that about just about any Death album, but for me Human shades it over all other Death albums since it managed to perfectly combine the aggressiveness and brutal nature of their early albums with a dark sense of melody, while being pretty technical at the same time. Just looking at the personnel who played on Human should tell you that it was a monumental release in the history of Death Metal.
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): Individual Thought Patterns, without a doubt! It was so groundbreaking when it was released. I never heard anything even similar to that date and it was in my speakers for months! I can still recall a lot of good memories when I listen to it! This was the invention of something totally new! Still one of the best albums!!
Icanraz (DEVILISH IMPRESSIONS): My first thought about picking up three most influential Death albums of all time for me was like "Hey, it cannot be tough." Then I started thinking... Well, it's harder than I expected because the entire Death history is inspiring and it's really hard to choose only three albums. So, in no particular order, but here it is:
Symbolic. For me as a drummer this is still one of the most important inspirations. This album is ageless and it inspires me over and over again. Gene Hoglan is a visionary and he achieved drum parts that stay fresh even after 21 years. But let's don't forget about the music in general. This is one of the best Metal albums of all time! Hats off (favorite song off this record: "Crystal Mountain")!
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): Symbolic. As a band that was constantly reinventing itself, Symbolic is a record that shows Death at its most stripped down since Scream Bloody Gore. It's a "less is more" record that shows the versatility of the musicians within the context of catchy, hook-driven songs.
The first time I heard it, it was not the same band that released Individual Thought Patterns, but a leaner, more song-focused band. The technical flourishes were still there, from Gene Hoglan's ride cymbal juggling in the album's title track, to the harmonized two hand tapping of "Crystal Mountain", and great solos throughout.
Symbolic, for the first time since early in the band's history shows the band stripped down and raw, even with a killer production and additional instruments. Simple staccato tremolo riffs running up and down scales, and big open ring outs give each song a memorable feel, and harken back to a more mature and polished version of ideas we heard back on Scream Bloody Gore. The harnessed chaos of Human and I.T.P. has given way to something more visceral and raw.
Melodically this record has guitar hooks to rival all but the best. "Sacred Serenity", "1000 Eyes", "Crystal Mountain", I could go on, but each of these tracks has a melodic guitar lick that just hangs in the air. It's totally captivating, even 20 years later.
Lyrically, this is among Chuck's best work. The gore of the early albums, and raw anger of Human and Individual Thought Patterns has given way to a more introspective approach. Laden with metaphor, the songs tell stories of doubt, sorrow, hope and loss. It's a record that lyrically struggles with coming to grips with the world as it is. The record just became more poignant to me the older I got.
The record sounds great, has brilliant performances across the board, and most importantly, has a ton of catchy, powerful riffs. Symbolic is visceral and raw in riffs and emotion, but is executed by masters of their game. Absolutely amazing!
Matt Moliti (SENTIENT HORROR): Human. I love this mid era of Death where Chuck was first starting to get a little more technical/progressive but it still retained the brutality of the first two records. The musicianship here is top notch all around, especially from future Cynic main men Masvidal and Reinert. Just totally vicious and crushing all around. If I could only pick one, this is it. Top tracks: "Flattening of Emotions", "Suicide Machine", "Lack of Comprehension."
Jan Åge (MENTAL DISASTER): As this being a really difficult task, I have to say that Symbolic rolls in on the top spot of my three favorite Death albums. It was the album that introduced me to the band; Better late than never huh? This masterpiece cracks loose with the title track and the feeling I got from hearing it the first time was just astonishing. Moving on to the riveting "Zero Tolerance" followed by what I consider the band's finest track, "Empty Words". The sheer compositions, the technical aggression, first class growl/screams served in the renowned Chuck style, combined with incredible catchy melodies, not to mention good ol' Gene's upper class drum work, just makes me lose my breath every time. As a whole the album reeks of sheer melodic Death Metal quality as there is never a dull moment. Just listen to tracks such as "1000 Eyes" and "Without Judgement", etc.
This album stands out in my mind as one of Death Metal's finest moments – and it's a devastating thought that the riff master guru of Death Metal himself is no longer with us.
Observing spirits on the walls, what are they telling you?? R.I.P Chuck Schuldiner.
Rishabh Ravi (DARKRYPT): Individual Thought Patterns is a masterpiece Death record. It's the record where songwriting, production, lyrics, musicianship and hooks all converge to form a classic album. Too often, the best you can hope for in Metal lyricism is basic cheesy comedy and adolescent sloganeering. Chuck stands apart as a lyricist as he boldly and unapologetically writes personal and insightful lyrics. His message is a universal and human message of tolerance, unadorned with the ignoble trappings generally associated with the genre. The level of technical precision was beyond anything we had ever heard, but it wasn't the only highlight. The songs were structured in a cohesive and totally natural way. It was everything we ever wanted to hear.
Toni (WORTHLESS): Leprosy. This is still one of the best Death Metal albums ever. The first time when I heard the roar in the beginning of the opening track, "Leprosy", I was confused. Very raw and emotional scream that goes straight into the core of the soul. I think this album has the best wholeness in their production catalog. Simply awesome masterpiece with a very nice cover art and brutal theme.
Henrik Lasgardh (HYPERTENSION): Leprosy. The first Death album I bought, and also one of my first Death Metal acquaintances overall, along with Altars of Madness and Left Hand Path. The amazing artwork had driven up the expectations for a long time, and I was absolutely blown away when I first heard the title track. The speed, the sound (the snare!) and the songs, everything was just so brutal and extreme. I was sold immediately.
Aleksi Vähämäki (GALVANIZER): Human. Simply just sheer power, aggressive drumming and the best sounds!
Y (GRAVE MIASMA): All I would say is that if you don't like Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy, you don't like Death Metal.
Sotirios (MORGOTH): First of all, with all of their albums Death created an unbelievable scope of creativity. Each record stands for itself and was trend setting. Death albums offer this wide range from Death Metal to Punk ambitious playing techniques, playful grooves and even higher vocals.
Spiritual Healing is my favorite Death Album and one of my all-time top ten records. To me it is the definition of Death Metal as such and settles the standard all other old school Death Metal albums have to match with. Back in the days this Spiritual Healing simply blew me away. That was the kind I music I wanted to hear. Death left the rawness and Punk out but they managed it to be even more brutal as before. The album is melodic but still very heavy. The playing technique is awesome and shows what was possible in Death Metal at that time. It was the blueprint for a whole generation of musicians who wanted to play ambitious and melodic without being called wimps. I am still listening to this album today. It catches me immediately and recalls the memories from back in the days when we traded records on the schoolyard and the times when I listened to it in the record store.
Toni Tieaho (CRYSTALIC): Individual Thought Patterns is the best Death album for me. The music of the album is so real and raw. When you're listening to it, you can feel the "fuck the limits and rules" atmosphere, which is the attitude I think Chuck had when he composed his music. He did his own thing and didn't really care about trends or what other bands of the Metal scene were doing, or what the labels would think about his music. And the album sounds even more unique with Steve's fretless bass tracks.
Tristan Hernandez (AGGRAVATOR): It's hard to pick only three Death albums because they were all so great in their own way. That being said, the album that has always stood out to me from their catalog would have to be Leprosy. The album is pure savagery from beginning to end and although it is sonically similar to Scream Bloody Gore, they managed to elevate themselves both musically and intellectually. The tapping part in the middle of "Born Dead" is one of my favorite things ever recorded by any band and that pukey sound Chuck does when the thrashy riff kicks in on "Left to Die" should be considered a goddamn American treasure.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): I begrudgingly must say Scream Bloody Gore. This is by far NOT the BEST Death material. I first heard the scrapped version of this that Chuck and Chris recorded in Orlando many months before the California version was finalized. I was immediately disappointed. The decision to go with more "gore" related lyrics rather than "occult" lyrics was a bit sad. BOTH should have been used! Hellwitch was already covering demo versions of "Infernal Death", and on a good day, "Corpse Grinder" at least a year before this LP was released. Those versions were what influenced me in numerous ways; Mainly, the vicious, dying, screeching vocal style that both Kam and Chuck exhibited. Also, the catchy, repeating riff concept was something we solemnly embraced. I could go on forever about how heartbreaking this was for me.
Kristian (VAINAJA): Spiritual Healing. This is the album that first got me inside the world of Chuck Schuldiner's Death, and is still my favorite Death album. It's also one of the first albums that introduced me to the Florida-style Death Metal and Morrisound Studios with Scott Burns' signature sound. In a way, it's a perfect album in its own sub-genre, melodic and brutal at the same time. I kind of feel that anyone new to Death Metal in those days, this was the essential album to start a new hobby of Death Metal music. Catchy riffs, great sense of melody and stellar production make this album easy to approach for a Death Metal newcomer. And maybe that is the reason why it is such a masterpiece of Chuck's vision. I like every single song on this album. Also, in many ways the album's style has been copied by so many bands afterwards that many of those riffs on Spiritual... sound a bit outdated nowadays. However, back then it was the ultimate Death Metal album. It was also a big influence on Mordicus' first demos; the band that we started the same year when the Spiritual album was released.
Arnaud (AD PATRES): First off, it is quite tricky questions that you are asking. It makes me think of asking a parent which of his kids he prefers.
In fact, it is a bit exaggerated but it feels a bit similar when it comes down to pick a favorite Death album. You can have a fav Death album for each mood, or you can change from favorite to favorite as you listen to it again after a while.
Well, now we have to make a choice and my first choice is quite obvious: Human. To me, it really sounds like the most important album in the whole Death discography – like a turning point, a cornerstone of all Death albums, both for the band and the history of Death Metal and extreme music in general, I would say. It is also the first album with Steve DiGiorgio on bass and it is simply fantastic.
Your favorite Death album no.2?
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): I'm just going to go in order for this one. Second would be Human. The band (Morta Skuld) was coming back from IL and had just signed a great record deal. Our manager, Eric Grief, gave us couple of tapes for the ride home. Put it in and from track one I was like "what the hell these guys are going to 11 with this album". Great line up and great songs and every album has more progression but without being boring or overplaying. I love this album and it's very important to Death Metal and showed you can be musical and still be brutal as fuck.
Dan (NUCLEUS): Human. Chuck went all out on getting the lineup for this album. The musicianship on here is flawless. Nucleus doesn't really take direct influence from Death's music so to speak, although we certainly love everything the band put out, but I guess our sound would be most similar to this album because of the insane technicality.
Immu (FDMMF/ex-SLUGATHOR): Scream Bloody Gore: The goblet of gore and a holy grail of Death Metal. This used to be (and still is) my favorite Death album. Let me explain later why I dropped it to number two.
I guess I heard it...at least about 10 years after it was released (maybe in 1997 already?). Well, anyways, Scream Bloody Gore is at least the most essential Death Metal album, as it's one of the first North American Death Metal albums after the more clearly thrashy Seven Churches by Possessed, in my opinion. And you can't really count Slayer's Death Metal influenced Thrash Metal, Speckmann's works such as Unreleased 1985 Album (and yes, it was released on vax way later), or Death Strike's Fuckin' Death LP either (as it was just a demo from 1985 and again released later in 1991). Now we can speculate if we would also consider some releases from the European Metal scene as good contenders for S.B.G., then we can't forget Celtic Frost either... BUT anyhow, Death was still somehow deadlier Metal than anything released beeefooooreeee!!!!
So why am I screaming so bloody much? I could say this album – Scream Bloody Gore that is – was the "next step" after Thrash Metal. This was THE DEATH! The name of the band, the logo, the album cover – everything was over-the-top for them in the year 1987. You can feel the dark power while listening to some of those pure, mayhemic sharp riffs. This was Scream Bloody Gore...and first and foremost, this was DEATH METAL!!! And thy book of the dead also opens with some nasty gore horror lyrics that might be both disgusting and childish to some, but to me they represent a young, furious and hungry band of the 80s Metal scene, before the whole thing was just a big fucking trendy mess. Remember the originators are a good reminder for all you kids out there!
It's also way too easy to remember the REAL line up of this album: Chris Reifert (Autopsy) on drums and Chuck Schuldiner – everything else! Cheers to John Hand who never got to play bass guitar on this record – and all those musical porn fuckers who later followed in the band line-up... Sorry, many times I don't remember your names! :D
As for my favorite songs out of S.B.G., I would pick up "Zombie Ritual" (my all-time favorite Death track ever!)", "Mutilation", "Scream Bloody Gore" and "Evil Dead", plus the bonus track (and the Metal Massacre compilation track also) "Beyond The Unholy Grave" as my favorite songs on Death's debut.
I wouldn't say this album influenced me directly or my former band mates, but as S.B.G. is going to turn 30 years next year (in 2017), we have at least planned a special tribute for this at the Finnish Death Metal Maniacs Fest. A band from Espoo, Finland, called Spirit Disease, has promised to practice all songs from it and play them as live (dead) covers! That's how important this album truly is! The music, the spirit – there is always some kind of influence. I think Scream Bloody Gore is Death Metal's Reign in Blood – and I'm not exaggerating when I say this: you can listen to Scream Bloody Gore many times in a row, but not SO many times as you can listen to Human, without getting this feel "I've heard enough." That's honest reason why Human is the number one Death album to me! ;) The best way to describe the obsession I feel for Scream Bloody Gore is a melting but smiling face who sees something extraordinarily horrible but great at the same time! This stuff just never bores me. You always get back from the dead...
Funny extra note is that I have three different CD versions of Human, and two different LP versions of S.B.G. and a flag too (he he heh!!). Is it enough? Don't know, you tell me. ;)
Fernanda Lira (NERVOSA): Individual Thought Patterns. This, in my opinion, is the best album by Death and probably one of the best of all times. This album changed my life because it completely changed all my conceptions about Metal. By the time I found out about this album when I was a teenager, it was the most technical and extreme Metal album I had ever heard. To me, it's the perfect example of how to make flawless extreme Metal music without sounding boring. Also, the lineup of this record is just amazing; you couldn't get any other four best musicians than on that album! Also, it presented me Steve DiGiorgio who's one of my favorite and most influential bass players and one of the best and fastest in the world.
Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): Leprosy. This is the real statement that Death Metal is a subgenre to be reckoned with. For 1988 it is as heavy as it gets. I love the drum sound there. The snare is like a baseball bat strike on a human body :) The cover is one of the best in the genre. The depressive and heavy atmosphere makes you start thinking that actually you are a leper.
Daniel Olaisen (BLOOD RED THRONE): My expectations were high as Individual Thought Patterns came out. I must say I was a bit disappointed by the production considering that Human was way ahead of its time and could easily be released today. But come on, one of my fave guitarists, Andy LaRoque, hooking up with mastermind Schuldiner. What could go wrong there?! So many incredible songs and killer solo guitars, and Gene Hoglan on drums; this might be the strongest line up they ever had. Steve DiGiorgio played bass on both these albums and I'm so proud to have met him and recorded an album together, which he still considers as one of his personal favorites: Scariot's Momentum Shift.
Demonstealer (DEMONIC RESURRECTION): Symbolic falls into second place for me. I'm not sure there is much else I can say about this album that would do justice to how awesome it was and for me one of the things I loved about Death was how the lineup for each album was so unique, and so was the overall sound and production, but at the same time it always sounded like Death. I was a huge Gene Hoglan fan since I used to listen to his work with SYL and just hearing him play out to his absolute full potential on this record just blew me away. This album is timeless, it's classic. It's an album every single Metal head should have listened to.
Nolan Lewis (KRYPTOS): Symbolic. In my opinion, this album was Chuck's most 'troubled' album. You can hear it in his solos and melodies. A sense of grief, sorrow, longing, yearning to be free; I can't really explain it, but that's what I feel every time I listen to Symbolic. The lead break in "Without Judgment" is one of the most beautiful and melancholic pieces of music I've ever heard. It's almost like it encapsulated the very essence of what he felt deep inside. In any case, this is probably Death's 'catchiest' album, with tons of hooks and instantly memorable melodies. I'm a sucker for great hooks, which is why Symbolic is my most played Death album, even though it isn't my outright favorite.
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): Spiritual Healing. The perfect album for that era. So much fun in my life at that time and this album was with me in my Walkman and in my stereo! It was the soundtrack of my life 1990!
Icanraz (DEVILISH IMPRESSIONS): Scream Bloody Gore takes the second spot on my list because it's one of the first Death Metal albums I ever heard. I remember when I was eight and I went to a local music store with my father and I saw this front cover. I said to my dad, "I want that!!! This must be a blast!" and that's how it started. My Death Metal fascination just started and I kept listening to Scream Bloody Gore every day – as well as Arise by Sepultura and Deicide by Deicide of course (favorite song off S.B.G.: "Zombie Ritual")!
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): Scream Bloody Gore. Seven months after Reign in Blood comes another of the most important releases in extreme Metal history.
Three years after punishing the ears of the underground with demo tapes (first as Mantas and later as Death), Death Metal legends Chuck Schuldiner and Chris Reifert release ten tracks of blistering aggression. Maniacal riffs, bombastic drum fills, face ripping solos, and some of the most brutal vocals ever set a new standard for the fledgling genre of Death Metal.
The guitars and drums are super heavy, bringing new life into songs that had been around since the '84 demos. The performances have been sharpened to a razor's edge. The songwriting bridges the gap between the Thrash of early Slayer and modern Death Metal.
And the songs... Holy shit!. "Infernal Death!" Has a record ever started as brutal and become even MORE sadistic within minutes? "Zombie Ritual", "Sacrificial", "Baptized in Blood", so many classic tracks – and of course "Evil Dead" and the title track. A sonic pummeling of gore-soaked bloodbath of brutal catchiness.
This record changed the course of Metal history, and remains a brutal, uncompromising classic that holds its own against any band to come before or since.
Matt Moliti (SENTIENT HORROR): Leprosy. This is the ultimate blueprint of Death Metal to me. It's like the sonic equivalent of old EC horror comic book artwork. The production and execution is so ahead of its time, as is the songwriting itself. This is the aesthetic all Death Metal should aspire to! Top tracks: "Leprosy", "Pull the Plug", "Open Casket."
Jan Åge (MENTAL DISASTER): Alright, moving on to my second favorite which in many cases is considered the best Death album altogether. I'm, of course, talking about the mighty Human. This album stands out as a more in depth, almost a concept album as the songs just blends perfectly together as a whole. "Together as One" anyone??
Just brilliant stuff. This release comes as close to my number one choice as human(ly) possible, as I personally love every aspect of it. Starting off with the rhythmic "Flattening of Emotions", followed by the aggressive "Suicide Machine", which opens up for some sheer ear candy. In many ways, the track "Lack of Comprehension" is where this record really stands out as it must undoubtedly be one of Death Metal history's finest moments. Mesmerizing atmosphere throughout combined with the grunting guitar aficionado that was Chuck Schuldiner. Sean Reinert on blasting drums and Steve DiGiorgio on bass. This album will be playing in my head for as long as I am cursed to walk this earth. And for that I am most grateful. A living hell has begun...!!!
Rishabh Ravi (DARKRYPT): We truly believe that Leprosy is the album that ushered in the genre as we recognize it today and as such, is one of the most important albums in Death Metal altogether. It was the first album to feature the distinct sonic components of what we now recognize as Death Metal. From the triggered drum sounds to the technical (especially for the time) minor/harmonic minor riffs, the tremolo picking, tapping parts, marginal presence of the bass guitar in the mix, and semi-baroque arrangements, Leprosy has everything that defines the genre to this day. Scream Bloody Gore got by on attitude and rawness, but Leprosy is a brilliant balance of sheer power and revealing detail.
Toni (WORTHLESS): Scream Bloody Gore. This is the first record that I heard from Death, and liked the atmosphere immediately. In a way it reminded me of horror movies. This album has a very raw and primitive sound and the songs are straightforward. When we were teenagers, we learned to play a few songs from this album with my first band. We even played some songs off S.B.G. on our gigs as covers. "Zombie Ritual" is still one of my favorite songs from Death. In the eighties when I was still a teenager, one of my friends painted the cover art of S.B.G. on my denim vest and I was so fucking proud of it!!
Henrik Lasgardh (HYPERTENSION): Scream Bloody Gore. Just as good as Leprosy, but that first-time experience is just a little bit stronger. But what an album. Every single track is simply essential, classics all the way. Definitely a contender for the most evil album ever.
Aleksi Vähämäki (GALVANIZER): Scream Bloody Gore. One of the first Death Metal albums! Primitive sounding piece of horrifying art!
Sotirios (MORGOTH): Symbolic just hit me like a bomb. Death and other Death Metal bands got technical wise very or even too ambitious. Symbolic managed to combine that technical ambitiousness with unbelievable grooves. Hard to believe that this was possible in Death Metal. It was not only Chuck but also the drumming of Gene Hoglan that blew me away. Death Metal left the dead end and Symbolic shows that Death Metal was capable of so much more as many expected at that time.
Toni Tieaho (CRYSTALIC): Symbolic. This was the first Death album I heard. My friend played it for me 1995 and I was blown away immediately when I heard "Crystal Mountain"; this was something different and something I was waiting for! Bobby Koelble's leads are amazing and something you never hear on Metal albums as well! At that time I was 15 years old and I decided to found my own band... And surprise! It's called Crystalic... Sounds like mix between Symbolic and "Crystal Mountain" to me, he he!!
Tristan Hernandez (AGGRAVATOR): My second favorite record from them would have to be The Sound of Perseverance. Stylistically it is a major jump from Leprosy but the ferociousness is still there. I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion but this is Death at the pinnacle of their career. Epic songwriting and musicianship dominate this release. The guitars are played with razor-sharp precision and Richard Christy's drumming is pretty outstanding. Not to forget Scott Clendenin's bass playing which was pretty important on this record. Really cool and inventive bass lines and it's a shame that he passed away last year. I like Chuck's higher vocal range he uses and the way he incorporates intertwining guitar passages with melodies and harmonizing guitars throughout the songs. "Voice of the Soul" is a great instrumental and it always reminds me of jamming with my younger brother, Chris, probably over a decade ago. He would handle the acoustic guitar parts on this crappy black acoustic he used to have and I would play the lead through some shitty electric I'm sure. I can't even remember. I also had this multi-effects pedal that I would set to harmonize the guitar lead and we would jam that song a lot together. Lastly, Judas Priest needs to cover Death's version of "Painkiller" from now on.
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): Leprosy. Again, it's tough to call this a "favorite." It's the LAST Death release that I can listen to all the way through. Very disappointing stuff. The true "Death" feeling created in the garage/record store backroom is nowhere to be found on this album. I can say I love the fact that you've got 2/3 of the demo/garage rehearsal demo line-up on this LP. That's the ONLY fact I feel pretty good about. This was the beginning of the end. I first heard this when it was released, I believe.
Kristian (VAINAJA): The Sound of Perseverance. My interest for Death kind of faded away sometime after Human was released, and I did not follow the band's doings so much. But after I heard the news of Chuck's premature death, I caught up with what he had done in recent years – and that way I found the last album of Death.
And this has been the album I have been listening most from all Death's albums in the last 10 years or so. This album displays the ultimate musicianship, and is definitely the cornerstone of progressive Death Metal. I still enjoy the organic sound of the album, especially the jazzy drumming by Richard Christy. The band plays so well together on it, and the songs are so well constructed and presented. The mixing is excellent and it is still possible to find new things from the mix that did not catch my ears earlier. Where would they have they gone after this if the story had not ended so sadly? Who really knows...?
Arnaud (AD PATRES): From the "pre-Human" era, I would pick Leprosy. Of course Scream Bloody Gore needs a mention as it is the beginning of the story but I prefer the production and the songs on Leprosy. I think Leprosy has the catchiest songs from the early years of Death. I would mention "Born Dead, "Left to Die" and of course "Pull the Plug" off that record as my favorites.
Your favorite Death album no.3?
Dave Gregor (MORTA SKULD): Well my third one is Symbolic. This album really just had everything from sick drumming to amazing solos and just great lyrics. Chuck has from day one been my major influence and constant mentor. I, as a guitar-playing singer, can relate to what he does and what I do. The thing I love most about this album is Chuck's voice is so angry but audible which is rare in the Death Metal genre. Overall another album that you can listen to and just feel the flow of the Metal.
Dan (NUCLEUS): Scream Bloody Gore. Raw, unrelenting Death Metal. Certainly a timeless album, especially for a debut. It's just so fast and heavy.
Immu (FDMMF/ex-SLUGATHOR): Last but not least: Leprosy. I think I picked up this one and Scream Bloody Gore LP around the same time. The year was maybe 1997 or 1998, but I'm not really sure. Heavy but catchy album featuring a legendary guitarist Rick Rozz (Mantas/Massacre) and Bill Andrews (also in Massacre + session for Metalucifer) on drums. This is the shit. Some bands just "have it", I think Leprosy was kind of formula for bands like Obituary (listen to Cause of Death!) too, and probably this album was a bigger influence on many others too (that are maybe not even willing to admit it).
Scott Burns as a producer did some kick-ass job on this record too. I personally find this kind of hard and 80s-sounding Death Metal more appealing than this Cannibal Corpse stuff that followed in the 90s. I like the RIFFS and melody not just brutality.
Favorite tracks: "Pull the Plug", "Open Casket" and "Leprosy". Influence? At least the cover art of Leprosy is special to me - and yet again Megadeth comes to mind due to the album cover of Leprosy (he heh!). You know as a youngster these kinds of creepy images are important and get stuck in your mind indelibly. I especially like the red-pink sky on the Leprosy cover... WTF!
I don't have too much to say or complain about Leprosy. Many think though, for some reason or the other, that Leprosy is either Death's best or worst album, but to me it's just one of those albums I have both on LP and CD, and will keep listening to them from time to time. I just can't get enough of this record, I guess... Leprosy will take control and bring you to your death!
Thank you very much that I could be part of this article. Death is very important and... Only Death is certain too!!
Post-mortem addition: to compare Leprosy with Spiritual Healing album is actually fair, I guess. For some strange reason Spiritual Healing was never such a classic album to me though. All those songs sounded the same to me or I just didn't get back to that album. But now when (re-)listening to Spiritual Healing, makes me wonder why(!!!), as it's a clear link between Leprosy and Human. Sometimes you just wonder, why I didn't like this before? At least the cover art of Spiritual Healing, simply said, sucks. I just don't like it. But many people live until they are 80-100 years old, so I have a plenty of time to rediscover all great Metal that I missed in the past... Anyhow, even if you didn't ask, my number four. Death album would be Spiritual Healing, at least now when I am writing this.
Fernanda Lira (NERVOSA): The Sound of Perseverance. Chuck Schuldiner was my main influence when I started singing the way I sing in Nervosa. I was inspired, and still am so, by a lot on his vocal lines and techniques when I have to write something new, and on this album is where I feel my voice is closest to his techniques.
Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): Spiritual Healing. The songwriting is totally evolved here. It is not as raw as the predecessor, but hell, this album has tons of music to offer. The title song is like Death's own "Master of Puppets." All these years I have wondered how Spiritual Healing would have sounded like if there had been Paul Masvidal's input on this record? Well, I am sure no one will ever know... :)
Daniel Olaisen (BLOOD RED THRONE): I was a bit skeptical when I heard that both Steve and Andy were replaced on Symbolic. But this album is so fuckin' great and the new guys do well. I picked the track "Symbolic" pretty soon on guitar and it's actually recorded and put on the Momentum Shift album.
These three albums also have great lyrics to them. Even on Spiritual Healing Chuck started to write serious and deep lyrics, addressing many of the problems around the mankind. Love it! I even got myself a Death tattoo back in 1994! R.I.P Mr. Schuldiner!
Demonstealer (DEMONIC RESURRECTION): Shortly after I discovered Death my eyes caught the "Lack of Comprehension" video and that was another huge moment for me watching that. Again the incredible lineup that Chuck put together for this record was stellar and Sean Reinert's drumming just blew me away, it was just as incredible as Gene Hoglan or Richard Christy. This album almost felt like it was ahead of its time. I remember struggling to learn the riffs since I had just started learning the guitar. It was definitely a huge influence on me as a guitar player and also as a vocalist I took a lot of inspiration from Chuck.
Nolan Lewis (KRYPTOS): Scream Bloody Gore. As much as I love melody and hooks in my music, I also have a soft corner for decrepit, dirty, rancid old school Death Metal. And it doesn't come more rancid than on Scream Bloody Gore. This album knocked me off my chair when I first heard it. Absolutely savage. It's the aural equivalent of getting dropped in a pit of rotting meat and getting ripped apart by maggot ridden zombies. Chuck sounds absolutely maniacal here and there are few Death Metal albums out there that can match the insane amount of classic riffs that cram this record. In short, this IS Death Metal in its purest and vilest form, and should be the blueprint for any old school Death Metal band worth their salt.
Tomas Andersson (DENATA): Symbolic. After Individual Thought Patterns I did not expect Death to be able to compete with that... They proved me wrong! Probably the strongest album they ever did, in my opinion, but yet on place three as it does not recall the same feelings as I.T.P. still does!
Icanraz (DEVILISH IMPRESSIONS): The Sound of Perseverance. When Death released this album I was 14, so I can say with all honesty that I was listening to extreme Metal with much more passion and understanding than I did before. Maybe it sounds funny now but thinking back about all those years, I realized that The Sound of Perseverance was truly my favorite album for a long time in the late 90s. I love the songs and drum parts of Richard Christy. Maybe he was a bit more chaotic of a drummer than Gene Hoglan but it gave more overall fierceness to the music and I love it (favorite song off this record: "Spirit Crusher").
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): Human. This was a tough call between Human and Individual Thought Patterns. While I.T.P. holds a special place in my heart ("The Philosopher" was the first Death song I ever heard), Human, and in particular, the recent remix and remaster, is the "tech era" Death album that I have to go with.
"Flattening of Emotions", "Suicide Machine" and "See Through Dreams" bring the ferocity of the "early" Death and fuse it with virtuoso execution and technical flourish. Strong songwriting stitches together disjointed ideas in an aggressive framework of show-off riffing, bass lines, solos and drumming.
I don't know if this record "started" technical Death Metal, but it set the bar and left bands chasing the moving target of Chuck Schuldiner. As usual, no one would catch him.
Matt Moliti (SENTIENT HORROR): Symbolic. One of the first Death records I ever got and still one of my absolute favorites. This is where Chuck really took Death Metal to a high-level art form that totally transcended its genre; a classic record that any type of Metal fan can enjoy. It's not quite as brutal as the old stuff, but man are the songs still as meticulously crafted and executed as ever. Objectively, the best Death record and what Chuck will be most remembered for. Top tracks: "Symbolic", "Zero Tolerance", "Crystal Mountain."
Of these three records, I pull most influence for riffs from Leprosy for what I do with Sentient Horror, just because it fits our vibe the most. However, the influence I take overall from Death is the attention to excellent musicianship and well-crafted songs. Chuck didn't just throw together a series of riffs that sounded "brutal" and call it a day; he was a true songwriter in every sense of the word.
Jan Åge (MENTAL DISASTER): My third choice falls on the band's groundbreaking sophomore album, entitled Leprosy. As I love their whole discography, I just had to pick one of the more old school albums. The growth on this release compared to the massive debut, Scream Bloody Gore, is nothing more than a blissful progression. The first track roars away in form of the Leprosy title track and instantaneously the scale has been set, combining furious vocals and grooving guitar play. Favorite song choices for this album falls on "Pull the Plug" and "Choke on It". Brutal and catchy as hell. Just listen to Terry Butler's sinister lurking bass line throughout. Not to mention the iconic cover artwork. Rotting as they breathe... Death comes slow!! Gotta love it.
In conclusion Death will always fucking rule!!
Rishabh Ravi (DARKRYPT): Saving the best for the last, The Sound of Perseverance is the best Death or even the best Death Metal album of all time for us. The perfection on this album is beyond explanation, just like Chuck's playing and composition. Great songwriting and fantastic riffs that itch under your skin. The whole from "Scavenger of Human Sorrow", and through to one of the most beautiful instrumentals, "The Voice of Soul", to the insane cover of the Judas Priest masterpiece, Painkiller. The whole album is an amazing journey, which blows your mind every time you listen to it. This defines Death Metal. Chuck Schuldiner and his band Death will always be a huge inspiration for us. Long live Death, for Death lives on forever, unlike life!
Toni (WORTHLESS): Spiritual Healing. This album is more technical than their previous records, and the lyrics dealt more with social issues. It still had a good atmosphere but sounded a little weird the first time when I listened to this record. First I thought this is a little disappointment after Leprosy, but after listening this many times it actually opened up for me. The sound is not so raw but it is good in its own way. Also this record has classic songs like "Living Monstrosity", "Spiritual Healing" and so on...
Henrik Lasgardh (HYPERTENSION): Spiritual Healing. Not as ravenous as the first two, but still full of great riffs and very strong songs. I love the dark and dystopic atmosphere that surrounds the album. Same thing could be said about the following two albums as well, which both are of equal quality, but if I must choose I'll go with this one. I prefer it simpler rather than technically complex.
Aleksi Vähämäki (GALVANIZER): Individual Thought Patterns. Great melodies and bass lines! Best solos from Chuck are on this album!
Sotirios (MORGOTH): Scream Bloody Gore because it stands for that raw Punk attitude from the hour of birth of Death Metal.
Toni Tieaho (CRYSTALIC): Human. This is a really aggressive album and I think Chuck had much feelings and anger to put on this album after having line-up issues and experience of Death on tour without Chuck. And he just comes back and takes the whole thing to a new level! This was the point Death was turning more progressive.
Tristan Hernandez (AGGRAVATOR): My third favorite album is Spiritual Healing. For some reason or another, this album gets a lot of flak and is usually at the bottom of most Death fans' lists. It's a shame that it does. This album signifies a crossroads for the band. It has all the elements of Scream... and Leprosy while also hinting at what's to come. Death becomes a different band after this release as far as progressiveness is concerned. This is their darkest and ugliest album and it is all due to the atmosphere the album gives off. I don't know if it's the collaboration between the effect Chuck uses on his vocals or the reverby (I made that word up), airy sound of the guitar and drums but this album has a very dark vibe. Whatever it is, it goes perfectly with the topics of drug addiction, misanthropy, and blind faith that are addressed within the record. Death influenced Aggravator and me quite a bit. The bass playing, especially from Human to Sound..., definitely had an impact on the way I write my bass parts. Most bands keep the bassist in the background but Death had prominent and upfront bass through most of their records. Steve DiGiorgio would probably be my influence as far as Death bassists are concerned. He knew when to follow the riff and when it was time for the bass to do its own thing. I try to do the same in Aggravator for better or worse. Derek's vocals remind me a bit of Chuck's and our overall aggression is an ode to Death I think. Chuck Schuldiner and Death were one of a kind and the majority of us pale in comparison. Truly a great Heavy Metal band. Thank you for the music!
Patrick Ranieri (HELLWITCH): Yeah, no! I'm not going to pursue this bunk ass line of analysis any further! Sorry! Let's talk about the influential, meaningful, TRUE Death! I first heard the '84 + '85 demos in '85. Had them through tape trading. Then got excellent quality copies from Kam or Rick in '86. The '84 Reign of Terror demo contains some of the best and most heartfelt Death Metal period. High points are "Summoned To Die" with the mouthful-of-milk titular spewing! "Slaughterhouse" with the evil, twisted repeating main riff, note progression and lyrical performance that makes you FEEL as you are being dragged to a slaughterhouse with no hope of survival! The instrumental "Zombie" is fantastic musically and adds to the fact, there were NO instrumentals in Death Metal at that point! And, of course, "Corpse Grinder." Riffmaster Rick nailed it in the balls on that one. Then, the '85 Infernal Death demo. This really was a great continuation as well as a progression from the '84 tape. Dying shrieks, occult lyrics, incredibly memorable guitar riffs. These two demos and the garage Mantas rehearsals are key elements in the foundation of early Hellwitch. You need not think too much about it. Just knowing we covered Death demo tracks in '85 pretty much indicates the strong connection we had to this pinnacle band.
When Chuck stayed with and performed live with us in Oct. '86, I could see he was replacing old lyrics with new and changing direction. It was obvious the animosity toward Kam and Rick was one of the driving factors. Very tragic for the world of Metal that this line-up didn't continue.
Kristian (VAINAJA): Leprosy. I caught up with Death's second album after having my first dose of Death with what Spiritual Healing provided. Much in the style of Spiritual Healing except simpler arrangements and less melodic, but at those times it provided me just what I wanted from Death Metal. Chuck's vocals are raw and aggressive, the riffs memorable and simpler compared to what was to follow. This album's a true Death Metal cornerstone. Songs like "Pull the Plug" and "Open Casket" are the highlights of this album to me, and it was actually fun to listen through the album in a long time.
Arnaud (AD PATRES): Among the three "modern" or "progressive" post Human albums, my favorite one is Symbolic. Even if "The Philosopher" is the song that made me discover the band, I think Individual Thought Patterns has less diversity than Symbolic, and The Sound of Perseverance is too progressive for me to make it a favorite, even if I really enjoy listening to the songs on that record.
My favorite songs off Symbolic are "Zero Tolerance", "Empty Words", "1000 Eyes" and "Crystal Mountain."
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