Magazine: Aardschok / Netherlands
Article: Death / Meer dan death metal

Written by: Robert Haagsma
Published: April 1995

The definition death metal was called into being because of the drift of the lyrics - death in all its shapes - and the death rasp which the "singers" use. That one of the founders of the genre is going by the name Death might be a coincidence, the meaning for the extreme music form isn't any less for that matter.
Together with some other pioneers this formation from Florida has been active for over 10 years now. Years where not all went well, but they haven't run out at all, on the contrary, Death improves with every album.
The band around guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner bit by bit wrests from the death metal stigma.


This month the new album "symbolic" will be released. An album on which this developement perceives. Death pairs off the old death metal with technical thrash and heavy metal. Chuck Schuldiner and drummer Gene Hoglan are in the meantime optimum played in with each other and it's this duo that made "Symbolic"a staggering CD. Virtuosity and aggression are balanced perfectly. When I got to talk to Chuck on the phone he is elated about the result also. As a right-minded American musician he presents himself as a walking and most of all talking promotion machine, who doesn't get tired talking about the high level of the CD ("it's a killer album") and how much he's looking forward to the upcoming tour ("can't wait to play this stuff on stage"). A torrent of words on which it's tough to row up against. But again, "Symbolic"is in one word fantastic, so his wholehearted enthusiasm is forgiven!

"It's really unbelievable, how glad we are with this new album! Chuck breaks out immediately after our welcome. "Roadrunner, the band, the producer, we consider ourselves fortunate!"

What struck me the most with this CD is that the music can be played on every moment of the day in contrast to the most death metal albums. You kinda have to be in a certain mood for them.

"That's exactly what we had in mind when making the album. I think we accomplished that by bringing enough variety on the album. Every song is on its own, with its own sound, sphere and quality. Most albums being released in this genre are one big attack on your ears for almost one hour."



I assume you are searching for a broader audience?

"Let me put it this way: when writing new material it's not something that we have in mind all the time. That's just not the way it works, It's more the cunning construction and a better balance with which we wanted to make this album more accessible. Again the buzz word is "Variety"."

Is this all a matter of commerce or is there more to it? Getting older, maybe a bit wiser or something like that........

"Absolutely! When I gain another year I hold up a mirror to myself critically asking what I have accomplished and what is still missing."

Did this got you another attitude towards music?

"Yes, I dare to open up for more influences. Five or ten years ago I wasn't ready to do that, wouldn't give it one single thought. It's a matter of growing up. Another matter on "Symbolic" was Jim Morris, our new producer, he had the capability, as the first, to fathom the music of Death completely and because of that he could register it perfectly. Thanks to Jim the band came to full blossom.

To which level do you want to take the band? What is your ultimate goal?

"I would like my fans to see Death as a band on which they can count on. I want to be a constant factor within the heavy metal. Above all a band who helps develope the genre. There's still brewing a lot inside of me! I can't wait to suit the action to the word. I want to keep gripping the audience but also keep stimulating them by developing myself. Stagnation eventually stands for an unrelenting death! For every band! As strange as it may sound, I've been busy for 12 years now and never felt this eager."



Does this eagerness have something to do with the new label (Roadrunner/YK) of Death?

"A lot! We were on Relativity in the States. They made good money out of us, but never took care of us or our albums. Nice for them to walk into the business this way, but in the end fatal for the band. Our previous album, Individual Thought Patterns, in a commercial way went west on behalf of them. As the first contours of "Symbolic" loomed up, I knew this was gonna be a special album. The thought alone this album would disapear through a side door also was terrible. Roadrunner was our label in Europe and they put a lot of energy in us. After a lot of legal struggles ~Relativity wouldn't let of their dairy cow that easy~ we were lodged at Roadrunner worldwide. Believe it or not but not a day passes without me thinking about it. My life looks a hell of a lot better now. We are with a label that's thinking with us, believes in us and has a sincere interest in our music."



Do you think starting musicians have a way too romantic picture of the music business?

"I know for sure they have (laughing), I used to be a starting musician, everybody that knows where I come from knows that I've learned a lot! As a kid I looked up to bands like Kiss. They motivated me to become a musician. It was a dream which I lived very long. I still was on this cloud signing a contract as an eighteen year old. Shortly after I experienced how pink clouds can turn into nightmares. This business is very cruel. There are a lot of people who are not at all interested in your creativity. They merely think in terms of money, THEIR money of course! Whether they ever think of you always remains a big question. I found out the hard way and it was very painful. Concerning the press I have gone through a similar process. I never ever did any of them any harm, still it was, during a certain period, popular in those rings to cut me down. It often made me very sad."

How did you keep your head above the water?

"By pulling myself up on the support of the fans. They always stood by me unconditionally. I regularly got letters saying:"Chuck whatever they write about you, we keep believing in you, it's the music that counts." That was the drift of most fan mail. It got me through some depressing times. I persevered and may now reap the fruits of! A new deal, a new album and a tour I eagerly look forward to. Going through bad times makes you value new developements all the more."



Do you watch other bands with what they're doing?

"To a certain extent. This has to do with both my time as well as my interests. I love to play old, classic metal albums. Bands like Iron Maiden or Kiss still enthrall me. More recent music that moves me is from bands like Mercyful Fate, Slayer and Dream Theater. I listen and enjoy it, but that's all there's to it. I am trying to prevent them from influencing my music, my play, my sound. I still am inspired by my own ideas which prevent us from being trendy. I don't want to be "cool" in a way trendsetters interprate this word."

You, together with some others, were at the base of death metal. Looking at it now, what's your conclusion?

"The genre is in a transitional period. A natural selection takes place. The moderate bands ~most of them are~ bleed to death, being pushed in the margin and loosing their deals. Only original bands will survive. Bands that possess the power and the creativity. Of course I hope Death will be one of them. It's important to keep developing without pawning your heart to a new trend. What I do comes straight from the heart. I believe that's the only way that will create a long career. I don't consider Death as a death metal band anymore, I have the imagination that we are somewhat above trends and genres and are making music on our own conditions. We surely are not making any compromises."



Death has some new members on "Symbolic", listening to the promo drummer Gene Hoglan is still in the band, you only need to hear a few seconds to recognize him.

"I know exactly what you mean. Indeed, next to me Gene is the only one left from the ITP line up. His part within Death only got bigger. What I appreciate so much in him is he doesn't give a damn about trends in the drum scene, he doesn't only hit a rhythm, he expresses himself also. A quality only very few drummers ever reach."

Introduce us to your new members.

"The new guitarist is Bobby Koelble and our new bass player is Kelly Conlon. They are out of the area and have a skill and mentality which you need within Death. It's a hard existence! I think they have what is needed to survive."

This is a permanent line up?

"Certainly, we get along great and I really would like the four of us sticking together!"

I know your former guitarist Andy LaRocque has returned to King Diamond. What was the reason bass player Steve DiGiorgio left? Is he back to his old band Sadus?

"Andy indeed is back to King Diamond, I am glad for him and I will certainly follow his steps in future."

It's like his spirit on "Symbolic" is still around, some of the solo's could have been played by him.

"It's possible, it was a great honor to play with him, he's one of my favorite guitarists. That cooperation may have left some traces behind in my way of playing. Concerning Steve......I don't know what his plans are, he left without a clear reason. I don't think he's in Sadus anymore, I got the impression he is a "family man" and who am I to deny him this right."



How's the coming year looking for Death?

"On the end of this month (March) Symbolic will be released. I am very curious of the fans reactions, for whom you make the CD in the first place. Because of the legal struggles, we had to wait this long to release another album! Unbearably at times. Now at last it will be released! Starting on April 13th we will be playing about 10 "Full Of Hate" festivals in Europe (among others together with Gorefest/RH). Then we will return to the States to tour. Later this year Japan and a second European tour are on the schedule. I suppose, by the end of 1995 we can start thinking about the next album. As things look now we don't have to be bored!!!

Robert Haagsma


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Translated by YK/AS for EmptyWords-Published on May 23 1999