ends so fast, so take your chance, and make it last."
"Pull the Plug"
A retrospective on Chuck Schuldiner
(Death & Control Denied) has been long overdue. Unfortunately
Chuck will not be around to read these words. Chuck was 34 when
he passed away on Thursday, December 13, 2001, after a long bout
with brain stem cancer. It was a sad day for metal. I'd been researching
and writing this piece for months when the news came. Chuck's
suffering is over, but his memory remains bright. In '96 I penned
a Death article for my zine Yawning Vortex to spread the
word about Chuck's new project, Control Denied. My services seemed
imperative again when Chuck was diagnosed with cancer in '99.
I'd intended this to be a retrospective, not a memorial.
Reconstructing history without Chuck's participation is something
I was forced into. Chuck had been ill for over two years when
I first started this article. He and I last spoke on a tour bus
in December '98. The love Chuck had for his fans is mutual. The
fans' support proves some metalheads are indeed sensitive individuals.
Sorrow for the loss of our hero is overwhelming. We wish he could
have pulled through, but find solace in the 8 albums of uncompromising
metal Chuck forged. Chuck's lyrics to "Suicide Machine"
tell us "How easy it is to deny the pain of someone else's
suffering," but we cannot overlook Chuck's musical contributions
or his endurance in fighting his illness.
The energetic metal axeman and
gravel-throated vocalist didn't always have 8 studio albums under
his belt. He was born Charles Schuldiner on May 13, 1967 in Long
Island, New York, the son of Mal and Jane Schuldiner. Chuck's
began a long way from the famous Whisky in Hollywood or the Dutch
Dynamo Open Air Festival. In the quiet Orlando, Florida suburb
of Altamonte Springs Chuck spent most of his life. It was late
1983, according to metal journalist Borivoj Krgin, when Chuck
was joined by guitarist Rick Rozz (a.k.a. Frederick DeLillo) and
drummer/vocalist Barney "Kam" Lee to form the Mantas,
the precursor to Death. The primitive metal birth pangs for Chuck
& Co. were filled with an urge to shock audiences, fueled
by bravado and clashing personalities. Par for the course for
teenage kids forming a band, much less one of the heaviest metal
acts on Earth!
Chuck enjoyed recalling simpler times. He told Guitar School,
"When I first started the band, I'd only been playing guitar
for six or seven months-I couldn't even play a lead. My main goal
was to bash out the most brutal riffs ever with the most brutal
guitar sound ever, but I always had an urge to become a better
guitarist. Though things were very crude back then, I still had
a vision of becoming a very musical death metal band. I knew it
would take time to get to that point, and I worked hard to get
there." Complexity must evolve from something. Chuck pointed
out to Ill Literature that it was "Rick, Kam and myself-we
didn't even have a bass player. Reflecting on his youth, Chuck
told RIP's Jon Sutherland, "If you listen to my early demos,
you can hear the Venom influence." In a chat with Metal Mania
video show, Chuck cited Kiss, Anvil, Mercyful Fate, Exciter,
Raven, Slayer, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost as "early stuff I
feel lucky to have been a part of." Voices from the Darkside
recently interviewed Kam Lee online. "It was during high
school," said Kam. "I was starting to get into darker
metal like Venom, Hellhammer, and Mercyful Fate. I'd bring the
albums to show classmates and watch them get spooked 'cause the
stuff was so dark ...This caught the attention of Rick [Rozz]...Then
Rick asked me if I would try out as a drummer...Later that week
Rick contacted Chuck, and everything from that point is history!"
"History" leaves much to fill in. Borivoj Krgin pointed
out "they had a bassist for one very rough recording (pre-Death
by Metal), but it was certainly no one that was in the band
long enough to qualify as a 'member.'" Mantas' first official
by Metal (Summer '84) had a homegrown
cover with a picture of Chuck, Kam, and Rick in front of a sign
bearing the words "Danger, High Voltage." DBM's
original track list was "Legion of Doom," "Mantas,"
"Power of Darkness," "Evil Dead," and "Death
by Metal." Kam told Voices from the Darkside, "It
was recorded in Chuck's parent's garage...and 'Power of Darkness'
was always on it...Chuck did the vocals on that one..."
Mantas' first gig supposedly occurred on August 1, 1984, but trouble
was brewing. Borivoj's liner notes to the Death reissue CDs explains
that "lack of local support for the band's music was at least
partly to blame for the constant internal turmoil within the group
and Mantas' eventual break-up in late 1984...Within weeks, however,
Chuck reconciled with Rozz and Lee..." Chuck told Metal
Mania, "I wanted to reform a new band with a new lineup
called Death. I unfortunately had to resort to my old members..."
The bass-less Death by Metal was then "reissued"
with a black cover adorned with skulls and an inverted cross.
Listening to early Mantas & Death tapes, one notices Kam and
Chuck vying for vocals. Chuck screams "Power of Darkness"-and
on "Beyond the Unholy Grave" both duel on grunts and
screeches. "He'd get tired after a while, so I picked up
the vocal duties. First I tried to sing in a normal voice, but
that didn't work, so I went for the more brutal approach,"
Chuck reminisced to Guitar School. Death concentrated mostly
on rehearsal tapes to make the rounds in the underground.
The Chuck/Rick/Kam lineup only
played a few shows-as Kam put it, "covered in blood and gore...black
makeup around the eyes and stuff!" Hirax singer Katon DePena
contacted Chuck in the early days of the metal underground: "He
was young at the time but already showed signs of becoming one
of the elite in the underground. He was very into Hirax. He had
all our demos. Chuck sent us the rehearsals because he wanted
to see what we thought about his band. We thought they were great
and encouraged him to keep making tapes...I have some favorite
demos and that's in there with all of them. Fuckin' great...just
complete raw metal." Borivoj recalls first hearing about
Mantas "at the Metallica/Anthrax/Raven gig at the Roseland
in New York City back in August 1984. I happened to see a flyer
of theirs...put up by two guys, Mark [Conrad] and John [Gross],
who used to do a fanzine called Guillotine in Florida...it
contained a phrase along the lines of 'heaviest' or 'sickest',
which caught my attention. So I wrote to the address on the flyer...included
cash for the cassette, and got a letter backfrom
Chuck a few days later along with a copy of the Death by Metal
Death's second official demo was
October 1984's Reign of Terror,
which Borivoj divulges "was never actually mixed-and cost
a whopping $80 to record!" Death gigged at Ruby's Pub in
Brandon, Florida, on November 9th and December 30th. The latter
show was taped by John and Mark from Guillotine and sold
as the only official live recording. Rick was out of the band
soon after. The 3-song Infernal Death demo appeared in
March of '85. Several more rehearsal tunes were committed to tape
by Chuck and Kam when Scott Carlson (bass) and Matt Olivo (guitar)
of Flint, Michigan's Genocide relocated to Florida in May to join
Butler, Bill Andrews, Chuck, James Murphy
Scott was the first to contact Chuck: "I mailed him a copy
of our demo...I read about them, and they sounded so close in
spirit to what we were doing...I sent Chuck a tape after reading
about him in Guillotine. Matt and I were a musical concept
without a drummer or a second guitarist. And Chuck and Kam were
without a bassist or second guitarist. It sort of made sense to
merge. We packed all of our stuff into one Chevy Malibu and drove
straight down there. 24 hours straight till we knocked on Chuck's
front door." Practices took place in the Schuldiner's garage.
Matt recalls, "It was probably an average of a 110 degrees
in there, but we loved it. It was intense and so much fun. Because
we already knew the songs. There were never any lulls in rehearsals."
Scott remembers the only sour point: "At first it was bliss.
We found a kindred spirit in Chuck and John and Mark from Guillotine.
But Kam was going through personal problems, and he wasn't really
able to fully able to commit to the band. We were so young and
naive that we just saw it as him being a wimp or a poser...It
was just at the time that we were mad at Kam, but in the big picture
I understand his position. I don't have anything bad to say about
him. I've hung out with him since and had fun. The death metal
world ended up a being a better place because of it. You got Massacre,
Death, and Repulsion out of it." Matt focused on memorable
times: "We had so much fun and talked for so long about playing
death metal. We would sneak into this drive-in theater and watch
the same movie every night just to get out. It was just the time-of-your-life
type of thing. It was contrasted by the situation with Kam. That
was the only thing stopping us from going to the moon."
Matt and Scott paint a picture
of Chuck, plugging away at a fast food job to accumulate equipment.
"Here was Chuck from Death," Matt explained, "the
coolest up and coming metal band, and he's wearing a Del Taco
uniform with his hair pulled up." He may have worked his
ass off, but, as Matt noted, "Chuck always had great support
from his parents. He was never out in the cold with his metal."
Jane and Mal Schuldiner were supportive of their son and his band.
Scott relishes their time living at the Schuldiner house: "Chuck's
mom was too sweet to deny us. She made dinner for us every night.
She was an angel. Chuck's dad was always cool. They never gave
him grief about anything...except like taking out the trash...
when it came to Chuck's future they never stepped in and made
decisions for him." "We had talked to someone at Combat
that said 'make a demo and you've got a deal,'" said Scott.
"Matt and I went down the mall where Kam hung out to talk
him into coming back to the band. He was totally against it. That's
when we knew...we weren't gonna get anywhere. We decided to go
back home and regroup. And Chuck went and started his adventure.
"We were all young.... When we left we didn't really know
how to talk to Chuck about it. We knew it was gonna bum him out.
Instead we talked to his mom, and she talked to him about it first."
San Francisco was on Chuck's horizon Chuck and Repulsion awaited
Matt and Scott. "He just wished us all the luck in the world
and we did the same for him," Scott said.
By September, Chuck's relocation to San Francisco was in motion.
He teaming up with ex-D.R.I. drummer Eric Brecht and a bassist
also named Eric. This lineup recorded the lightning fast rehearsal
demo dubbed Back from the Dead
by fans. It was also during this first jaunt to San Francisco
that Chuck, now handling all the vocals, stepped foot on stage
again. Borivoj Krgin maintains "they had this idea to make
Death the fastest and heaviest band in the world, which Chuck
quickly grew tired of-unsurprisingly. Eventually, he went back
to doing what he did best-playing super-heavy riffs at varying
speeds, always concentrating first and foremost on crushing brutality
rather than speed." This lack of dynamics eventually led
to Chuck's return to Florida by December of '85. A quote from
the German zine Deathfuck unravels Chuck's brief trip to
Toronto, Canada, in January '86 to join death/thrash band Slaughter.
"It's unbelievable...Evil Chuck, who just joined Slaughter
in early January, left 'em again in the same month! Official news
from Slaughter headquarters tell that Chuckie baby had to leave
'em coz of a total lack of band dedication..." It was Slaughter
bassist Terry Sadler who, years later, explained perhaps the biggest
reason for Chuck's hasty departure to Snakepit's Laurent
Ramadier in 2001: "He lived in my parents' basement with
me for a while and my parents had no idea. They found out and
the shit hit the fan. They wanted him and me out! I think Chuck
overheard our fighting and took off...We had no bad feelings towards
Chuck...but rumors started flowing...We now wish Chuck the best
of luck with his health, and we're not kids anymore slagging each
Chuck wasted no time in heading
out west again after his return to Florida. Chuck hooked up with
drummer Chris Reifert on his second San Francisco jaunt. Chris revealed
that he met Chuck before any big formal advertising could be done
for musicians. "Early in the year. I heard he was looking for
members out here. I already knew about the group...I was pretty
excited...I got the gig. He was going to put an ad on the radio
on a local station. A friend of mine told me about it before it
even got aired. I got the phone number." Chris furiously pounded
the skins behind Chuck's whirlwind guitars and acidic vocals as
early as a two song rehearsal tape from late March '86. Chuck's
bond with Chris Reifert was the defining point for improvement in
Death's seedling sound. Chieko Redmer, then a young metal fan, met
Chuck at Ruthie's Inn in '86: "I could barely even walk straight.
I remember that he was standing against the wall inside, and I ploughed
right into him-almost knocking him down! I didn't know who he was,
but he helped me up and saw that I was very sick! I remember telling
him I was about to puke. He was so nice that he escorted me outside
so I could throw up in the planter! This was a pretty nice thing
to do for a total stranger, not to mention it being embarrassing
for me! He was a total gentleman. He presented me with a business
card with the slogan 'Corpse Grinding Metal' on it! Very suave!
We started hanging out after that, and I met Chris. They would practice
at Chris' house in Concord. I'd go over there to watch...I never
forgot how funny Chuck is! His wacky personality and silly sense
of humor... He would say these
goofy things back then like 'understand rubberband?' and 'know what
I mean, jellybean?' Those days were great times...No responsibilities.
It was a bummer when Chuck went back to Florida, but...Chuck never
seemed to lose his humbleness even though he got famous."
In April, Chuck and Chris quickly followed up Combat's request for
a pro demo with Mutilation,
the most polished of the early Death recordings. According to Bernard
Doe of Metal Forces, Mutilation was made with "Chuck
also playing bass." Doe conceded Mutilation was "the
band's best recording to date; both in terms of material and production."
The underground and Combat Records were in agreement about Mutilation.
Despite the fact that the band was still only a duo, Combat signed
them up to a five-album deal.
Of No Return: The Professional
Chuck's career as a professional
metal guitarist was just beginning, and before anything else could
be done a first album would have to be recorded. In summer of
'86, Chuck flew back to Florida with Chris with big pipe-dreams
about their first album ever, far from the recording capitol of
the world. It was in Florida where Chris notes Death "recorded
a version of the album and it got scrapped. Then we started over
again in L.A...It sounded really good at the Music Grinder."
While back in S.F. Chris and Chuck befriended neighboring thrash
band Sadus, whose bassist, Steve DiGiorgio, would later record
on Death's Human and Individual Thought Patterns
and Control Denied's The Fragile Art of Existence. Says
Steve: "They got a hold of Sadus' first demo. The phone rang
one day, and the dude on the other end says, 'Hey, we're in a
band called Death from Concord. We dig your demo. Do you guys
wanna hang out?' So we got directions and drove out to Chris'
house. We met Chuck there. We were just fresh out of high school,
so we had a lot of time to kill during the day. We asked him where
his band was, and he said, 'They'll be out of school in a couple
of hours.' And we're like, 'School? These guys are young.' He
played the Mutilation demo. His 'band' got there a little
later...just Chris. 'How the hell do you guys sound like that?'
So, we went in Chris' room...and they ran through songs. We figured
we didn't know many bands in the area. We were always on our own,
and here's a couple of guys our age doing our type of thing."
Steve continues, "Back then we were young, and no one had
money. Jon Allen had a drum kit that was barely hanging in there.
But Chris had a nice, huge Tama set, and Jon was just blown away.
Chris was like, 'But we can't practice in my house very often.
And Sadus had a killer practice space. So, this deal got worked
out where we loaned them our practice space if Chris would leave
his drums set up so Jon could play it. That eventually led to
me filling in on bass with them. Sadus would set up and go through
our set. And they'd get up there...All the Sadus guys would pull
up a pillow and watch us. 'Time for a break.' We'd all go jump
in the pool at Darren's [Darren Travis, guitarist/vocalist of
Sadus] house or something. It went like that for a few months...one
band in a way. I was the common denominator. They were looking
for a bass player the whole time, but no one was around."
Chuck expressed his approval of
Scream Bloody Gore to Metal Forces, "Randy
Burns gave us a super-heavy production...The only thing I kind
of regret now is not hanging around for the final mixes. I think
the rhythm guitar could have been a bit louder in the mix."
Not too shabby for the 5 days Chris claims it took to track SBG.
"Right after we did the LP as a two-piece," Chuck told
Metal Forces, "we ran into this guitarist, John Hand,
whom we really liked at the time, so we got him into the band.
He played with us long enough to have his photo appear on the
back of the album, but he just couldn't play our newer material,
so he had to go."Steve DiGiorgio remembers the lack of Death
gigs from that period, "We decided to do some shows, and
just figured we'd double session it. Chris double sessioned for
Desecration. We were gonna do a Desecration, Sadus, and Death
show where me and Chris both double setted. But that never happened
because Chuck went back to Florida and never came back."
Something was making Chuck homesick. He told Metal Forces,
"When I first moved to California back in late '85, the scene
was just starting to flourish. There were lots of places to play,
and the fan support was just overwhelming. Unfortunately, as time
went by, most of the clubs closed down and the scene just sort
of died out. I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to get
a band together there, so I decided to go back to Florida. I told
Chris he could move back down with me, but he said he didn't want
to." Chuck and Chris were metal brothers, though, and Chuck
wished him "good luck in the future" in his thanks list
on his second album.
Scream Bloody Gore
was released in May 1987. Chuck was far from taking a rock star
attitude after getting signed and seeing his first album issued,
telling Metal Forces that "the reaction from the fans
has been just amazing...I really have to thank everybody for their
great support, because it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here
right now." SBG was an extension of the over-the-top,
pile-driving riffs and gory lyrics from Death's demos. The gore
Chuck would outgrow, but the riffs would only become more memorable
as time passed. Chuck splattered listeners with corpse-riddled
tunes that had much in common with flicks like George Romero's
Dead trilogy or the Italian "giallos" of Dario
Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Umberto Lenzi. Horror is different from
the jokingly satanic lyrics of Venom and Hellhammer. When asked
about satanism in metal, Chuck told Metal Forces, "I'm
not into it."
And Moments Of Clarity
It was Florida where Chuck based
himself for the rest of his career. 1988's Leprosy saw
Chuck leaning toward polished productions and an inner conflict
between the horror fan and the emerging philosophical, down-to-earth
Chuck. Leprosy reunited Chuck briefly with Rick Rozz, who
brought with him Massacre bandmates Terry Butler (bass) and Bill
Andrews (drums). "Pull the Plug," in particular, became
the song fans went absolutely nuts for whether in their bedrooms
or a crowded club. In his own words, Chuck told us that "Pull
the Plug" is about "being on a life support system and
having the right to die." Chuck explained to Metal Hammer,
"the lyrics are more serious and on the next album they will
get even more realistic." Leprosy saw Chuck's foray
into touring, on a double bill with Dark Angel. The road was-like
life in general-filled with ups and downs. Ex-Dark Angel guitarist
Jim Durkin informed me, despite rumors that have been spread that
he "got along really well with Chuck and everyone before
I left the tour and didn't look back. Chuck and I had a lot of
fun hanging out and jamming. It had nothing to do with us two."
Leprosy was the appetizer
for Chuck's new direction, but Spiritual
Healing (1990) was a cerebral feast-paving
the way for every Death album to follow. "Living Monstrosity,"
in Chuck's own words, is about cocaine abuse among pregnant women,
while "Altering the Future" tackles abortion. At 22,
Chuck's guitar playing, songwriting skills, were reaching new
heights. On Spiritual, Chuck's razor-sharp lead guitar
abilities took flight-and his solos were bolstered by another
young shredder, James Murphy. [Murphy too has battled cancer recently,
and we wish him the best!] Chuck told Guitar Magazine,
"I started practicing more and came up with the idea that,
for this band to move forward musically, we'd need a cleaner approach,
something real dry and in-your-face...Our rhythms also became
a lot more complex..." The lineup mutiny Chuck endured when
the rest of his band went off to Europe without him tested his
strength, but Chuck was far from quitting. Ex-manager Eric Grief,
notes: "Chuck's contention was that he did not feel the Spiritual
Healing tour of Europe was adequately organized. Considering
Death's previous negative European experience with the Belgian
agency Metalysee (that tour being one of the worst experiences
Chuck had encountered as a musician thus far), he did not want
a repeat of that. He kept exclaiming that he wanted his 'next
European tour to rage for the fans'. Chuck also had mounting personal
issues at the time, and no manager to fall back on. Bill and Terry
countered by claiming that Chuck waited until the very last minute
to pull out, and they felt his apprehension was not warranted.
They argued that Chuck had missed several opportunities to bring
Death back to Europe and that they were sick of waiting...so they
went anyway...That bold move was the end of Bill and Terry."
(1991), Chuck recruited Florida-based Cynic members Paul Masvidal
(guitar) and Sean Reinert (drums), and Sadus' Steve DiGiorgio
(bass), which led to an injection of the technical edge Chuck
had been striving for. Chuck, Paul, and Sean dug progressive metallers
Watchtower, but Human still retained the signature Death
sound. Chuck explained the genesis of "Suicide Machine"
to Rock Hard, "In America, there's a doctor who invented
a machine that can deliver sick and suffering people to death.
I think it's a great invention. When somebody really is incurably
ill...and it's his wish to die, then we must allow him that choice
before an endless suffering takes place."
Thought Patterns (1993)
Chuck furthered his sonic experimentation. Chuck hired ex-Dark
Angel skinsman Gene Hoglan, King Diamond lead guitarist Andy LaRocque,
and Steve DiGiorgio Speaking of his new comrades, Chuck told Metal
Hammer, "One by one very gifted musicians but perfectly fitting
in the musical concept of Death." Chuck told Watt, "I
hope ITP lifts metal as an art form to a higher level...I don't
set myself any boundaries." Chuck first voiced his intentions
to evolve by finding a melodic vocalist in '93 to Guitar School:
"In the future I plan to do a more melodic, straightforward
metal side project with a singer in the Rob Halford style."
Symbolic (1995) was the
album on which Chuck's assailed massive heights. Heavy, moody,
emotional, and full of technical twists and turns. Gene Hoglan
returned for Symbolic, but Steve DiGiorgio was unavailable. The
second guitar spot was filled by Bobby Koelble. Symbolic was one
that Chuck would continue to build on with his next two albums.
"Do you remember when things seemed so eternal? / Heroes
were so real... / Their magic frozen in time." The words
Chuck wrote for "Symbolic" send a shiver up my
spine, because I know that not only was Chuck my hero, but I know
he was such a huge role model for thousands of young musicians
DiGiorgio, Gene Hoglan, Chuck, Ralph Santolla
Hamm, Richard Christy, Chuck, Scott Clendinin
After coming off the road in '95, Chuck hooked up with drummer Chris
Williams (Talonzfury) and began working on his new project, dubbed
Control Denied. Guitarist Shannon Hamm met Chuck through Chris Williams.
"We became really good friends," Shannon said. "Then
Chris invited Scott [Clendenin, bass] who was also in his band.
So we all came from the same place here. We did a couple of demo
tapes." Among Chuck's prospects for Control Denied singers
was Warrel Dane, from Symbolic tour openers Nevermore. Commitments
to Nevermore prevented that, but Chuck didn't give up, though Control
Denied had to be put on hold. He was only too aware that Death fans
were still hungry for more. Chuck told Metal Maniacs, "I
do things when I feel they're right. There was label interest in
Control Denied, but I felt that the time was right to bring Death
back." Another slight lineup change occurred here. Shannon
explained , "That's when we started working on the Perseverance
stuff...and got Richard [Christy] in on drums."
The Sound of Perseverance
(1998) bludgeoned listeners with infectious heaviness from Chuck's
introductory lead burst. Unaware of his fading mortality, Chuck
had written "A Moment of Clarity", which tells us: "Life
is like a mystery / With many clues, but with few answers / To tell
us what it is that we can do / To look for messages that keep us
from the truth." At the Ventura, California, Perseverance
gig I hung out with Chuck for the first (and last) time. He signed
my LPs and CDs, and I apologized for being such a fan-boy. But he
understood. "I'm the same way," he said, "like with
KISS." I spent the afternoon inside the venue, with no one
around but Chuck's friend Maria Abril. It was unreal watching
Chuck jam unaccompanied before everyone showed up for soundcheck.
He didn't kick me out or wonder what I was doing there. As a matter
of fact, he was one of the kindest musicians I've ever met!
A shocking press release was issued by Chuck in spring 1999, just
after tracking for the Control Denied album, The Fragile Art
of Existence, was completed. "Toward the end of our time
in the studio, I started experiencing some pain in my upper neck
which I initially thought was a pinched nerve or strained muscle.
Having completed the recording I consulted with a chiropractor
followed by a massage therapist and acupuncturist who recommended
I go for an MRI...Well, I was right about the pinched nerve but
unfortunately it was being caused by a brain stem tumor. "I
am in my fourth week of radiation therapy with some of the most
sought-after physicians in the field. I am also blessed with the
immense love and support from my family and friends which is such
a big part of getting through something like this. To try to put
this into simple terms is obviously difficult but let me say this:
it is a mind, body and soul expanding experience. The treatment
has been going well and with this type of aggressive radiation
the prognosis is very good. Patience is something I have learned
to embrace in my fourteen years of living music and now it is
time to further master the art of patience on my road to recovery.
"I've always felt a personal connection between the music
and the fans/friends who support it. It is that support, that
goes beyond the music itself, which I appreciate with all my heart
The words sent Death fans reeling with sympathy for their ill
metal comrade. Months of radiation followed, during which time
The Fragile Art of Existence was released. A medical fund
was organized for Chuck. He lacked insurance that would cover
the enormous expenses such a volatile disease as cancer brings.
Chuck's family's assets were being poured into the best care he
could possibly receive. The Schuldiners encountered much friction
from hospitals that were reluctant to treat Chuck without being
paid up-front. "Every single dime has been for him, but Chuck
would do it for me 1,000 times over, " Chuck's sister Beth
told MTV News.
The Fragile Art of Existence
is what Chuck had wanted the public to hear since '93. Clear production,
a solid lineup, and songs loaded with themes both personal and relevant
to all people. The epic direction was made more accessible by the
powerful voice of Tim Aymar (Psycho Scream). The title track closes
out the disc with the prophetic lines: "No time for self-pity
/ No time for dwelling on what should have been / But is yet to
be." In "Believe" there are further messages laced
with experience from Chuck's life. Chuck tells us: "If I was
paid for disappointment, I would be a wealthy man / The magic lives
in sincerity, in truth, behind the thoughts I choose to stand...
/ Awaiting discovery". Chuck told Metal Maniacs, "These
are words and things I need to re-embrace-not for music, not for
that outlet-I need to re-embrace key words for a new survival...Life
Just before Chuck underwent surgery, MTV News covered his
story online on the web. Family, friends, and fans braced themselves
as Chuck entered the hospital. Chuck made another statement to the
metal community following his successful surgery: "I am alive
and letting the metal flow! I just finished writing the last song
for the new Control Denied album...100% trend free. The responses
to The Fragile Art of Existence have been really awesome.
Thank you for embracing it! I also want to thank everyone around
the world for the incredible support you have shown me. I read the
emails and the letters and appreciate your kind words and honesty...I'm
settling down here in Florida, feeling good and looking forward
to getting busy again with the new record and tour to thank all
my metal brothers and sisters in person with some new metal...Shazaamm!"
Recovery went awry, even though we had hoped with all our metal
hearts that Chuck would defeat cancer and continue to astound us
with new slabs of raging metal. It was spring 2001 when Chuck fell
more gravely ill. Maria Abril, who worked for nearly every label
Death & Control Denied have been on was Chuck's friend from
her days at Relativity Records. She spearheaded online auctions
on Chuck's behalf. The donations and love flowed from the metal
community, but all the money in the world can't erase the horrible
side effects of experimental chemotherapy drugs and the gruesome
killer known as cancer.
By November 2001 Chuck's condition seemed to have improved somewhat.
He even emailed Emptywords.org, the official Death & Control
Denied website, something he rarely did. Only weeks later Chuck
was hospitalized again with pneumonia-his mother constantly at
his side. Those who knew feared each day that we would lose Chuck.
The news we all dreaded came, when Yvonne Kluitman from Emptywords
tearfully informed us that Chuck had passed away on the afternoon
of Thursday, December 13, about an hour after returning home from
Chuck was human-and enjoyed simple things like his dogs and cats
("The Guys"), canoeing, collecting records, and cooking.
Chuck, a humane soul who was especially fond of his pets, rescued
his dog Heidi when she was a puppy from the horrid fate of being
trapped in a bag and left to die in a dumpster. Never one to shrink
from popularity with metal fans and the intricacies such fame
brought with it, Chuck told Guitar World, "I'm proud
that I've never had a drug problem or complained that success
sucks and shot myself like Kurt Cobain. Sorry, but success is
something people like me dream about." When it came to Chuck's
concept of metal, he was uncompromising. Ex-Death guitarist Matt
Olivo told me shortly before Chuck's death, "He doesn't have
one dishonest bone in his body when it comes to his own music.
He has to do his own thing." Chuck's old manager, Eric Greif
explained how Chuck stared misery in the face, and slayed it with
optimism: "One particular moment will live on in my brain
forever: we were travelling somewhere in snowy Sweden... the only
guys still awake, having a deep conversation about our lives,
our futures, and the band. I was quite down at the way things
were going. He put his arm on my shoulder and pointed at the stars
that were shining clearly. He said I had nothing to fear-that
fate would lead the way and that things would turn out as they
were meant to. Chuck was like that-there were moments of sheer
depth, honesty and conviction...."
As for me, I can only say that I feel fortunate to have known
Chuck Schuldiner, a true heavy metal hero, even for a brief time.
We won't forget you, Chuck, and perhaps we'll meet again on the
tour bus to infinity...
Perry M. Grayson