Martelgang / Netherlands
Article: Chuck Schuldiner special
Written by: Anton de Wit
Published: January 2002
13 2001, Death and Control Denied frontman Charles "Chuck"
Schuldiner passed away due to the consequences of cancer.
In this Martelgang special you'll find the story of Chuck,
exlusive interviews and reviews of all his albums by well
known guys from the Metal World.
DEATH OF DEATH
Anton de Wit
"A death metal legend in spite
of himself," that was Charles Schuldiner, AKA "Evil
Chuck", frontman of the illustrious Death and also the brain
behind the younger band Control Denied. On December 13 2001 Chuck
died due to the consequences of a tumor on his brainstem.
Some fans would rather talk about
"Schuldiner Metal" than death metal, because the latter
is too restricted to describe the music of Death and Control Denied.
In both cases you could consider the recently passed vocalist
and guitarist, the genre's namesake. Although the etymology of
the term death metal isn't undisputed and isn't pointing unambigiously
towards Chuck's musical brainchild. Yet it's almost unthinkable
that the term wasn't inpired by the band name Death or their first
demo, 'Death By Metal' from 1984. If the prefix 'death' refers
to the deathly, morbid sphere of the music, why wasn't the genre
called Dead Metal? That would have been a better choice linguistically
and more in harmony with the term Heavy Metal.
However, Chuck wasn't very keen
-for the same reasons as his fans- on the term death metal. On
the other side he presented himself as a key figure of the genre,
every now and then. When in the early 90's a dispute arose between
Death and Morbid Angel about the position of the headliner on
several European festivals, Chuck said to the German magazine
Rock Hard: "look it may sound arrogant, but Death was one
of the founders of death metal, we already released four albums,
Morbid Angel just two. Besides we sell more albums." Meanwhile
things have changed, but more about that later.
of Death took place in 1983, when the 16 year old guitar player
formed Mantas with some friends, named after the string picker
of Venom. It's no surprise that the music of Chuck and co
was strongly inspired by the British noise makers. To honor
Death, the band has to be seen in the light of the bands of
the early 80's who would drastically change the face of metal,
the school of Venom worshippers that, under the name of 'thrash
metal', brought about (semi-)legends like Slayer, Metallica,
Celtic Frost, Kreator and Sepultura.
Although the last bands nowadays are only a shadow of what
they once were, they made metal a lot less brave, the even
radicalized it. Only with the raw, atonal aggression of the
thrash bands from the early 80's, the association between
metal and darkness was complete -an association that was lost
completely after the first two albums by ancestor Black Sabbath.
The wild thrash metal sound made the split with the rock orientated,
commercially viable metal bands like Def Leppard and AC/DC,
and created the path for death metal as well as black metal.
From that perspective, Death is a forerunner of death metal,
and not a death metal band.
Yet Chuck's band never got the success
of Metallica, Slayer and Sepultura. This probably has more to
do with the regional culture than with the musical qualities.
In retrospect the sunny Tampa in Florida is called the cradle
of death metal, but in the mid 80's it was an undevelopped area
with some obscure thrash bands that tried to make as much occult
noise as possible out of their cheap amps in their shabby rehearsal
rooms. Those bands were named Death, Morbid Angel and Obituary,
their logo's were messy and self designed and their music was
unquestionably much more raw as that of their bretheren. The first
Death albums were, although fans tend to call them milestones
nowadays, completely unpretentious. The lyrics were filled with
horror cliches that were in vogue in the underground back then,
and also the music couldn't be called progressive.
In the early 90's the thrash bands
out of Florida got some more recognition, under the flag of death
metal. Tampa even florished as kind of a death metal epicentre,
with bands, studios, and producers that set the international
standards of the genre. Death metal seemed to be a reaction on
the theatrical and pompous presentation that was common until
far into the 80's, as well as the thrash metal movement. While
Cannibal Corpse entered the stage in their daily outfits and unwashed
hair, Death and Morbid Angel went for the suntanned muscles of
thrash. Whoever was at a Death show at the end of 1997 must remember
the windmachines that made Chuck's long hair wave more proudly.
A custom we laugh about when local bands like the Kast (Dutch
pop band) use it. But despite their vanity, the bands out of the
south east of the United States managed to obtain a firm position
in the hearts and record cases of the often less vain fans.
Fame wise (despite the disdainfullness
of its frontman in Rock Hard), in the end Death wasn't a match
for region mates Morbid Angel. This was probably because Chuck
wasn't satified with lyrical and musical cliches. Today Morbid
Angel is the undisputed king of the death metal, because their
music stays, despite its complexity, catchy for the simple fan
and because the lyrics are full of hocus pocus out of the books
of H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley. From the fourth ablum,
'Human' out of 1991, Death presented themselves as essentialy
different, the music was more technical without losing aggression,
and the lyrics were more intelligent, no more flying limbs or
diabolical enteties that usually live in death metal lyrics. Cautiously
Chuck struggled in his lyrics with social problems -without trying
to be the improve of the world- philosophical contemplations,
and even personal emotions.
Another restraining factor
were the relations within the band. The most wild rumors
got around about the dictatorial regime of Chuck within
the Death ranks, his unpredictability and stuborness. The
tensions led to line up changes and even mudslinging in
the press. The drama reached a high point after the mutiny
just following the release of 'Spiritual Healing' in 1990.
While Chuck was at home the other band members went on tour
with another singer. The founder and band leader didn't
give in and finally fired all his musicians.
Chuck won the power struggle,
and Death entered a more stable phase of its existence.
The musicians would still come and go, but with less fireworks
than before. The relationships were clear, Chuck was in
charge, and nothing stood in the way of the musical development.
This resulted in a series of very strong, progressive albums
that would define the face of Death in the 90's -'Individual
Thought Patterns', 'Symbolic', and the swansong 'The Sound
Of Perseverance'. To secure the musical ingenuity, Chuck
surrounded himself with prominent musicians, like drumgod
Gene Hoglan, King Diamond solo guitarist Andy LaRocque and
Sadus' bass virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio.
Yet, something kept gnawing. Although he had free hand within
Death, Chuck wanted more. A ever returning problem was his
hate-love affair with the microphone. "I always looked
at myself first and foremost as a guitar player", he
once said in an interview. "I took over the vocals
out of necessity instead of conviction". Also musically
he wanted more, but he was aware of the fact that he couldn't
realize all of this ideas in Death. The fans wouldn't take
it, they wanted the familiar sound with Chuck's sharp death
grunts. In interviews in the 90's he hinted at his new project,
with a more traditional heavy metal sound, preferably with
former Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio as singer.
In 1996 the idea took more
shape with the foundation of Control Denied, Chuck didn't
manage to get Ronnie James Dio nor Nevermore-singer Warrel
Dane. Eventually Control Denied was a band with, besides
Chuck, some relatively unknown names (in the beginning that
is). Demos were recorded that leaked out to the fans, but
the necessary support of a label didn't come. Contrary to
the expectations of the fans and the band members, since
it wasn't Death but Control Denied that was put on hold
indefinite. Only after Death released another album, could
they work on the debut of Control Denied. Finally in 1999
'The Fragile Art Of Existence' was released, and it mainly
met enthusiastic critics and fans.
"The ultimate progression of Death" says the official
biography of Control Denied about the first CD. That is
how 'The Fragile Art Of Existence' must have felt for Chuck,
like the culmination of everthing he ever did with Death
up till now. At last he could concentrate on his guitar
play. At last he could add some more traditional and modern
metal to his musical formula -things he couldn't and didn't
want to do with Death. As unpleasant as it may sound to
the loyal Death followers, Death became, after 15 years
and seven albums, a straitjacket into which the vocalist/guitarist
didn't quite fit any longer. At the same time the work of
Control Denied is of some comfort, because it didn't appear
to be drastically different from Death. The shoe just pinched
in just a few places now. Control Denied was one size bigger,
not a new model.
At the same time the tide
changed. 'The Fragile Art Of Existence' became a loaded
title when in 1999 a deadly form of cancer was diagnosed.
Through the internet the alarm was given when it appeared
that the Schuldiner family lacked of money for proper treatment.
The former band members that in the past accused Chuck of
unlimited riches, now painfully appeared to be totally wrong.
His illness made a lot happen in the metal world. A real
Chuck Schuldiner fund, internet auctions for the benefit
of his recovery and finally a series of benefit concerts,
also in our country. The broad support of the metal fans
was, mildly put, remarkable. Up till now there never was
in this genre, so much compasion for the illness of a musician.
It would be too simple to seek the answer in the sense of
community, the solidarity or the brotherly nature of the
scene, because there were also negative reactions, as Steve
DiGiorgio stated right after the bad news about Chuck's
illness in Aardschok. "People were making statements,
like 'Chuck's faking it!' or humiliating remarks like: 'hahaha,
how appropriate, somebody writing songs for the band Death,
will die himself!' This kind of mail made me far sicker
than Chuck's call telling me he had a tumor in his head."
The prestige that Chuck built
throughout the years would not go undisputed. Yet he was
loved enough to count on a broad support. The last benefit
concert was held just a few weeks prior to his death. Strangly
enough just in those last weeks of his life, there was a
cautious optimism among his fans about Chuck's recovery.
At that time he wasn't able to respond to emails anymore,
and his mother Jane took care of the contact with the outside
With Chuck's passing comes
the end of Control Denied as well as Death. Steve DiGiorgio
said that Control Denied will at least try to finish the
second album that they were working on, to honor Chuck.
But after that the curtain will finally fall, because both
bands are simply unthinkable without the input of Charles
Kees Kluitman EmptyWords
Jaap Wagemaker Nuclear Blast
Guido Heijnen Founder of Hammerheart Records
Stephan Gébédy Thanatos frontman
and Aardschok journalist
support has been important for Chuck"
By Anton de Wit
started in 1999, with the permission of Chuck and his
label, as a Death/Control Denied fansite, concentrating
on the European market. Not long after the news of Chuck's
illness came out, after which EmptyWords became the international
crisis and information center. The last month it obviously
has been a madhouse for the Dutch sitekeepers Kees and
Yvonne Kluitman. Having just returned from the memorial
service in Florida, they took the time to answer some
questions through email.
You made a
lot of effort to get a broad recognition for Chuck's illness.
Haven't you got a feeling now that it's all been for nothing?
"We returned a
few days ago after a stay of a week, and we must say,
it has been quite a week. Very, very impressive. You
must understand that we can't get into many details.
We hope we've been able to be of some comfort to Chuck's
family. Many stories were told and a lot of walking
down memory lane. A lot of pictures, Chuck's personal
things, sitting by the fireplace, the dogs
week full of melancholy. The memorial service itself
was very impressive, with a lot (but not only) attention
for Chuck's musical career. Besides his family and
friends, there were also a lot of people from the
scene and (current and former) band members."
When did you hear the news about
"Very soon, in the night from Thursday to Friday,
but we were asked to wait a while with bringing out
the news of Chuck's passing. In consultation with
Chuck's family we decided to make it known on Saturday
December 15. That was a very hard moment for us. You
know, we weren't totally unprepared because we knew
things weren't good with Chuck, but this was so definite,
"Certainly not! Beside the financial aspect, the moral
support as well has been very important for Chuck and his
family. Especially the solidarity and the many reactions
from all over the world moved them very much. Besides there's
still much money needed and we want to thank everybody,
also on behalf of the Schuldiner family, that contributed
one way or another."
How do the family and friends of Chuck
react to the massive response on your site?
'Very emotional. Like we said before, the get a
lot of strength from it and in a way it makes Chuck live
How will things go with the site from
here? I assume that there will not be much news anymore
about Control Denied or Death
"There's no reason for us to stop with the site. On
the contrary. We see an important task for us to promote
Chuck's musical legacy. We have so much that hasn't been
published yet. Besides there will be new people in the future
discovering his music and wanting to read the background
stories, we're convinced of that. How many sites of passed
composers are there?"
Wagemakers, Nuclear Blast
"He was very
intelligent, honest and firm"
by Peter Doorakkers
"It was an honor that
I could do the promotion for this legend," says Jaap
Wagemaker. The Dutchman is in daily life the promoter
for the German label Nuclear Blast for the Benelux. In
1998 Nuclear Blast released the last Death album "The
Sound Of Perseverance".
"I was shocked
when I heard the news of Chuck's death. Immortal
bassist Iscariah told me on December 15. I didn't
want to believe it at first, thought it was another
rumor. Until I got the confirmation from Nuclear
Blast later that evening. I had to go outside to
get some fresh air
Also at Nuclear Blast everybody
was shocked, we did all we could to send him as
much money for treatments as we could, gifts, releasing
the live albums
did Death mean to you?
"I knew Chuck personally, because I took care
of the promotion of "The Sound Of Perseverance"
and the first Control Denied album in the Benelux.
I met him for the first time at Dynamo Open Air,
and after that at lots of gigs in the Netherlands
and Belgium. He was one of the rare people who can
express themselves better through their music. He
was very intelligent, and always honest and firm.
Death's music meant a lot to me. I've been a big
fan since the "Scream Bloody Gore" album,
and it only grew through time. It was an honor to
me to do the promotion for this legend."
What meant Chuck's death for the metal genre?
"Death was a legend. The band will always be a source
of inspiration for new generations of metalbands! Chuck
was at the birth of the genre and developed it into what
it is today. It's a big loss. And not only as a musician,
but as a human being as well. Everybody is deeply shocked,
look at all the reactions on EmptyWords.org."
Heijnen, Hammerheart Records
it wasn't a complete surprise"
By Anton de Wit
Denied may be seen as one of the biggest fish that the
Limburgian Hammerheart caught in their contractual nets
the past years. Tragically Chuck will never see this label
release his work. Martelgang spoke with Guido Heijnen,
manager of Hammerhearts Records.
was your contact with Chuck?
"The contact I had was good. Certainly in October
2000 when we stayed at our Boston office and we
went out for around 5 days. Eating, going to bars
etc. Chuck was definitely recovering and could walk
you expect this to happen?
"To be honest? No, eventually not, although
unfortunately it didn't come as a complete surprise."
meant the music of Death and Control Denied to you
"Definitely Death meant a lot to me. 'Scream
Bloody Gore' and 'Leprosy' transformed me into a
death metal fan. Those LP's did the big job, and
I'm sure that I wasn't the only one."
Hammerheart contracted Control Denied at a time it was already
known that Chuck was ill. Has it all been for nothing?
"No, Chuck was rehabilitating
back then. Actually he was declared healthy and was no longer
treated. In March/April he was struck again by cancer. Control
Denied's CD will be released, the band will finish the already
60% ready album."
By Peter Doorakkers
can tell about the impact that Chuck Schuldiner had with
Death, it is death metal veteran and Aardschok journalist
Stephan Gébédi. The influence of Chuck's
musical creations on his band Thanatos are not to be underestimated,
"When we started Thanatos
in 1984, the brother of our drummer let us hear the first
Death demo. He said: "When you think you're playing
fast, listen to this!" That demo sounded like shit,
but the music was very heavy. Through tape trading I tried
to lay hands on as many demo's, live and rehearsal tapes
of Death as possible, because I loved their music.
your thoughts when you heard he died?
It isn't to be denied
that we were influenced by Death. Especially on
our second album 'Realm Of Ecstasy' the influences
are clearly to be heard. Listen to 'And Jesus Wept',
in retrospect it is quite similar to 'Living Monstrosity'
of the "Spiritual Healing" album. That
wasn't deliberate stealing, but Death has always
been one of the big influences."
do you look at Death's influence on the genre death
"I don't want to say that Chuck invented death
metal, but his influence of course has been huge.
He was one of the first to sing with a grunt, and
transformed heavy, brute thrash metal into something
we started calling death metal. Because of his music
a lot of bands started playing death metal. Chuck
himself developed his music throughout the years
into a kind of melodic-techno-thrash, but it stayed
extreme in a certain way. He never betrayed his
style. Without Death the nowadays death/thrash scene
definitely would have looked different."
you know Chuck personally?
"A little bit. During the 'Mutilation'-demo
days we wrote some letters to each other. Later
I met him twice. In 1989 in Oud Gastel Death would
perform together with Thanatos, but it was canceled
because Chuck was having trouble with his voice.
In the early 90's we visited the Amsterdam red light
district with the whole band, and had a few drinks
together. Chuck was a very nice guy. He wasn't a
party animal, he was quite serious. Somebody who
knew what he wanted and let nobody keep him from
"I though it sucked. When I heard
it I was in 013 (a Dutch venue/YK) and already had quite
a few beers, but it touched me. All the more because I thought
the treatments had been sucessful. I was shocked."
We put the studio
albums of Chuck and his bands one more time in line for you, supplied
with a postume review. And we didn't do it alone, we asked musicians
and colleagues journalists from the metal world for their vision.
Scream Bloody Gore
Individual Thought Patterns
The Sound Of Perseverance
The Fragile Art Of Existence
Bloody Gore (1987)
By Stephan Gébédi, vocalist/guitarist
opinions of what was the first death metal album differ,
(Possessed's 'Seven Churches' or 'Scream Bloody Gore'),
we can easily say that Death with its band name, heavy
sound and splatter lyrics with 'Scream Bloody Gore'
made the blue print for an entire new sub-genre within
metal. The band sounded even more brutal than Slayer
and songs like 'Zombie Ritual', 'Evil Dead' and 'Baptised
In Blood' even nowadays stand like a house. Death
metal as it was meant to be; heavy, dirty, simple
and direct. No fuss, no super long solos, just powerful
songs with head and tail and lyrics about death, zombies,
blood and violence. My personal favorite is next to
'Zombie Ritual', the great title song, but also the
fantastic opening riffs of 'Infernal Death' have to
be mentioned. When I had to mark the album now, I
would wihout hesitation give it a 10, because it just
is one of the absolute killers of all time.
By Grev Drake, guitarist of Goddess of Desire
Second album of Death,
and the best (I think). Where the first ended the
second took off, but with a much better production
(Scott Burns). The line-up is Chuck Schuldiner with
(except the vocalist) the old Massacre line-up;
Rick Rozz (guitar), Terry Butler (bass) and Bill
Andrews (drums). After this CD Rick Rozz was kicked
out of the band and James Murphy joined as a second
guitarist. The disc has been an example for many
beginning death metal bands of how death metal should
be sounding. The CD opens with the title track,
lovely brutal. On the entire CD a lot of interesting
guitar solos are to be heard, also in two voices.
That is on later Death CD's clearly to be heard
as well, but even better worked out. Highlights
are 'Leprosy', 'Born Dead', 'Left To Die', 'Pull
The Plug' and 'Open Casket'. 'Open Casket' was also
on the death metal collection LP "Death
is just the beginning". The lyrics mainly are
about sickness, dying, suffering, the death, cannibals.
A less good thing is the sampled snare drum which
has a disturing mechanical effect. When you pay
attention to the drum sound it seems as if you are
listening to the Roland Sound Canvas Power Drums
drumset. Also the guitars are sounding quite thin,
like there has been cut out a lot of mid, but that's
part of death metal. It is a pitty, because it takes
away the aggressiveness (burning sound in the guitar)
from the music (compare Slayer's 'Reign In Blood',
a lot of mid in the guitars).
Thought Patterns (1993)
By Anton de Wit, Martelgang metal zine
Somewhere in the
corner of my wardrobe, that tatter still has to
be, worn to a thread and grey with the cover of
Death's fifth album 'Individual Thought Patterns'
on it. Once I even used the shirt in the forrest
when I had
. Well, I won't go into that. Anyway
it was cooked washed, but after that the band pic
on the back was so worn that only Chuck was recognizable.
A pitty, because with this album the late mr. Schuldiner
had formed quite a line-up. Bass virtuoso Steve
DiGiorgio, who showed his skill on his four snare
instrument with Sadus and Testament as well, drum
icon Gene Hoglan, with also Devin Townsend, Old
Man's Child and Testament on his CV, and last but
not least Andy LaRocque, well known from my personal
favorites King Diamond. With such an all star line-up
you would expect 'Individual
' to be a total
hit, but actually it's not quite. The album isn't
bad -on the contrary!- but it's remarkable that
most consider either an older, or a newer album
as their Death favorite. Amazingly I still see people
walking in the same shirt I have -less worn though
and without any stains of questionable origin.
Sound Of Perseverance (1998)
By Bram de Cooman, Mindview
When someone leaves
this sucking earth, it's a human reaction of the
heirs to cherish every little and big achievement
of the deceased. All metalheads are without any
doubt heirs of Chuck Schuldiner and all his records
are special milestones in the heavy metal history.
The Death testament 'The Sound Of Perseverance'
still sounds like a great album after 4 years, like
we expected otherwise. I have to admit that it was
at least a year ago that I played this killer disk
which actually shouldn't have happened. What a killer
CD! The drums! The technique! The sphere!!! Of course
you look at every Death album differently at this
sad time. Especially the lyrics (the titles alone)
get inevitable another, stronger meaning. Titles
like 'Bite The Pain', 'To Forgive', and of course
the fantastic Priest-cover and album closer 'Painkiller'
have an even greater impact. A great artist has
gone, it sounds cheesy as hell, but it's the damned
truth. Fortunately Chuck got the respect he deserved
from the metal world before he died as well, and
that makes the sympathy now (and during his illness)
all over the world so real. The amazing wave of
sympathies that fall to Chuck is so typical for
the close metal world. There's a lot to be said
about Chuck Schuldiner, and I'm sure it will be
(by others) as well
But the most important???
Chuck's spirit is alive!!!
Fragile Art Of Existence (1999)
Kasper Ramaekers, Metalmania Agency
I have to admit that
it's very strange for me to write a review from
an album that I can dream in the meantime. For those
who don't know Control Denied? Crawl in a deep hole
of shame and never come out again. Control Denied
is Chuck Schuldiner's only considerable project
outside his career with Death. I still can remember
very well that I got the album 2 years ago. Like
everybody else, the expectations were very high.
Chuck Schuldiner on guitar accompanied by Shannon
Hamm (Death), Steve DiGiorgio (my favorite metal
bass player of all time, Death, Iced Earth,Testament,
Sadus), Richard Christy (Death, Iced Earth) and
the new for me unknown singer Tim Aymar being responsible
for the vocals. Of course Control Denied can be
compared to the newer Death in a way, works like
'Symbolic' and 'The Sound Of Perseverance', but
with different vocals. No screams like we were used
to from Chuck but crystal clear vocals, Tim Aymar
sings in tune but sounds very aggressive and angry
at times. The album contains 8 varied tracks, all
filled with amazing solos, from Shannon as well
as Chuck, and of course the very talented and technical
parts of Steve DiGiorgio and Richard Christy. Yet
Control Denied sounds a lot darker than Death and
in a way I had to get used to this album and it
took some time to grow, but now I can truly say
that this album from Chuck as well can be seen as
a classic. After this release Control Denied left
Nuclear Blast and signed with our own Dutch label
Hammerheart for a second album, and the band started
working on their new untitled work. Chuck was recovering
and all looked bright, yet just a few months after
the start of the recordings fate struck again and
Chuck became ill once more, and more serious than
before. The recordings were postponed and Chuck
concentrated on his recovery. Like we all know now,
Good new however is that Tim Aymar
and Steve DiGiorgio confirmed that they want to
finish the album no matter what, to honor Chuck.
When and how still is unknown but the other band
members will do all it takes to get this album done.
Personally I want to say that I feel very honored
to have been able to work for Chuck in Europe by
organizing and controling the European tributes.
My experiences are very positive and I'm grateful
for all the support and love I got the past months
from the press, the venues, Hammerheart, the bands
and all others that cooperated unselfish for Chuck's
recovery. And let's not forget that Chuck's spirit
will never die, thanks Chuck for changing all our
lives forever, we will never forget you.