Back in 1983 these guys started
pounding out a style of metal that was less fashionable or tasteful
than a present day South African cricket tour! But there's nowt
curiouser than extreme sub-genres, as they say up north, and a
few years on the sudden emergence of bands like Obituary, Morbid
Angel, Sepultura, Atheist and Pestilence, have all given death
a new lease of life - if you see what I mean! Consequently there
has never been a more opportune moment for the bona fide originators
of the genre to come roaring back with their third, and to my
mind best, album to date. With a casualty list of such ditties
as 'Defensive Personality', 'Altering The Future', 'Within The
Mind' and the title track itself, 'Spiritual Healing', we have
a slower, more melodic, and more varied sound to contend with.
It's obvious that in 1990 with a sustained European tour on the
horizon, we are not talking about sudden Death, or even a violent
Death, but a far more marked and lingering expiration! I asked
Chuck if the mature sophistication of their third offering is
a natural Death?
'Yes, it's how we've always wanted to sound. I have never been
happier with any of our releases than with 'Spiritual Healin'g.
We have achieved something that people have been saying can't
be done in death metal, that it's impossible to be melodic or
varied. More importantly I think we've proved a lot of people
wrong who look down on death metal as a genre, who lump it all
together as simply Satanic based three chord progressions. 'Spiritual
Healing' is still brutal death metal but it's deliberately based
on more melodic riffing, we took our time to try and make everything
extremely catchy, and that accessibility crossed over to my vocals
as well, they are there to be heard because the lyrics are very
important on this album.'
How much of this new direction
was encouraged by the second generation of death bands, most of
whom are still concentrating on speed and hack and slash subjects?
'We've been around for quite a long time and I've always tried
to keep the band from getting lumped into any trend and at the
moment I'll just say that it's important to try and stick to that.
We wrote about gore four years ago because it was right for us
at the time. The acts you mentioned just reinforce the need to
change, to still be leading the way, to do it first. That's where
the trouble with Rick first started because the material I was
writing for 'Spiritual Healing' was simply way over his head.
He refused to improve as a player and I was forced into worrying
about writing stuff that was TOO complex, and when it gets to
that point something has to be done!'
Now Chuck has brought the subject
of long standing guitarist Rick Rozz being ousted from the Death
ranks (not for the first time) I though he might explain himself
'We fired Rick Rozz for good about eight months ago because he
wasn't progressing musically. Rick basically refused to improve
himself as a guitarist. It took us a month to find James Murphy
(ex-Agent Steel) but it worked out great from the very beginning.
To be honest it's a relief now to have someone in the band who
is really into being professional.'
Scott Burns has given Death their
best EVER production and one of the high spots is the work of
drummer Bill Andrews, surely one of the most underrated musicians
'I really appreciate your saying that, it's great to hear, because
I honestly don't think Bill gets half the credit he deserves for
the Death sound. He did a great job on this record and Scott's
production undoubtedly brought out the best in him. Everything
is extremely clear and crisp compared to previous drum mixes,
and I know that Bill was very, very happy with the way things
turned out. The guy always comes out with drum beats that help
to emphasise the riffing, it's one of his strengths and really
the two SHOULD bring out the best in each other. Drums are crucial
to the death metal sound and if you haven't got an imaginative
drummer, as much so even as a guitarist, then it's going to limit
your scope severely. A lot of Bill's style comes from musical
influences that we all share, Anvil, Angel Witch and Torch, in
fact in many ways the early eighties is where our whole sound
comes from. I was an exciting era that preceded the thrash scene
and it's a pity that a lot of kids are oblivious to what existed
before '83 and Metallica.'
Do you think that with various
bands getting prominent deals and coverage death metal is now
being seen as a musical force in its own right?
'It's definitely being looked at as a serious movement even though
there are still people who simply cannot grasp the idea of any
death metal band doing well! But the thing I always say to these
people is learn from the past! Look back to '83 and when 'Kill
'Em All' first came out, people were saying it's garbage, they'll
go nowhere, but I knew that band would be huge. And when they
were it blew so many people away it wasn't true! Seven years down
the line we are just taking it one step further. I mean I know
that there are still people who don't see us as a serious group
but hopefully we will be the first death metal act to break free
from the sort of barriers that are pretty much levelled on this
genre from the OUTSIDE. With 'Spiritual Healing' we are putting
out complex and involved music that we are VERY serious about.
Admittedly that hasn't been the case with the whole band before
and it's a pity that part of our career is captured permanently
on vinyl. All I can do is apologise on behalf of myself and the
band, something you just have to live and learn!'