|The Angel of Death
has come again in 1993. With the release of Individual Thought
Patterns, Chuck Schuldiner and Death have once again proved through
talent, perseverance, and the commitment to musically progress rather
than stagnate, that death/thrash metal is not, as some detractors
have claimed, a dying genre. At 26, the "Godfather of Death Metal",
with the addition of Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Sadus and the only remaining
Death "member" from the Human sessions), on bass,
Andy LaRocque (from King Diamond) on lead guitar, and Gene Hoglan
(ex Dark Angel) on drums has firmly put Death back on the map and
once again, proved to the skeptics that being "brutal" and
"heavy" can also mean tasteful, memorable, and classic.
I recently spoke with the affable frontman/creator and asked him whether
this is, at last, a stable Death lineup.
"Definitely! I hope so!" replied the good natured Harbinger
of Death. "We're all excited about things, and I think listening
to the record, that there is a definite 'metallic chemistry' throughout
-it's got a real good groove- I feel that everyone involved got
a chance to let loose and really shine. This record, I had been
working on material since Human, and I presented tapes to
everyone that was going to be jamming out and told them to cut loose
and do whatever they were expressing themselves and being able to
shine through on their individual instruments. We're all really
happy with the result."
Indeed, Individual Thought Patterns
contains musicianship that upholds the crafty, well thought
out songwriting. Chuck's decision to have all involved "cut
loose and jam" is decidedly at odds with his image in the press
as some sort of dictating monster who is "difficult to work
with," an accusation that Chuck vehemently denies.
"People, who, in the past, have
gotten a free ride, once it's over, become very resentful; it's
almost like a baby with a pacifier. Once it's taken away, the security,
they have to talk shit, and I'm never one to start talking shit,
it's always other people. People have been released from this band
due to a number of things... when you have someone come into your
band you don't even know them really- you set out with hopefully
similar goals, but things change. I've always had to go where I
wanted to keep improving and bringing this music to new heigths.
There are certain people who don't want to improve as far as music
goes and that can become a problem, down to people just being overall
hard to work with. I am the easiest person to work with, it's funny
people think the opposite... Instead of people talking shit, they
should just prove themselves with what they have to offer, if they
have anything to offer at all. I'm the type of person -hey, people
may talk shit- but I come out with another record that's better
than the previous one. That's my main goal -to make sure that the
LP is just the best one I can put out."
The Death frontman felt so strongly
on this topic that he chose to address these 'gossip spreaders'
lyrically on several songs on the LP.
"The new record reflects a lot
of anger that is definitely shared by a lot of people in this business.
Everyone, literally, that I know who is in a band can share the
same story -you meet up with greedy, money hungry, backstabbing
people in this business, that in my opinion, should be sent to another
planet where they all rip each other off..."
Ever the gentleman, Chuck refuses
to name names however.
"There are several people that
these lyrics are directed at. It seems that everyone has their
way of doing things and that is creating gossip, and then there's
my way of laying out the reality of things in the lyrics
and stuff... the people who have f!cked me over are going to read
the lyrics and be highly aware that I'm addressing them. That satisfies
me, because I've voiced my opinion. People can be the judge abouth
whether they think I'm sincere or not."
So, enough gossip. I was curious
as to whether Chuck would consider Death a 'death metal' band in
1993, as the term has somewhat changed meaning from when he first
recorded Scream Bloody Gore in 1987.
Chuck feels that "These days,
people consider death metal to be satanic, the majority of it is
actually turning into that... I would consider Death to be a metal
band, and anyone can classify it the way they want. We play metal,
I know we play it heavy, and that's what counts. I'm really tired
of categories. This whole scene evolved from traditional metal,
that's where I get my roots from, as well as everyone else in the
band. I like it when I see a band moving forward in the right direction,
I mean, you can count on Death not to put out a funk LP, or hop
on any bandwagon."
This emphasis on drawing from traditional
metal and not other death metal bands is what sets Death apart musically.
Chuck explains, "People need
to look to where this all came from. When I started listening to
metal in the early '80's there were all sorts of bands, from Venom
to Exciter to Metallica, Anvil, Raven... All of those bands had
their own special formula. Just like the 70's, all the great bands
like Rush, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Styx (?!?)... all those bands
had their own sound and identity. Somewhere along the lines that
has gotten put to the side."
Returning to the topic of death metal,
I asked whether the song "Out of Touch" was directed at
bands like Cannibal Corpse who seem to put "brutality"
(rather, cheese) ahead of originality.
Chuck replied "Oh no, I'm friends
with them actually... 'Out of Touch' is directed at more extreme
people. Certain people are getting out of control, not just in metal
either... Rap music, give me a break, it's blatantly racial, insinuating
blatant violence. I'm not into that. I'm a positive person -my lyrics
seem angry but it's a positive outlet and contains a message, in
my belief. I'm not a religious person, but I'm definitely not a
satanic person. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs -but-
religion should definitely not be about hurting animals (right on
Chuck!) or anything like that. I wouldn't consider that a real religion
-that's totally screwed. Anyway, I'm not a hater of religion -I
definitely finger forms that are corrupt -it shows you that, unfortunately,
it's just human nature and it gets worse every year of my life.
I come in contact with more and more screwed up people..."
Winding up, I asked what he felt
it would take for death/thrash metal to survive, and what kept him
"I'm here to write music, that's
what I set out doing 10 years ago, that's what I wanted to do when
I was 8 years old and worshipped Kiss, they were my gods... All
I've ever wanted to do was play in a band. I never once thought
it would end up being a big gossip, sideshow bullshit situation
where people rip you off and you're a victim basically to what anyone
says until you prove yourself innocent. As far as the scene goes,
people should never underestimate the direction that metal could
turn to if people keep it healthy. You keep the scene healthy by
annihilating gossip, focusing on music, the support of fans, and
progressing. Bands like Psychotic Waltz, Dream Theatre, and Carcass
are really expanding musically and providing metal with new sounds."
Add Death to that list. Musically
and lyrically, they have done nothing but progress and impress,
both classy and classic, adjectives that aren't often used to describe
a death metal band. But then Death is anything but your typical
death metal band.
As Chuck sums up, "I believe
if you work hard at something and you're a good person deep down
inside, you'll rise above whatever bullshit you have to deal with."