Magazine: Nuclear Blast
Article: Alive and Well

Written by: Andreas Bechtel
Published: autumn 1998


Hurrah! Chuck Schuldiner, one of the most inscrutable and controversial personalities of the metal scene, after a long absence presents himself again with a new album. The title, The Sound Of Perseverance, couldn't have been chosen more striking.

It could equally well have been entitled "Sounds Of Persistence". Whatever, it doesn't matter. The good news is that DEATH (or maybe it should be called the Chuck Schuldiner-band) once again delivered a super-cool piece of work which, as for brutality, aggression, virtuosity, technical refinement and balanced song-writing, can immediately be placed in the line of classics like "Leprosy" and "Symbolic". For about half a year there was a demo-tape with three new tracks going around. DEATH's standards being high, so were the expectations, so the demos were quite disappointing and generated rather negative responses. (It is true that these songs are just first experiments recorded in a rehearsal room in which the sound quality was far below the usual level.) It was incomprehensible that Chuck was capable of writing such simple compositions.

However, when you take to heart the end result of the last record (no matter which piece) provided with a killer raw production, you have to admit that every fear was unwarranted. Every single song on the "The Sound Of Perseverance" is a musical gem, intertwining numerous surprising elements and magnificent instrumental passages, that show that Chuck Schuldiner is one of the most competent and extravagant guitarists of the entire metal world. You have to take the time to let this disc intensively get through to you, because "The Sound Of Perseverance" can't just be called a logical continuation of its predecessor "Symbolic". First of all the song material confuses the listener with its frequent breaks and unusual construction, but then it grows more and more with every turn, and when the disc has become "familiar" the CD player stays on repeat. This early in the year its already obvious to me who made the come back of 1998.

Everything that once started off so gloriously seemed to have ended, because after the release of the divine "Symbolic", Chuck disolved DEATH, frustrated while assuming to have completed the greatest achievement in the entire DEATH career, the sales were stagnating. Moreover there was no support from the label of that time Roadrunner, which deviated more and more from metal and, with TYPE O NEGATIVE or MACHINE HEAD, had more commercially successful acts on the bill, which left DEATH playing second fiddle (if any fiddle at all) when it came down to promotional activities. The days of one of the most influential and striking bands from the brutal scene seemed to be counted. The whole situation looked like a tragedy.

But a full-blooded guitarist like Chuck Schuldiner couldn't just chuck it. Therefore shortly after the split up, the first rumors already reached us that Chuck founded a new combo which he called CONTROL DENIED. In an interview with the American magazine Sentinel Steel Chuck took a clear stand about the situation at that time around CONTROL DENIED. Chuck, as always leaving an introvert's impression (his shyness and caution were interpreted many times by magazines as arrogant and conceited), wanted to concentrate fully on his guitar playing and therefore was looking for a 'real' singer. Mr. Schuldiner wanted to contract i.e. the ex-SANCTUARY and current NEVERMORE-frontman Warrel (long-hair-to-the-ass) Dane, but he didn't want to come to Florida and moreover he didn't want to turn his back to his new gang because things were not doing bad at all. Also Andy B. Frank of IVANHOE was matter of discussion, recommended by ICED EARTH's Jon Schäffer. The song material for the CONTROL DENIED debut indeed was long finished already, but somehow this new project of Schuldiner's didn't really get off the ground. Presumably Chuck didn't commit fully to the case because he couldn't let go of his almost 15-year period with DEATH.

Probably this genius musician needed a short time of reflection to straighten things out and to come to the insight that it would have been an unforgivable mistake to let DEATH be dead and gone for good. All of a sudden things were as of old. Before last year's autumn a tour was surprisingly announced. The tour schedules were published in every magazine, but shortly before the start of the tour the incorrigible Chuck canceled and preferred to put together his new disc in sunny Florida, on which also is an excellent, absolutely ass kicking cover version of PRIEST's "Painkiller".

Based on these historical events, we look back shortly on the career of the American up till now. In 1983 the three VENOM-fans, Kam Lee (dr), Rick Rozz (g) and also Chuck Schuldiner (v/g/b) formed MANTAS setting the goal to create the most heavy music with which the world had confronted up till then. Shortly thereafter they renamed the band DEATH. I can remember clearly that the following demos, released shortly after one another; "Reign Of Terror", "Death By Metal", and "Infernal Death", raised a lot of dust in the underground, which wasn't that strange because DEATH's music was a culture shock alike. Soon DEATH reached the status of a cult-band. But despite the euphoric response from the fans, the time didn't seem to be right yet for the labels to contract such a merciless and uncompromising combo. Therefore Chuck took the offer of the somewhat more established SLAUGHTER (later STRAPPADO) and moved to Canada.

But the with ideas and creativity overflowing free spirit went under and didn't feel like playing the compositions of others. He returned to Florida to search for people to make a new start with DEATH. Immediately the new demo "Mutilation" was manufactured, which ended up in Combat's hands, who promptly contracted DEATH and at last the first born, produced by Randy Burns, "Scream Bloody Gore", was released, which sold to more than everybody's satisfaction. The beginning was there, followed a year later by "Leprosy". This album is seen by many die-hard DEATH-supporters as the big break-through for the Floridians. "Leprosy" was the album that set the standard, as well for technical playing as for the production and for songwriting. The question was whether DEATH could top this high-flier once again, which was held as absolutely impossible because 99% of all important bands have such a hit only once in their careers.

To present themselves to the growing multitude of European fans they first crossed the Atlantic Ocean. But serious shortcomings and the bad organization by the tour promoter lead to a fall out. DEATH canceled a few gigs and cut short gigs in the middle of the set. The apology came soon after with the third album "Spiritual Healing". Although DEATH couldn't top "Leprosy", they were able to keep the amazing level of quality of its predecessor, which says a lot. Another tour was to come. Once again DEATH did Europe, but without Chuck, who wasn't able to pull off the effort due to problems. The vocals on this tour were done by the ex-DEVASTATION drummer Louie Carrisalez. DEATH was celebrated everywhere and the war-cry "Fuck Chuck" became famous. The musicians held Chuck for arrogant, posing and above the rest. In some interview the dirty laundry was aired in public. What could be said about this? The devil knows… Other acts killed such scandals immediately, but in the case of DEATH the musical genius knew to veil such incomprehensible blunders.

After Chuck had the line-up roundabout turning in good order again, with "Human" the next hit came. "Human" by far is the most complex work of DEATH, but once again could convince completely over all. In the spring of 1992 the fans were looking forward with tensed expectations to the upcoming tour… But once again the bottom fell out. Health problems of some of the musicians lead to internal problems which resulted in dissatisfaction with as zenith a fall out as with the guys of PESTILENCE. Both bands couldn't agree about who would be headlining and who would be opening the shows. DEATH canceled the tour prematurely and left many disappointed fans behind, who still kept loving their band and its extravagant and sensitive main man, and who were compensated with "Individual Thought Patterns".

On this, up till then, most aggressive output, Gene Hoglan worked on the drums. After the tour with ANACRUSIS (R.I.P.) "Symbolic" was released and the rest of the story is history. Hopefully Chuck, after quite an absence and with a clear mind, conquered his mental dip and can prove on the planned tour at the end of this year, that he grew up.

It's interesting to note the DEATH line-up throughout the years: Kam lee, James Murphy, Paul Masvidal, Chris Reifert, Gene Hoglan, Terry Butler, Sean Reinert, Steve DiGiorgio, Andy LaRocque… Schuldiner always set high standards and for him only the best were good enough. That's what is needed to let seven excellent albums from the beginning to the end succeed. Welcome back Chuck!


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Translated by KK/YK/MM for EmtyWords-Published on June 16 2003