Magazine: Rock n Roll Reporter / USA
Article: There's Not Life Without Death

Written by: Byron Nash
Published: spring 1999


While Korn is enjoying the success of their of their release, Follow The Leader, down in the shadowy, dark corridors of metal's underground world lurks an even more fierce, brutal, frightening and ugly musical beast called Death. What many of today's young headbangers don't know is the origin of metal's jagged riffs, raging breakdowns, vocal conniption fits and growls that existed long before the Coal Chambers, Vision of Disorders, and Limp Bizkits of the world. Many of those heavy riffs that have kids' ears glued to their stereo speakers are far from new, and the credit should be shared where it is due. Chuck Schuldiner, the mastermind and creator of the gruesome band, Death, is what some would call a pioneer in that genre. Even though death metal is treated like an unwanted stepchild in the music industry, musically, it is a force to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly.

The history of Death dates as far back as 1983, when Schuldiner formed Mantas with some high school buddies, gaining much recognition in the underground tape trading circuit. It wasn't long after that the name was changed to Death and the groundwork was laid for some of the most rhythmically confusing, innovative, and brutal music ever created. A new life for Death began in 1987 with the debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, a metal classic. The early nineties were a time when mainstream music was undergoing its metalmorphosis, with choice Death albums, like Spiritual Healing (1990), Human (1991), and Individual Thought Patterns (1993) assisted in defining the heavy music sound. After the last record, Symbolic, it was time for Schuldiner to get back into the studio and record another album, Sound of Perseverance. "This is absolutely my favorite lineup," said Schuldiner. "I've been performing with these guys a while now, so by the time we hit the studio, we were more than ready to record. It was a realease to get this out of our systems. If people have any doubts, their doubts will be gone when they put on the first song." SOP shows Death's evolution and passionately stays close to their roots with pride and conviction.

"It represents sticking true to what I believe in as a metal fan. Heavy metal's not meant to be a phase or trend. Metal is a type of music that will grow and maintain its integrity and that's very important to me. It's not about fitting in with all of these groove hip hop, new metal types of bands out right now. I can't tolerate that, because I've been playing metal for half my life. It would be so easy to play three chords, hop up and down, and say we're from the streets. It's not sincere and it's not from the roots where I come from. I come from old school. I was musically inspired by bands like Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Slayer and Queensryche. When Metallica's first album, Kill em' All, first came out, it was one of the heaviest albums next to the first Slayer. Then, the term 'death metal' came out in the media. All it was back then was a very intense, abrasive and aggressive form of thrash metal. I look at death metal as an extension and a step further." Schuldiner stated. Death's lineup alterations have given each individual album its own life. For Schuldiner, professionalism is a crucial element in choosing the right people for each record. Past lineups were difficult to maintain because some members lived out of state, which can complicate a rigorous rehearsal or recording schedule. Schuldiner has finally found people who are located in Death's base, Tampa, Fl., the death metal capitol. With the progression of music trends, some stick-to-yer-guns metal artists are being forgotten about and lost in the shuffle of the hip hop- meets - seven string chunk.

Schuldiner states, "unfortunately, what corporate America has introduced to this younger crowd of kids is that, if a band has heavy guitars, they are metal. That's a very corporate way of thinking, and it has the power to sway people towards what they think is the new thing. I see it everywhere. "The new metal" I hate to break it to people, that's not metal and it's not new. Anthrax was doing the crossover thing back in 1987. There's no need to confuse people, but Korn is not new metal. This is an opinion that I have credentials to base it upon. It's okay if people like those bands, but keep things in proper perspective. Then, you see Metallica in magazines saying that they're not a metal band and they don't care about that anymore. That's a big blow to the metal scene."

To most listeners, the hardest thing to accept about death metal are the brutal vocals. In the past Schuldiner's vocals have had a guttural, razorblade gargling, scowling growl. Now, his vocals are a tad higher and reminiscent of Mille of Kreator. Metal vocalists take a beating in the throat department live. "I think, singing this vocal style, that there is no proper way to take care of my voice, other than not smoking," Schuldiner said with a laugh. "It's a very difficult vocal style to maintain and, after a show, I am ready to pass out."

To Schuldiner, whose band displays an amazingly high level of dexterity and musical precision, seeing three-chord wonders on the covers of magazines is disappointing. "It's very frustrating to look at the covers and see the people who they are sticking on these covers. I know they sell records, but things don't revolve around talent anymore. It's insulting, in a way, to see these bands getting such high praise," added Schuldiner.

Schuldiner plans to steer clear of all trends and continue with his bandmates to create some of the sickest, twisted metal to date. Death represents the heart that fuels many of those chunky riffs that have metal fans throwing their fists up high. Death isn't meant for the mainstream listener; it's an acquired taste that is created with honesty, integrity, and soul. If you are inquistive about what lurks below, when trends fade and loose their lives, remember that there is always Death.

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EmptyWords-Published on February 5 2000 / June 24 2001