As a very critical music fan, I can see where people have talked
down Death's "Spiritual Healing" in favor of all of
their other material. The band was going through a stylistic change,
and some might argue that they lost some of their best elements
while not yet refining the elements that made them great on later
To me, Spiritual Healing represents great things from both worlds.
Thanks to the production, the newfound complexity, and of course
the grating vocals of Evil Chuck, this album is arguably the most
punishing release in their catalog. Chuck's vocals at this point
seemed seething with a homicidal rage, every song's lyrics a personal
mantra. His points may not have been spot on, the issues were
quite debatable... but you knew he meant it with every ounce of
him when he said them, and unlike the first two albums you could
understand them all. "Low Life" is as close to a death
threat as we might get in music.
At this point, the ever-changing Death lineup included James Murphy
(Testament, Obituary, Cancer), and with the combination of him
and Chuck the band found a new complexity, while still sticking
with their base death metal formula. Chuck was getting better
and better at guitar (and at songwriting) and James helped bring
it out in him; the duo's riffage was confrontational, powerful
and devoid of catchy pretentious fluff, just like the lyrics that
they complimented. I call it honesty. The flair was saved for
the solos; this album is where they started to become the band's
Bill Andrews' drumming and Terry Butler's bass playing on Spiritual
Healing were probably the most consistent features remaining from
the Death lineup that recorded the first two albums. They're decent,
but they're not really the focal point of the album like the vocals
and guitars. The impressive bass that Death was known for was
later to come with DiGiorgio joining the lineup.
All in all the album has focus, and that's what I love about it.
The whole of the album is challenging people's perceptions, and
shoving them in their faces. This album is my "I want to
destroy the world" album, my "shove it in their faces"
release, and I can only hope that it gets the recognition it deserves
over the years.