t's been said that death is the great leveller, and yet to believe
that is to accept that it's the bringer of some ultimate force of
justice, something that none of us can feel right now, and perhaps
never will. Chuck Schuldiner passed away on Friday December 13 after
a determined fight against cancer. The suddenness with which it
took him, just when his recovery was such a distinct possibility,
is a gratuitous cruelty that only casts his resolve and his nobility
into sharper relief. Those qualities were deeply rooted in Chuck
Schuldiner's music, which in turn is deeply rooted in all of us.
That past Death slogan, 'The first word in death metal' was no joke.
At once visionary and definitive, Death were the standard by which
all future acts would be judged, and yet to match the expressive,
technical brilliance that ran from 'Scream Bloody Gore', through
to 'Leprosy', 'Symbolic' and beyond would always be the hardest
of acts. To listen to them now isn't just to bring memories flooding
back, it's to lose yourself in a complexity so beautifully structured
that they still feels like a template for new possibilities, an
ever-renewable source. The death that took Chuck Schuldiner has
cheated all of us, and yet his spirit will be reborn again and again,
as a long as all of us continue to inherit his defiance and his
fire. Our deepest condolences go out to Chuck's family, friends
and colleagues, and over the next six pages we pay tribute to one
of metals brightest flames, with help from his many friends.
isn't an official Death website, but many have assumed otherwise,
partly because of the professionalism and elegance of the
design, but also because of the breadth of information contained
therein, all lovingly compiled. As news of Chuck Schuldiner's
death broke, EmptyWords became a place of pilgrimage for thousands
of fans, as they contributed to the online book
of condolence Jonathan Selzer spoke to two of the site's
founders, Kees and Yvonne
What was your first experience
of hearing Death?
Kees: "In the 80s there was a weekly
Dutch radio show called 'Vara's Vuurwerk' (Vara's Fireworks) where
they played all sorts of metal. It was the only program on radio
that played metal at all. I'm a nurse working evening shifts,
so there was no other way to listen to that show than through
hospital radio, I was always pretty busy so I couldn't sit down
and put the headphones on, so I just hung it in it's holder and
turned the volume louder. Man, did those patients look astonished
when they came out their anaesthetic, for all the noise that came
out of those little headphones, hahaha. They dropped right back
in narcosis, thinking they woke up in the wrong world. That's
where I heard Chuck for the first time and he blew me off my feet
right through that little earpiece. I was hooked ever since and
I infected Yvonne with it as well. Yvonne: "Kees never stopped
talking about that one band called Death, so no wonder he got
me infected hahaha."
How did you hear about Chuck's
death, and what was your reaction?
Yvonne: "Chuck's mom wrote us a few
hours after Chuck passed away, and despite that we knew that Chuck
was very, very sick, we were in shock." Kees: "Chuck's
mom asked us to wait a while with bringing out this news. In consultation
with her we decided to publish it on Saturday December 15."
Yvonne: "I believe this was the hardest moment for us...
after a day and a half of disbelief we felt like making it definite..."
Reading the online condolence book
is a pretty overwhelming experience. Were you surprised by the
volume and intensity of responses?
Yvonne: "We were totally surprised
by the volume and the speed, we opened a book with space for 2,000
entries thinking that would be enough for the time being, and
it was full within 10 hours! At the moment book seven is online
and almost full. So that's almost 14,000 entries. Luca is still
working on the books to make them visible again on the site (the
first two already are). We were overwhelmed. Also by the many
responses from well known musicians and bands." Kees: "But
we weren't surprised by the intensity of the responses, Chuck's
fans are very, very die hard and we know exactly what difference
he can make in a life, both musically and lyrically."
Have you been in contact with Chuck's
family, and have they taken comfort from your efforts?
Yvonne: "We've been to Florida to visit
the memorial service. The week prior to that we spent time with
Chuck's mom, sister and nephew. It's been quite an emotional week.
The family definitely takes comfort not only from our but from
every fan's effort. The moral support is appreciated beyond words.
All those words about how Chuck touches peoples lives and what
he means to them makes Chuck live on in a way." Kees: "A
lot of stories were told and a lot of travelling down memory lane
by the fireplace. In brief: a week full of melancholy."
What is the future for the website?
Is it going to continue to be updated, and is the condolence book
going to stay as an ongoing tribute?
Yvonne: "We will continue to work on
EmptyWords the best we possibly can, there's still a lot of info
missing and we know there are still a lot of interviews, reviews,
tour schedules etc, that are not on the site yet. Over the past
weeks fans have send us a lot that we are working on right now.
We'll keep the fans posted about what will happen with the 2nd
Control Denied album and of course the condolence book will be
open at all times." Kees: "For us there's no reason
at all to stop with the site. On the contrary, we see it as an
important task to promote Chuck's musical legacy this way. In
the future his music will be discovered by new people who want
to read the background stories as well, we are convinced of that."
The metal community pays tribute to a brother....
was one of the very first extreme metal bands I ever heard. The
first album I got was 'Leprosy' after hearing a tape of 'Scream
Bloody Goer'. I've always admired Chuck's voice and I guess I've
tried to copy him in the past. I'd say Death pretty much sum up
what death metal is about. And later they were one of the premier
progressive death metal outfits. I think it's a great loss, all
of the band does and he will be missed!"-
Mikael Akerfeldt, Opeth
of the godfathers of extreme metal, no doubt. He will be remembered
by his fans forever!" -Aphazel, Ancient
were one of the first names that influenced me in death metal.
I was impressed with Chuck's talent, the originality and the finest
capacity to compose songs, the raging vocals and the hi-technical
skills. He showed me how death metal must be." -Rangel
- The mentor of death metal! Death have been a big source of inspiration
for me. His musical abilities and uniqueness will be sadly missed...
but always remembered. Through Death..." - Blasphemer,
Schuldiner has been one of my main influences when I started out
playing the guitar, years ago! Chuck's style was one of a kind,
which appealed to my imagination immediately. I forced myself
to learn each and every song by heart, up to the 'Individual Thought
Patters' album. Although I somewhat lost track after this particular
album, I still notice his influence on some of my compositions
today. Especially his fusion between really aggressive music and
melodic passages has been an example for a whole generation of
musicians and provided a bridge between different genres of extreme
metal. Although Chuck himself regarded his musica mainly as 'metal',
instead of 'death metal', he will be remembered as one of the
great founders and pioneers of this particular genre. I hope he
will get some piece of mind on his journey through the Aethyrs!
But my guess is, he will continue to haunt a few insurance agencies
and other institutions in this dimension! Liars!" -Jerry
spent much of my time as a young prick in the Florida hardcore punk
scene. I saw Death several times as a child and never quite understood
how great they were till years later. It's a crime that people so
influential die like this, but his legacy lives on through the tens
of thousands of bands worldwide he has inspired. Celebrate the music
and long live death eternally. Thanks Chuck and goodbye..for now..."
-Casey Chaos, Amen
were a major influence on everything heavy and brutal. In fact,
in the mid-80's they were a much more significant influence on the
underground scene than even Slayer. In the tape trading scene
it was always a great source of excitement and curiosity whenever
there was a new demo or rehearsal tape with new stuff on. Death
definitely set the standard for what was later to come. Just listen
to the "Mutilation" demo now, it still sounds as sick
and evil as it did back in '86. Chuck as a talent was undeniable,
a killer guitar player, inventive, unique. I only met the great
man a few times, but he always came across as passionate and sincere
about his music and life in general. It's a great loss -RIP [Evil]
Chuck." -Lee Dorrian, Cathedral
first time I heard Death was on a live tape from Tampa, Florida.
I even remembered the dates, 31/12/84. At that time I played in
my first band, Warhammer. Death were one of the bands that made
you want to play faster; his riffing style influenced me so much
it's untrue, and thousands of others I'm sure. Even now when I write
a Napalm song I usually say, 'now it's time for the Death riff'.
A very sad day indeed. Here's to evil Chuck wherever he is."
-Shane Embury, Napalm Death
Schuldiner was one of the main founders of the death metal genre.
He was an extremely talented singer, song-writer and guitarist.
Although our paths crossed only briefly in 1989, I was always aware
of Chuck and his work throughout his career. On behalf of World
Management and the artists we represent I wish Chuck's family our
deepest sympathies and condolences. He will be missed but his music
will live on." -Gunter Ford, World Entertainment Management
know cancer very well as I have carried several close relatives
to the grave who suffered from this cruel and often humiliating
disease. Chuck was a true talent. I could praise his importance
to the scene, how inventive he was. Everybody knows that. His work
was outstanding and shall remain. Everyone knows that, too. I am
mostly sorry and angry that he had to go through this hill and at
such a young age, it is unfair and wrong..." -Gunther, Ancient
great loss for the world of metal. We owe him so much and the extreme
music of today would most definitely have sounded different if Chuck
hadn't enriched us with his talent. He must not be forgotten."
- Tobias Gustafsson, Vomitory
and I shared a lot of magic moments together; the fun chaos of creating
'Individual..' and 'Symbolic'; the tours, the tears... (you know
he was never comfortable with being called 'The godfather of death
metal', his reply was always, 'It's just metal, dammit'). His contribution
to metal is obvious. We've lost a leader but remember a mother has
lost a son, and a sister and nephew have lost a brother and uncle.
Keep them in your thoughts as you remember Chuck, our metal brother."
deepest condolences goes out to Chuck's family and loved ones. We
share and feel you loss of a legend who meant a lot to thousands
of people. May you conquer wherever you may be..." -Iscariah,
on behalf of Immortal
remember talking with Chuck endlessly in the early days of Mantas
and Death. We would talk about horror movies, fanzines and the metal
scene. The funny thing is that we never referred to the music of
Death or Necrophagia as death metal but instead horrorcore... Chuck
always did things his way and never followed trends. He was always
looking for ways to improve, even at the beginning. I'll miss him
greatly... Darkest Regards." - Killjoy
was one of the best death metal guitarists ever and always will
be. Growing up listening to Chuck's songs has, in a way, made me
the guitarist I am today.
again one of the greatest has left this world but his music will
always be with us and should be heard by everyone and I have no
doubt it will inspire them as it dit for me." -Jari Kuusisto,
one sworn in the metal wind... "We, the true ones from Lost
Horizon, would like to pay you, Chuck, a final hail and salute on
this world's side. Our paths have never crossed, but we shared the
same flame... You are a brother in the magic that we, who see, hear
and feel better than others partake, understand and gets fulfilled
by. You were a man with great ambitions, talent, visions and a good
heart. A man who consistently and passionately strived to develop
and realize his visions, and did what he believed in and loved.
A man who listened to and followed his inner voice. That damned
paradox -the good guys die, while the human waste keep on living.
Your passing away brings indescribable sorrow in your family's and
in your friend's life. It deeply marks ours and many, many others'
existence. You have given us some of that force, to value a little
higher our seemingly miserable lives that we apparently wrongfully
depreciates. And just so you know, your emotions, your thoughts,
your music will inevitably live within all of those whose
hearts you have filled. See you some day man, in an other time,
in another space. "Let the force be with you!" -Lost
would like to dedicate our new album to the memory of Chuck Schuldiner,
great musicain, composer and genius who has shown new ways in metal,
technical music, full of expression and passion of creativity."
has been one of the most influentual musicians in extreme music.
There is not much I can say about him dying much too young, but
I know that his spirit will live on in his music forever. We'll
miss you Chuck!" -Mille, on behalf of Kreator
can add the name of Chuck Schuldiner to the sadly ever growing ranks
of deceased metal legends who have died on the field of battle.
So to a man who never compromised one iota and stayed true to the
metal cause we'll rais a glass or two.. rest in peace brother..."
- Nemtheanga, Primordial
find all the Death albums great in their own way, and to hear that
such a talented and important person as Schuldiner would have to
end his life this early was a tragedy. I am amazed and impressed
by the big interest from the metal scene in his struggle for life.
Respect. RIP." -Patrik, Thyrfing
was one of the innovators of death metal, and was not afraid to
expand and experiment in his music as long as it was true to his
soul and I always respected that, the quality of the musician that
he was will be truly missed in our genre. I really did not know
him personally but he will be missed by many. Rest in peace."
- Erik Ruton, Morbid Angel/Alas
was and still is one of my biggest vocal influences. His voice totally
got me into what I did in Grave and now in The Project Hate. We
got the chance to play a few shows with Death in '95 with Grave.
We got drunk and started to play songs out of empty beer bottles.
So we practised 'Infernal Death' and stormed into Death's backstage
room and played it to a well stoned Chuck, hahaha... I'll always
remember that laughter he burted out, hahaha... RIP Chuck and thanx!"
-Jorgen Sandstrom, Entombed
I was informed of Chuck's passing I was deeply saddened, the music
world has lost a true innovative talent and a man with a vision.
Such personalities are rare in this business, he will be missed"
-Jon Schaffer, Iced Earth
Schuldiner was the pioneer of death metal, and influential in his
way of capturing the true feeling of death. "Scream Bloody
Gore" is one of the reasons I even started to play. This tragic
event makes me even more committed to be a part of this great music
scene." -Peter Stjornvind, Entombed
loss of Chuck has been devastating to all of those involved with
him. I just hope that he can find some comfort knowing all of the
people that he has affected." -Devin Townsend
Death weren't just pioneers
in death metal, in Chuck Schuldiner they had the music's most
passionate advocate, a restless soul determined to keep pushing
the boundaries, regardless of the attitudes of others. The result
was a journey of discovery, not just for him, but for all fans
of metal; from the furious, roughly produced demos to the more
worldly-wise, intricately layered textures of 'Symbolic' and beyond.
Guy Strachan, Nathanael Underwood and Chris Chantler pay testament
as they trace the history and enduring legacy of a legend.
In these technologically
advanced days, it would seem as though any bunch of talentless
no-hopers can put out a record. The US music industry magazine
Billboard reckoned that of some 288,591 records released during
the year 2000, 205,212 (or 71 per cent) were released on indies.
Yet that glut only accounted for fewer than 17 per cent of total
record sales. So how does a band get itself noticed amongst all
the other contenders? The answer is one that Death were to become
the pioneers of; unleash a series of demo and rehearsal tapes
onto the underground. 15 years ago, the tape-trading scene was
massive, if only because it was the sole way of getting to hear
the latest bands. Initially put out under the name of Mantas in
the Summer of 1984, Death's first demo ('Death By Metal') was
woefully under-produced and primitive but managed to catapult
the band's name throughout the underground, going so far as to
be rated second only to Possessed as the band most likely to break
In October of the same year with the band name now firmly established,
the trio of Schuldiner Rick Rozz and Kam Lee released demo number
two, 'Reign Of Terror'. Recorded in the back room of a local music
store for a princely $80 and thus suffering from a terrible production,
this was the demo that truly created the underground buzz that
continued around the band up until their debut album. A live set
was recorded on December 30 1984 at Ruby's Inn in Brandon, Florida
and circulated through the taping network. Dubbed 'Slaughterhouse',
the raw soundboard recording knocked 'ROT' into next year and
fully revealed the trio's enormous technical capabilities.One
trait of the band's desire to stay in constant contact with their
legion of underground fans was their policy of releasing rehearsals
of individual tracks upon their completion. Thus there are untold
versions of tracks such as 'Open Casket', 'Aggressor', 'Mutilation'
and 'Slaughterhouse' floating around on a myriad of rehearsal
tapes, each version of which has a slight twist from the other.
March 1985 saw the recording, a tape that was intended only for
prospective record companies yet still managed to find its way
into the usual circles. Death's first proper (ie: mixed) demo,
'Infernal Death' marked the end of the original Schuldiner/Rozz/Lee
line-up. Although the tape ultimately failed to get the band their
heart's desire, it did gain them the addition of one Scott Carlson
(Genocide/ Repulsion). This incarnation was sadly short-lived,
although the band did find the time to tape a rehearsal session
in mid-1985 that was released under the moniker of 'Back From
The Dead'. Death's longest recording at that point, it also unveiled
the future classic 'Beyond The Unholy Grave' for the first time.
Despite now receiving accolades from fanzines around the world,
the following 12 months saw Death nearly fall to pieces, what
with an abortive attempt to form 'the fastest band ever' with
Eric Brecht of DRI in San Francisco and then moving to Toronto
in order to join Slaughter who were just about to record their
Having decided that he needed to play in his own band, Schuldiner
hooked up with drummer Chris Reifert and in April 1986 the pair
recorded the three-track 'Mutilation' demo. This would ultimately
lead to the band realising the coveted signed band status as Combat
quickly snapped them up and put them in the studio in July of
that year to record their 'Scream Bloody Gore' debut. There was,
however, one last twist to the story. As Combat ended up taking
almost a year to release the album (it eventually hit US stores
in May 1987) which could have harmed the band's sizable underground
following, advance tapes of the original mix of 'SBG' were widely
circulated at the end of 1986. Featuring a couple of tracks that
ended up being dropped from the album and a slightly rawer and
thinner sound than the eventual finished product, the tape ensured
that 'SBG' sold healthily upon its release and fast became a classic.
Having worked so well, it wasn't long before others went down
the build up a following through multiple demos road. Morbid Angel
are the most obvious example of a band who had a huge underground
fanbase before Earache signed them, but the likes of Repulsion,
Terrorizer and Necrovore are bands that remain legendary from
their demo legacy.
After their well-received demos,
the band formerly known as Mantas set out to record their first
and uninhibitedly primitive album 'Scream Bloody Gore'. Death's
first official release in 1987 was without precedent in terms
of the brutality of both its musical and lyrical content. Aged
16, Chuck had found a way to vent his enmity and rage for all
that he saw as wrong in this world, and this initially took on
the unsubtle form of one of the first few gore-orientated death
metal albums. 'Leprosy' came as and unexpected leap in sonic maturity,
as well as the perfected expression of rawness that was 'Scream
Bloody Gore', as if its unmitigated brutality had been focused,
honed and magnified. This perfected outcry of primal inhumanity,
with its potent riffage, tearing vocals, ultra-brutal sound and
bludgeon-minded approach to song arrangements, as much as it did
totally blow my teenage mind, simply could not have prepared me
for the ultimate assertion of focused Death metaldom that was
'Human' - or even, for that matter, the first gig I ever attended.
In terms of album chronology
however, it is of course 'Spiritual Healing' which came first.
Itself a concerted leap into the unknown, crammed with intricate
and sombre melodies, it succeeded in achieving this once again
utterly remarkable vault into musical maturity. Which brings us
to what is, in my view, another important aspect of Chuck's approach
and contribution that really came of age in 'Human'. I am of course
talking about the fact that solos were an integral part of Death's
songs, as opposed to some wanky extra performed by some widdling,
hair-sprayed, fashion conscious commercial rock poseur brought
in for the session.
'Human' was to be the blueprint for a generation of surgically
precise and technical death metal albums both in terms of musicality
and production. Often imitated, but clearly never even nearly
equalled, 'Human' epitomised Schuldiner's ability to surround
himself with the most apt crew of musicians to bring out the best
in his creations. Steve DiGiorgio's exceptionally sick fretlessness,
Paul Masvidal's rock solid rhythmical foundation and flawless
lead work, and of course the purity of Reinhart's artfully seismic
pumelling empowered the songs, and provided a musical incarnation
for the subtly defined textures of this album. To put it simply,
it shed new light on the brutally inhuman reality of what it really
means to be 'Human'. Death's lyrics dealt with everything from
the grotesque of the ordinary to the unspeakable extremes of sentient
existence, their almost naive and gauche sincerity somehow enabling
them to reflect the true meaning of the music.
And finally, in spite of the idiocy of some of his feeble-minded
swamp-dwelling contemporaries (see Trey Azagthoth's comments on
'Individual Thought Pattern's in the 'Speed Demons Of Metal' special
edition of Guitar For The Practicing Musician in 1994), Chuck
has certainly forged his distinguished place in the never-ending
creative chain of human artistic expression in more ways than
one. He will be remembered through his music, will live on in
that of others, as through the integrity which he inspires others
to live by. Chuck Schuldiner RIP.
By the time of 'Individual Thought
Patterns' in 1993, the name of Chuck Schuldiner was being dragged
through the mud by various European rumour-mill metal magazines,
who had run several inaccurate and misleading stories, the flames
fanned by various ex-colleagues with axes to grind, portraying
Chuck as an unreliable, egotistical prima donna. The problem was
made worse by an unsupportive label and financial problems with
managers and promoters, but Chuck maintained a dignified silence,
seeking solace in his music and his fans, who maintained their
enormous faith and support throughout the campaign of vilification.
On 'Individual Thought Patterns', Chuck used his music as his
method of defiance: "I think of it as a big challenge to
overcome all those who wanted to put me in a bad light and ruin
me financially, with an unparalleled album, an album which brushes
aside prejudices about me, an album to make people speechless
and make them think: Chuck's right."Songs like 'Overactive
Imagination' ("Like a plague your lies spread fast across
the world/ Mastering the art of deception/ That increases your
sick addiction") and 'Out of Touch' ("In time
we'll see who lasts/ In time you will disappear/ Who are you to
question my sincerity/ For now you are high on yourself")
burn with a tangible emotive rage, bolstered by some of Chuck's
best vocal and guitar performances and an intricate, dynamic new
In many interviews at the time Chuck stressed his dissatisfaction
with the contemporary death metal scene, warning that it needed
to adapt and mature if it was to survive. Though not only Death
but also Carcass, Pestilence, Cynic and Entombed were moving the
genre into new, unexplored areas, death metal's bubble had already
well and truly burst. Even so, Chuck ran the risk of ridicule
among the more backward-looking sections of his fan-base, stating
in the first issue of Terrorizer in October 1993: "I think
there's a definite lack of song-writing elements now, catchy hooks
and stuff... I truly feel that I'm on a mission to bring back
some of the elements that have been lost. I truly believe in this
music and metal in general and I just want to see it kept alive,
I really do. One way to help it is for more people to become more
open-minded about metal in general." Behind Chuck on 'Individual
Thought Patterns' were Andy La Rocque, Steve DiGiorgio and Gene
Hoglan. This exciting line-up was, alas, to disintegrate soon
after 'Individual...', though Gene stayed with Chuck to write
the next chapter in Death's history. At last Chuck managed to
get Death off of Relativity, where they had been neglected and
under-promoted, and onto the much more suitable Roadrunner. Chuck
and Gene, after having rehearsed new material for about nine months,
recruited Kelly Conlon on bass and Bobby Koelble on guitar, and
rehearsed together five days a week for what would eventually
become the masterly 'Symbolic' album.
At the time, Chuck told Guitar World "'Symbolic' is our sixth
album and I feel like things are just beginning for us. I'm compelled
to keep moving ahead and coming up with new material - I'm more
driven and excited than ever." This all-conquering sense
of limitless possibilities ("Death wants to re-open the idea
of unlimited musical potential within a seemingly limited musical
genre") came across powerfully on the album. In 1995 I remember
feeling quite perplexed by it. As time passed, though, 'Symbolic'
made more and more sense. It continues to grow with every listen,
the layered textures of dense, propulsive extreme-fusion and cosmic
death-prog later echoed in the work of Emperor and Opeth, or the
perfect marriage of soaring twin-guitar melody and heads-down
DM brutality that had a thousand Swedes making frantic notes.
'Symbolic' was barely short of perfection; the most persuasive
statement of Chuck's self-motivational urge to innovate, to progress
and to save death metal from self-restricting clichés and
bandwagon mentality. It was Death's proudest, deepest achievement.
And in five years time, it will be even better than it is now.
It's that kind of album.
Perhaps, then, it is unsurprising that when the Death line-up
inevitably dissolved yet again after 'Symbolic', the band were
put on indefinite hold while Chuck concerned himself with the
more traditional power/prog sounds of his long-discussed side-project,
eventually unveiled as Control Denied. For many years in the press
he had been enthusing over Judas Priest, Nasty Savage, Dio, Anvil,
QueensrØche, Dream Theater and Exciter, and with a different
singer Chuck could finally explore these sounds to the full, unrestricted
by the Death aesthetic.
The music of Chuck Schuldiner reached far beyond the confines
of death metal. We heard from members of the hardcore community
who took influence from the raw energy and attitude of Death,
who all incidentally offered their services to the 'Scream Bloody
Roar' Chuck benefit show long before his tragic passing. Ian Glasper
helped gather their thoughts.
||We (being my band,
Stampin' Ground) were recently privileged enough to be asked
to play a benefit show for Chuck Schuldiner, who at that time
was desperately ill, and, most of us being huge Death fans,
we instantly agreed. We're actually right in the middle of
an enforced hiatus from live work, working on our next album,
but we've made the odd exception for special shows, and this
was definitely worth emerging from the rehearsal studio to
do. At the time of writing this though, that show is still
a week away, but now, with the tragic passing of Chuck, it
has taken on a much more sombre tone, having become a memorial
show to this (relatively) unsung hero, instead of a benefit,
although obviously Chuck's loved ones will be in receipt of
any profits generated by the event.So, instead of joining
together in hope for his recovery, 'Scream Bloody Roar' has
become a noisy wake, where we can indulge in some of the spirited
thrashings Chuck helped propagate, and ponder for a while
the words of wisdom, and the notes of chaos, he imparted.
I wonder if, when Chuck Schuldiner wrote that song, he realised
the prophetic nature of the title? Already had, in fact. Right
from his early demos as Mantas, his uniquely brutal approach to
metal music was being digested and regurgitated the world over;
and latterly, when he forged out into more technical realms, again,
his work was analysed and applied in countless rehearsal pads
around the world. Always ahead of his time, the legacy of music
he left us will continue to inspire for many years to come. Even
those too young to remember first-hand his earliest releases...
|"I was only
six years old when 'Scream Bloody Gore' came out," recalls
Adam Sagir, bassist with London noisemongers Labrat, who are
also representing at the Bradford show. "So I got into
Death a lot later than most. As a teenager, I was influenced
by bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and
Deicide, and they were all undoubtedly heavily influenced
by Death. It was actually those bands that led me to Death;
they were all wearing their t-shirts, thanking them on albums
or mentioning them in interviews. But I wouldn't say that
musically I ever drew too[$italics] heavily from Chuck. My
band before Labrat was a death metal band that just basically
plagiarised Carcass, early Sepultura and all the aforementioned
bands, which kind of shows through on some of our more brutal
bits, but if it wasn't for Death, none of us would have had
anyone to copy!"
Of course, not everyone can even remember when they first heard
Death - as demonstrated by Mark 'Hic!' Fieldhouse, vocalist with
Freebase, one of the UK's leading old school hardcore bands, who
were also invited to play the benefit gig. "The truth is,
the first time that I probably heard Chuck's music was when I
was pissed up with a load of friends listening to loads of thrash
and death metal vinyl and cassettes. At that time the scene was
ripe with new bands, and tapes to trade. I initially didn't pay
that much attention to what I heard, and even when 'Scream Bloody
Gore' came out, if I'm to be totally honest, I was not a real
fan. "That all changed with the release of 'Leprosy'! I picked
this vinyl up along with nine other albums the same day, and the
only other record that I remember to this day from that lot was
Meliah Rage's 'Kill To Survive'. Doesn't that speak volumes? 'Leprosy'
struck an instant chord and stood out as such a powerful, aggressive,
honest slab of vinyl that I was instantly converted to being a
diehard fan of that album. At the time, I remember it being one
of my most played records! Thrash was big... but this band topped
it all. It was one of the first records I had bought that did
not have one single bad track on it!" Adam agrees, both on
the gut-wrenching power of 'Leprosy' and the less-than-instant
hardcore appeal of 'Scream...' "The first time I heard Death
was actually on a Terrorizer covermount CD [we didn't pay him
to say that, honest - IG], and I'd be lying if I said I was instantly
hooked - the track was from the 'Symbolic' album, not one of my
favourites. It wasn't until I first heard 'Leprosy' about five
years ago that I really got into them. You just can't fuck with
that album, it's really stood the test of time and doesn't even
sound dated next to newer bands like Nile or Cryptopsy!"
Mark mentioned tape trading above, and I'm sure that many of us
first heard Death on an unmarked second-hand cassette, sent in
the mail with a soaped stamp on the battered envelope! A far cry
from the super-slick production and packaging of an accomplished
album such as 'Symbolic', but it was the effort made to obtain
those recordings that guaranteed them a lasting place in your
memory. This wasn't something you could walk into a store and
pull from the racks; like the most arcane knowledge, it was something
you had to work for, beg for, and earn... Not to disrespect any
of the incredibly talented musicians that Chuck worked with over
the years (when you think about the people who helped flesh out
Death, it reads like a veritable extreme metal Hall Of Fame: Gene
Hoglan, Steve DiGorgio, Rick Rozz, Terry Butler, Bill Andrews,
James Murphy, Sean Reinert, Paul Masvidal, Andy La Rocque... need
I go on?), but he was the one who was[$italics] Death. He launched
her all those years ago; he steered that vessel through all the
turbulent waters when no one gave a fuck about death metal, when
all Chuck's peers were labelling him a pariah to work with; he
was the one constant in the band's career, and it was his vision
that helped shape and reinvent the band so many times over, each
time more challenging than the last. From the sledgehammer blast
of 'Infernal Death' that ushered in that bubonic debut album,
right up to the triumphant cover of 'Painkiller' that closed the
curtain on 'The Sound Of Perseverance', Death were always unmistakably
Death. Always ahead of the pack, never content to run with the
hounds, Chuck always strove to create something new and exciting
every time his band set foot in a studio, and it's testament to
his vision that his last album remains, for me, his strongest.
His most rounded and mature, where technical precision and hardcore
aggression and all the other wonderful ingredients he'd brought
to the table with previous line-ups, all came together in one
spectacular neck-snapping metal meltdown!
What started out as a gratuitous glorification of death and all
its gory trappings actually ended up as a celebration of life
and the indomitable spirit to overcome all, despite the odds.
In the space of 15 years, Chuck went from 'Sacrificial Cunt' to
'A Moment of Clarity'. It was an exhilarating ride along the way,
but if you managed to hang on by your fingertips round some of
the hairier corners, one that made perfect sense when the rollercoaster
finally slowed to a halt. Over the years, Chuck Schuldiner touched
many of us not only with his music, but also with his lyrics,
and the way he dealt with his many detractors (not one of them
fit to hold his snotty hankies) over the years. We watched his
maturing from the spotty youth mouthing profanities for their
sheer shock value ("They torture you by cutting off your
cock... Pray if you want/ Pathetic rancid cunt" - 'Torn To
Pieces') to a well-rounded human being struggling to find meaning
behind his own existence ("Passion burns like fires in the
wind/ The end of time/ A time to begin/ It builds you up one way/
And tears you back down" - 'Flesh And The Power It Holds').
Whilst his guitar tattooed its licks into your cerebral cortex,
his words cut at your psyche; his doubts were your doubts, his
fears were our fears, and a burden shared is a lighter load to
bear. And therein lies the beauty that is within even the ugliest
of music. I wonder what Chuck would say if he could read these
tributes to his works? Aw, shucks, thanks everybody? Or fercrissakes
stop reminiscing about yesterday and get on with living today?
"Oh, definitely the latter; make sure that you enjoy
yourself," reckons Mark. "Do as you like, not just
as your friends or associates or whoever are saying you oughta
do. No one knows your life span; LEARN, ACHIEVE, and ENJOY
as much as you can. Live each day as if it was your last."
"From my point of view, he seemed to have a dedication
to metal that very few can claim to have," says Adam
Labrat, on the subject of the huge, yawning void Chuck's passing
has left in the metal scene. "He'd been thrashing away
for over 18 years, barely making enough money to live, but
still carried on. He died without enough money to pay his
medical bills. He was a more than competent guitarist and
could have made a fortune doing session work if he so desired,
but he stuck to his guns and it's that indestructible metal
spirit that I'll miss most."
We'll leave the last words to a true modern day philosopher
in his own right (!), Mark Freebase: "All I'm gonna say
is this... if you don't have 'Leprosy', 'Spiritual Healing'
and 'Human' in your collection, shame on you!"
A live review of 'Scream
Bloody Roar' will appear next issue.