Control Denied is the new project of Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner,
and the title of this new release is ironic in the most tragic
sense. Just after recording The Fragile Art of Existence, Schuldiner
discovered he had a life-threatening brain tumor and would need
immediate radiotherapy treatment. Doing well and in good spirits
at last notice, his condition is still a sad example of how life
can imitate art.
Schuldiner, however, has
rarely imitated anyone in his artistic pursuits. Widely respected
as a pioneer in the extreme metal genre, this guitarist/vocalist/songwriter
traces his roots back to 1983 and the band Mantas, which attracted
attention in underground circuits by playing a radical new brand
of heavy music. Variously described as thrash, gore, and death
metal, Chuck seemed to confirm the latter label when the band
changed its name to Death and released its legendary first album,
Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. Six more albums would follow, with
Schuldiner continuously challenging himself; experimenting with
line-up changes, vocal and guitar sounds and techniques (in the
days when the "death grunt" was an innovation), and
lyrical concepts. The maturation over time was palpable. By the
time The Sound of Perseverance was released in 1998, Death was
playing music that was distinctly progressive, with abundant meter
and tempo changes and structural complexity.
In 1996, however, Schuldiner
began envisioning new territory to conquer. Aware of his limitations
as a vocalist, he decided to initiate a project in which an established
singer would replace him in this role. When Warrel Dane of Nevermore
proved unavailable, Chuck turned to Tim Aymar, a member of the
Pittsburgh band Psycho Scream. After months of complications in
finding a label to support the project under the name Control
Denied, things finally came together in 1999.
…And new ground was
broke. Control Denied joins bands like Nevermore and In Flames
in a novel experiment that is still very much in its embryo stage:
the fusion of power metal and extreme genres. But while those
two bands have firm roots musically in the power genre, Control
Denied approaches things from a different angle. On The Fragile
Art Art of Existence, Schuldiner and current and former Death
bandmates Shannon Hamm (guitar), Steve DiGiorgio (bass), and Richard
Christy (drums) adhere musically to the style of technical death
metal perfected on The Sound of Perseverance. It is Aymar, with
his expressive, soaring voice, that adds the "mainstream"
element that makes this album unique. The results speak for themselves.
Tracks like "Consumed," "Expect the Unexpected,"
and "Cut Down," unveil the terrible power that can be
brought to bear when Schuldiner's musical stylings are combined
with potent vocals. Tested often by the musical experimentation
of his bandmates, Aymar responds with emphasis, layering vocals
over their parts in creative and diverse ways and showing strength
in just about every range.
Schuldiner is credited with lyrics, and he once again poignantly
touches on topics emotional, spiritual and philosophical. It is
in words from the album's title track, however that the tragedy
of his current condition is fully realized: No time for self-pity,
no time for dwelling on what should have been, but is yet to be…
The fragile art of existence, is kept alive by sheer persistence.
Let us all hope Schuldiner does persist. For in his person lies
a genuinely vigorous and creative soul, and there are so many
more challenges ahead…