No one can oppose to the fact that Death (alongside other bands, such as Possessed) have influenced the extreme sound, leading it into new musical paths and thus creating a “School” of Extreme Music that up until today it still flourishes. As we all know, Death’s presence in music had a lifespan of seventeen years (1984-2001), but it was abruptly terminated when Chuck Schuldiner breathed his final breath.
Death as an entity was reborn in 2012 via the band’s old manager Eric Grief, who introduced to the crowd a tribute band with the name Death To All, known now as Death (DTA Tours). This band includes old members of the band and started performing in some venues for fundraising purposes. Eventually the demand was becoming gigantic, resulting in the organization of concerts on worldwide basis to satisfy the thirst of the fans of the band, which at this time has in its roster musicians of huge musical range, such as Gene Hoglan, Steve DiGiorgio, Bobby Koelble and Max Phelps. As was only natural, this ‘reunion’ caused a storm of multiple discussions about whether Death (The Death DTA Tours in this case) should or shouldn’t tour without Chuck Schuldiner being among them. And it is somewhat reasonable when this band with a name heavier than history was once the “brainchild” of a blazingly emblematic presence in the metal field. However, how can you possibly refuse to see four notorious musicians playing live in front of you, musicians that have designed an excellent course in extreme music and it’s guaranteed that they’ll give 100% of their energy to present in the best possible way the material of a band that love as much as both you and I? I don’t know if the die – hard fans of Death will feel satisfied by the coming of this tribute band, but in case they do, the band’s tour includes two stops in Greece, where the band will perform on Friday, April 1st at Fuzz Live Music Club and Saturday, April 2nd at Principal Club Theater / Mill.
So, do you want to freshen up your memory and be totally prepared for the two shows in Greece, without having to dig into endless sites? Take a look, then!
Death were formed in 1983 at Orlando, Florida, by the guitarist and singer Chuck Schuldiner, the guitarist Rick Rozz and drummer Barney “Kam” Lee. The band was at first known as Mantas. Schuldiner started composing songs that were released in demo and rehearsal tape formats, which, along with the “Death By Metal” demo, were gradually forming the future Legacy of the band. In 1984, Schuldiner decided to disband Mantas and form Death, keeping Rick Rozz and Kam Lee in the band’s lineup. This roster released the demo “Reign Of Terror”. In 1985 the “Infernal Death” demo was released, while Rick Rozz and Kam Lee decided – each for personal reasons – to quit the band. Schuldiner moves to San Francisco Bay Area, where he joins forces with DRI drummer Eric Brecht. Together, they released the “Back From The Dead” demo. Despite all that, Schuldiner didn’t feel content with the result, so he returned to Florida with no band beside him. In 1986 Schuldiner was invited by the Canadian Thrashers Slaughter to join their band and contribute to their record. This lasted a couple a weeks. After that Chuck returned to the US and San Francisco, where he met the 17 year old drummer Chris Reifert. Together, they recorded “Mutilation”, a demo that opened wide the gates for a contract with Combat Records, via which Death released their very first LP.
In 1987 Death released one of the most extreme records of all time, “Scream Bloody Gore”. A stunning amount of devotees of the death metal music consider this record to be the gospel of the genre, crowning Schuldiner as the “Godfather of Extreme Metal”. And rightly indeed. “Scream Bloody Gore” characterized by tearing guitars and drums, combined with deadly vocals that uproot your heart and throw it as an afternoon snack at Cerberus. The good thing with this album though is the fact that the feeling it creates (despite the gore / mutilating themes) is pure excitement. After all, we’re talking about a genre that was basically born at that time, so everything served as a surprise. There were no oceans of similar records or seas of groups to choose the one that suits you best. So, in short, “Scream Bloody Gore” gives you two things: RAW VIOLENCE AND SCHIZOPHRENIA.
Fun Fact: Schuldiner for a short period of time had a second guitarist on his side, John Hand, who however has not included in the record (although his photo exists in the booklet).
Schuldiner went back to Florida, where he had a disagreement with Reifert, who had chosen to stay in California. Thus, Schuldiner teamed up again with his old friend Rick Rozz and two members of his band (Massacre), Terry Butler and Bill Andrews. This lineup recorded in 1988 the “Leprosy” album and made extensive tours to support the record, until Rick Rozz left the band in 1989. Death’s second record had clearly much better production than its predecessor, while the tone is different as well, thus adding a different character to the compositions. Clearly, this record is loved by thousands of people, which is indeed proved by the covers that dozens of bands have done over the years. This release had a great influence not only on the development of the death metal sound, but the music industry in general.
Read more about “Leprosy” here: https://metalinvader.net/death-leprosy/
After a tour in Mexico with Paul Masvidal, James Murphy enters the band, with whom Death record “Spiritual Healing”. So, this is the third album for Death and once again there are some easily to distinguish changes. One of the most characteristic changes is the avoidance of lyrics with gore themes and horror content and the use of more social issues like abortion, the decline of society’s structures and the people’s manipulation through television programs. At the same time, changes occur in the compositions as well, with an increase of melodic parts.
In 1990, on the eve of the European Tour to promote “Spiritual Healing”, Schuldiner decided to stay behind, thinking that the tour wasn’t elaborately organized. The band was bound by contract with the label, so Andrews and Butler went on tour in Europe employing their roadies Walter Trachsler (guitar) and Louie Carrisalez (vocals) to replace Schuldiner, who unsurprisingly took legal action. Therefore Butler and Andrews were fired from the band. Since then, Schuldiner decided to work with session musicians only. Chuck hired DiGiorgio, Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal of Cynic.
In 1991 Death released “Human”, which is characterized by a radical shift of the band into more progressive elements with a more technical approach, compared to their previous albums. The lyrics are characterized by introversion and a view of things from a purely personal perspective. This “structure” will be maintained across all records to come. “Human” until today is actually the record with the most sales. DiGiorgio left the Death immediately after the completion of the recordings due to prior commitments to Sadus (He will later return in “Individual Thought Patterns”). Skott Carino was hired, who toured with Death in 1991 and 1992.
In 1993, Reinert and Masvidal left Death for Cynic. Schuldiner, unable to persuade them to return, replaced them with drummer Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel and guitarist Andy LaRocque of King Diamond on “Individual Thought Patterns”. Death’s fifth album walks along the paths that were paved by the band in the previous releases; many technical / progressive elements that have evolved to “click” better with the logic of the group, while a few elements that are paralleled by free jazz music made their appearance in the compositions. Since LaRocque had obligations with King Diamond, Schuldiner hired hitherto unknown Ralph Santolla for the upcoming tours.
In 1994 Death left Relativity Records and joined Roadrunner Records, via which Death released “Symbolic”. In this release, Santolla and DiGiorgio were replaced by Kelly Conlon and Bobby Koelble.
After that, Schuldiner and Roadrunner never sought to release another album together, so Schuldiner devoted most of his time to Control Denied. Only after signing a contract with Nuclear Blast did Schuldiner decide to write new material for the next (and last, as it turned out) album of Death. So “The Sound of Perseverance” was born and released in 1998. Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm and Scott Clendenin were the new additions to the lineup of the band. “The Sound of Perseverance” is considered by many to be Death’s most progressive album, especially considering how the band played in the first record.
In May 1999 Schuldiner started complaining about severe pain in the upper neck. After several sessions of physiotherapy and MRI tests it was proven that one of Chuck’s nerve was being pinched by a tumor. On his 32nd birthday Chuck Schuldiner was diagnosed with high-level glioma (a type of malignant brain cancer that invades the nervous system) and immediately started chemotherapy. In October 1999 Schuldiner’s family announced that the danger was averted and that Chuck began his recuperating sessions. Next January, the removal surgery of the remaining stem was scheduled, which was crowned with success. At the same time, due to the excessive hospitalizations and surgeries, Schuldiner’s family started having major financial problems. They organized many fundraisers, auctions, and concerts to cover costs. Two years after the initial diagnosis, in May 2001, cancer returned and Schuldiner fell ill again, but the money required for the new surgery was too much. His family called for help through a press release in which many artists responded, putting to auction personal items. Chuck continued with the chemotherapy, but it gradually weakened him, therefore leading into pneumonia. Chuck Schuldiner died on December 13, 2001.
I don’t know whether I should praise more or elaborate deeper into Death’s music course in time or the legacy the band has left behind. Unarguably however, Schuldiner’s death affected his family, his fans and to an extent the music industry. Nonetheless, what the remaining members are trying to do deserves our attention, not because they have something new to serve, but because this way they are honoring the man who gave breath and meaning to the beast called DEATH. Leave your reservations behind, smile as wide as you can and raise your fist in Chuck’s name!