Dec 132011

On December 13, 2001 — ten years ago today — Chuck Schuldiner died of a brain tumor after a two-year battle to survive. To honor his memory, NPR writer Lars Gotrich persuaded eleven metal musicians to pick their favorite Death song, and write what it and Schuldiner have meant to them. The list of contributors includes three former members of Death — Paul Masvidal (Cynic), Gene Hoglan (Fear Factory), and Richard Christy (Charred Walls of the Damned), all of whom, interestingly, chose songs from the 1991 album, Human.

The list of contributors also includes Arthur von Nagel (Cormorant), Elizabeth Schall (Dreaming Dead), John Dyer Baizley (Baroness), Stephan Gebedi (Hail of Bullets), Matt Harvey (Exhumed), Kevin Conway (East of the Wall), Anthony Buda (Revocation), and Steffen Kummerer (Obscura).

It’s an interesting read (and includes streams of the chosen songs), and I thought Gotrich’s introduction eloquently captured the wonder many of us have experienced as we listened to Death’s music from different albums over time — as an artist, Chuck Schuldiner was not only a great talent, he was also constantly moving in new directions. Here’s an excerpt from Gotrich’s introduction (which continues after the jump). To read the whole thing, go here.

“There’s something to be said for the visionary who dismantles the very movement he’s created or pioneered. . . . For a humble guitarist from Florida named Chuck Schuldiner, his metal band Death (not to be confused with the proto-punk band of the same name) was a mere instrument. Along with the Bay Area’s Possessed, Death not only helped spawn an entire extreme genre around gore and technical guitar wizardry, but like horror movies sometimes do, Death also challenged our notions of life.

From the 1983 Death by Metal demo by a pre-Death band called Mantas to the hollering banshee wail of Scream Bloody Gore to the early jazz-metal fusions of Human to the glorious 1998 swansong, The Sound of Perseverance, Schuldiner lived the Leonardo da Vinci creed: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Not one Death album was the same, but they were very much all connected; the non-linear narrative continued through Schuldiner’s formation of the scream-less progressive heavy metal band Control Denied.”

There are so many brilliant Death songs, and the catalogue includes so much diversity. But on this 10th anniversary of Schuldiner’s death, I picked this one to play. It’s the one selected by Matt Harvey of Exhumed for that NPR piece, and it’s from the Leprosy album. Harvey writes in his essay about Schuldiner and the song:

“Picking a favourite Death song is pretty tough. When I was first starting to play guitar, I learned the Scream Bloody Gore album from front to back and played along with it religiously. Once I heard Leprosy later that same year (I believe it was 1988, but it may have been early ’89), it was clear that the ante had been upped, not just in terms of Death’s catalog, but for the entire fledgling genre of death metal.I truly believe that Leprosy is the album that ushered in the genre as we recognize it today and as such, may be the most important album in death metal altogether.”

“Left To Die”

[audio:|titles=Death – Left To Die]

(Thanks to TheMadIsraeli for tipping me to the NPR piece.)

UPDATE: For anyone who is interested in learning more about the music of Death and how it evolved, visit THIS BANDCAMP PAGE, which includes links on the right side to pages for each of the three Death albums that have been reissued to date by Relapse Records — The Sound of Perseverance, Human, and Individual Thought Patterns — and on those pages, you can stream the albums in full.


  1. Very good post! RIP Chuck!

  2. I rarely ever get teary eyed, but when I initially ready the NPR article it moved me. Mainly because here is a media outlet that rarely acknowledges anything outside “World” music and its paying homage to the founding father of one of the most extreme forms of music around.

    You’re missed Chuck, my entire music career, my entertainment for the last 30 years, and the love of my life would have never happened if it wasn’t for you.

  3. It would fit that steffen and I have the same favorite Death song.

    The Sound of Perseverance is a record that touched me at a weak time in my life and helped me heal. I adore it.

    BEHOLD, THE FLESH!!! AND THE POWER IT HOLDS :bumbadum daa bumbadum daaaa!:

  4. Somewhere in the back of my closet I still have an old denim jacket that I drew the Death logo on with a sharpie. I got a little teary eyed too.

  5. For somebody who got into extreme metal after he died, what albums would you guys recommend that I start out with? I have been wanting to check out Death’s catalog, but could never get a real good feel for their music.

    • Your question prompted me to add an update at the end of the post, which you might find helpful.

    • Since its available on that link Islander posted. “Human” is a great album to start with. From there try “Symbolic” Those are arguably the two best albums, but the whole discography is amazing. One of the few bands that dosnt really have a dud anywhere

  6. What Death was and what Death Metal is now are very different There were a lot of Thrash and Progressive sounds to it but for many modern Death Metalers it may not be appealing.

    I would say start with “Human” or “Individual Thought Patterns”.

  7. Ah, this was the band that got me into death metal and Chuck was the one who got me to starting doing growls. I’ve got a CD and a shirt for Death and I treat both like gold.

  8. Also for me, Schuldiner was my introduction to death metal. I hated the vocal style at first, but I loved the music. I remember thinking that the guitars and drums were perfect, but what the hell was going on with the singing? I think the first song I heard was Symbolic. I was in college at the time (this was roughly the 1994-95 school year), and there was a local CD store that had listening stations where you could open up anything in the store and listen to it on headphones, with no obligation to buy anything. I would go in there about once a month, pick out a 10-15 CD stack of mostly death and doom metal, and listen to it all (it probably helped that I had a friend who worked there, because I was an abuser of this option). Human, ITP, and Symbolic were usually in that stack. Finally, after about a year of doing this, the death vocals grew on me and now I can’t imagine the music without them.

    I still think Human, ITP, and Symbolic are my favorite Death albums, but I like all everything Schuldiner did, including Control Denied (although the vocalist in that band gets on my nerves sometimes). Not long after getting used to Death, I met George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse in August, 1996. CC was an opening band for an Anthrax show. I was there for Anthrax and was not yet a CC fan. My death vocal-using collection at that point was mostly Death, Carcass, and Amorphis. The venue was at a converted movie theater with a balcony. I was in the balcony. After CC played, but before Anthrax came on, I went to a secondary bar located behind the balcony to get a beer. Fisher, one other member of CC (I can’t remember who) and a roadie showed up behind me in the line for beer. I started talking to them and asking a ton of questions about death metal, the vocals, whether they made any money, music in general, etc. They invited me to sit with them at a little table near the bar and I kept asking questions. I remember that Fisher said Human was one of his favorite albums. I also remember that I was so into the conversation that my friend came looking for me wondering why I had already missed half of the Anthrax set. I had completely lost track of that!

    • One other thing: the NPR article was fantastic. The individual mini-reviews/remembrances were well-written and exhibited a solid knowledge of music. I’m tempted to see if any non-metal articles have any similarly well-informed commentary on NPR.

    Death – Symbolic
    YGODEH made this video for memory of Chuck Schuldiner and the band “Death”
    Cover by YGODEH –
    Framed by Timurs Ozuns –
    Montage – Pavels Stepanovs (Piton)
    YGODEH are:
    Piton – guitars,synthetic and symphonic sounds
    Stalker – bass
    Vadozz – drums
    Serberus – vocal, lyrics

  10. i got hooked up by an accident to some awfull quality tape that contained spiritual healing. at that very moment i fell in love in growling and Chuck style guitar carressing is forever etched in my hear. his death left an open wound,crippled me. i keep searching to fill the gap but seem to fail to find someone even nearly unique. r.i.p. Charles,i owe u my youth and my personality.

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