Chuck Schuldiner proves to himself and his North American fanbase that entity of Death is far from buried. Although the Dynamo and about eight European shows surrounding Holland's Metal blowout, were the true showcase gigs for the reformed(?) and rejuvenated(?) Death, featuring founding father Chuck and a crew of new disciples, guitarist Shannon Hamm, drummer whiz Richard Christy and bassist Scott Clendenin, the band stormed through a set of new and old, completed by storming finale, "Pull The Plug".


Magazine:Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles / Canada
Article: Chuck The Preacher

Written by: Tim Henderson
Published: September/October 1998


"It was awesome", says Chuck, hailing the one true festival in North America where the underground rules supreme. "In America, that was the first show in three years. So it was quite a way to come back, especially with the album on the verge of coming out. Once we were done playing we had a great time. I saw so many people I haven't seen in a long time".

So It's Death-Metal time again. The Sound of Perseverance, set to emerge in mid-September to a legion of fans wondering what Chuck has up his sleeve since his last record, Symbolic. Given the turnout and reception at Metalfest, Chuck assures me that indeed, there is hope for North America. "I've been preaching the word for America in general for a while. You know it's just proof, it's so sickening. Basically I got fucked, that's the best way to put it, with Symbolic. Roadrunner had a totally disillusioned idea of what metal is. And that's why Symbolic wasn't pushed. That's not their idea of metal, their idea of metal is Coal Chamber and Korn. Symbolic basically got shove to the side and that's why metal in America has been screwed because of choices made by bigger labels deciding what metal is suppose to be about."

"Promotion is everything", he adds. "That is honestly what really really hurt this band, not being promoted, people just didn't know. Symbolic was such a word -of -mouth type of record. When we were doing shows for that record, I'd have people who would come up and say, "man I got the album and played it for my friends who were into the bigger bands like Pantera or Metallica or whatever and they couldn't believe it, they were shocked, they never knew there was an album like this one out." Music is a product, and if you don't promote it no one's gonna know about it. Thats is what hurt Symbolic. Symbolic should have been way more massive then it was. It got great reviews, which was really another slap in the face, cause the reviews were so awesome for that record and it got album of the month in all of the major metal mags."

To play devil's advocate, it was probably easier for Roadrunner to flog their Type O Negative's and Fear Factory's.

"I got shoved to the side and you know what I could have said, "fuck all of this and I'm quitting, but I didn't. I think the album's a perfect example of, you know, coming back saying whatever. I'm not gonna let people discourage me. Eventually Roadrunner are going to jump back on the heavy metal bandwagon and it's gonne be cute, it's gonna be really sickening to see a label jump right back on what they got big from, but basically what they've turned their backs on in the process."

"At Milwaukee", he continues, "there was over 4000 people there in the name of real metal. That's just proof. I don't think a trendy band that corporate America has thought of as metal could draw that amount of people. It's such a great way to show that metal is very much alive in America, it's just been shoved to the side by trends. Like I said, corporate America's idea that Korn is metal, is the farthest thing I can ever think of. Honestly, I look at that band, I hear that band, that is not the spirit of heavy metal. I've been doing this for half my life and I'm 31 now. I've been in a band since I was barely 16. It's really troubling the power that corporate America can throw down on people like me. I'm a fan and I know how it is for other fans of real metal music". While the little guys get pushed aside or literally screwed in some cases, Chuck isn't one to mince words or his feelings. But is it true you can't fight corporate America?

"I'm a stubborn bastard. It's so on the verge of coming back with a vengeance. That's why I feel so good about the timing of our record, the timing of getting on to a label like Nuclear Blast, who's pure metal. Real metal. I think it's just a uniting, if that's what it's going to take, several powerful forces uniting, the fans being number one is a major part of it. The right band who has the balls to call themselves heavy metal is a big part of it. And the third part is a label that will and can take this element and shove it down everyone's throat. I truly believe that everything is wound up correctly right now. And I'm proud to call this band a heavy metal band. Real heavy metal fans are so diehard they're not gonna get shoved aside. Unfortunately there are a lot of bands that get shoved aside and choose to be. A lot of metal bands cut their hair off and started getting into that trendy stuff like we were talking about before, what corporate America deems as metal. Basically a lot of people chose that easy way out, to be less technical and that's what metal's about. Technical, heavy, melodic, aggressive, all of those elements. That's why Death is a band with all of those elements. I think there's everything in this type of music to please every metal fan. I think bands in America are scared to stand their ground."

Why is Chuck Schuldiner so stubborn and what seperates him from people like, for example, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine, who tackled the '80s just prior to Death's era, but now tread extremely different paths?

"What makes me stubborn is basically my love for music, just like any fan. I'm a fan first then I'm a guy in a band. For me remaining a fan has helped me not turn my back on what I believe in. That's crucial, you've gotta be a fan. You just can't be someone in a band that doesn't care about what's going on around you. I've never really talked to James Hetfield or Dave Mustaine, but I'll tell you one thing, I'm very sincere and passionate about remaining true to the spirit of heavy metal, cause that's what I've always believed in. I've got to nail Metallica cuz they are the complete opposite of what they started out as. They are what they criticized throughout their career when they were a metal band. It's very insulting for me as a fan to read articles with them and they're totally adamant about saying they're not a heavy metal band anymore. I've seen this in quotes, big interviews with Lars Ulrich who I think spends more time trying to look like a European model then a musician. I've read articles where James Hetfield is claiming they are not out to save heavy metal. What a horrible thing to say. A band that made it off of being heavy metal, now they're so big that they've just decided, "hey screw everyone, we're powerful and we can get away with anything." Well, they pulled a lot of shit over people's eyes but I mean a lot of people aren't blind to what they are doing. I think it's the biggest joke I've ever seen. And it's pathetic. Their musicianship is pathetic, their attitude is horrendous, basically backstabbing every metal fan that ever supported them. I mean, I was there in the beginning. They were a major influence on my music back in the early '80s. I remember trying to convert people in high school into Metallica fans. They were like, "what's this noise?" Every kid in America sported a Metallica shirt. So you know I really take it very personally, and I think their sincerity is lacking in large amounts. They basically need to change their name and stop living off of it, because the name has nothing to do with the band anymore. It's a totally different band. They've made it very known. As far as Megadeth goes, I'm not a huge fan of the new album, but in a way at least they've maintained a heavy sound. He's definitely stuck with it and I'm glad Megadeth is at least getting a lot of airplay and they still sound like a metal band. I think Marty Friedman's holding back a lot. I'd like to hear him go off more. I've been a big fan of Marty Friedman since the early '80s in his first band Hawaii. I'd like to hear them put out something a little more aggressive, they've got it in them, they just need to get it out. It was odd, because I read an article with Marty and he's saying that their music goes beyond the boundaries of what heavy metal can limit them to. I don't see any barriers. If you start out as a heavy metal artist then what's the problem, keep growing and pushing things. That's were Death is, the new album is pushing things to the maximum limit, if there is any. I think if you put on the new Death album, you're gonna hear the most rebellious metal going. There's nothing trendy. I don't follow trends. I don't pay attention to them.Basically trends are just something temporary that's getting in the way of our mission as a band and that's to be sincere and put out real music. Unfortunately, America's a very impressionable place and people are misled. That's why people walk around with baggy pants that are ten sizes too big for them. I don't get it."

As Chuck continues his tirade against the corruptive powers behind the North Amercian music industry, it's difficult to disagree with a man who has lived and breathed metal, but has been virtually unmarketed as a musician his entire life. What then, is the source of corruption?

"Part of it's probably money." He answers without flinching. "Bands just want to fit in. I don't want to fit in, that's the whole rebellious nature of heavy metal music. Doing your own thing. That's what drew me to this music. I look at a band like Anthrax. When Fistful Of Metal came out it was such a godly record. I hear their new stuff and they could be anyone, they could be anything. It's funny cause they got less and less popular the more they went farther away from their original format, which is kind of ironic."

While Chuck's honesty and fan-based compulsiveness is rather compelling, the aura surrounding Death in 1998 is truly described by their current album title.

"It took me a long time to settle into a title," he says about The Sound Of Perseverance. "I knew it had to be a big title. Something powerful something that was just totally descriptive of why I'm here, why this album's coming out and what the album sounds like. All of a sudden one day it just hit me, and it was like that is it."

And the cover artwork's symbolism of climbing towards one's goal needs no explanation.

"I think everything, life in general, is a quest," Chuck philosophizes. "You want to achieve whatever you're looking for and it's like climbing a mountain, every step you take you're getting higher and higher and then all of a sudden you're on top of whatever you're trying to get out of life. I definitely appreciate still being here and still making music. There is so much more for me to do personally as a musician and you know a lot of different paths that I want to go down. Death being one of them, Control Denied being another, which will come out after we tour for Death."

The Sound Of Perseverance is a gripping display of Chuck's unlimited scope, matched with a vicious punishment of the instruments. The leadoff track "Scavenger Of Human Sorrow" is, in Chuck's words, a "crushing" intro, led by a double bass barrage and broken-boned welcome. His melodic side and lead work encapsulates "Bite The Pain" and the jaw-dropping instrumental "Voice Of The Soul", but the record's monster epics set Death apart, with "Flesh And The Power It Holds" and "A Moment Of Clarity" guiding the listener on their own twisted journey. Produced at Morrisound by legendary knob-twiddler, Jim Morris, Chuck's crystal-clear vision was polished that one step further, melding aggression with a certain progressive flair.

"One thing people notice is that these songs are pretty long," Chuck summarizes. "But they're not that long for the sake of writing a long song. A lot of times they just take their own path and they just end up being that way on this album. It's really there for a reason you know. With a lot of the great music I grew up on in the '70s, bands wrote songs and just let them go where they needed to go. A lot of bands from the '70s wrote longer songs and you get more out of it. To me music should be a journey, something that takes you somewhere. And a lot of times it doesn't take me a long time to put together stuff and I'm very careful about making sure that things make sense and have a good balance."

As for the early writing process Chuck says that he "had more time to work with this material. We demoed off the entire record twice at my own studio. The material, the musicianship- even Jim was just like, "wow". We busted ass on this record. We basically recorded and mixed this album in half the time that we did Symbolic. We did three weeks on this record, on Symbolic we were in there for six. So I think that definitely says something for being prepared. I wanted to keep it spontaneous, so we went in there an just tore through things. We didn't dwell on things."

And most certainly, it all comes down to musicianship. Chuck proudly declaring that "everyone is pushing their talents and their abilities" to the max. yet odds are that Death sadly won't be finding themselves gracing the covers of the numerous instrument-driven magazines.

"One of my missions and goals is definitely to be the cover story of Guitar World," he admits passionately. "That would be like a personal dream. Everyone has dreams and goals and you've gotta shoot high in life 'cause you only live once. My goals are high and that's why I'm still here. That's something that I would love, really love to see happen. I'd be so thrilled, I can't even tell you. I've been doing this a long time, I get really tired of seeing bands on the cover just because they're popular. And not because they're really empathising guitar work. I see a band like Matchbox 20 on the cover of Guitar World and I'm thinking, you can barely hear their guitars. We need to start seeing people who really are playing their instruments on the covers of magazines like that."

So, without the big corporate hype machine, what do Death catalogue sales look like?

"That's a very good question. Labels of the past don't like giving figures. I forgot the quotes they gave me on the album Human, but I remember seeing a promo ad they had put out to the radio and stuff saying "Human selling 100.000 units blah blah blah," I was told like half of that or something. It's like really incredible man, that's why people unfortunately think that if you have an album out you're successful or your making tons of money and that's not true. Right now I am barely surviving. I make enough money to pay my bills, I drive a Toyota that's paid off thank God -it took me five years to do it. I feed my cats, my dogs. I have a roof over my head and I'm thankful for it, but I don't live an extravagant lifestyle. I have a modest house, I have a very modest car. I don't go around buying guitars and collecting masses and masses of equipment. I play the same equipment I've had for years and years and years, so people need to realize that just because you have a record out, you are not making it. Getting a reacord deal is half the battle the other half is surviving the road trip from hell you're going to be taking. I've been through utter hell in this industry, not surviving sometimes. It's been bad. That's all I tell people. I hear young bands say if we could just get signed man that'd be it. I don't want to discourage people but I tell them, "man, your just at the beginning. Just prepare for hell."And that's it. No one told me. I didn't have anyone above me telling me that. That's why I tell a lot of bands that are trying to get signed, "don't quit your jobs. Don't even go there." It's been hard, even for me now. Like I said, I'm paying my bills, I'm happy and content if I can just do that."

So, Chuck Schuldiner stands where he is (residing just outside of Orlando, Florida), seemingly unfazed by the lack of attention and far from disgruntled. He'll most likely remain there, pushing his own personal limits, until, well until Death is a dead issue. And at that point, I'm sure he'll find another path of perseverance.

By Tim Henderson

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EmptyWords-Published on February 5 2000 / June 24 2001