Magazine: Legacy / Germany
Article: Lebe Wohl Chuck

Written by: Volkmar Weber, Björn Thorsten Jashinski, Jan Fischer
Published: early 2002


Part I - by Volkmar Weber
Part II - by Jan Fisher
Part III - interview with Guido Heijnens
Part IV - reviews


Part I - by Volkmar Weber

On December 13, 2001 the metal community was shaken to its foundations, yes almost paralysed. Chuck Schuldiner is dead! Despite all hope for recovery, waiting in vain for a new Death album. Chuck was everything but predictable and what hurts the most is the fact that with him we lost something we can't even grasp, or even imagine. Chuck and DEATH was the symbioses of total madness, perseverance and creativity. Chuck was the much-adored innovator, who actually was able at all times to gather and enchant people around him. I'm very sure that every single one of you has a Death album at home, and among them certainly is one that means more to you than just music. Chuck infected listeners, changed many enlightened fans into musicians themselves, who on their turn took other fans in their slipstream, whether it was with raw outbursts like 'Scream Bloody Gore' or with technical masterpieces like 'Symbolic'.

At the beginning of the chain there were just a few, and Chuck Schuldiner certainly was one of them. Now the living legend became a real legend. Especially painful is the fact that the battle that took more than two years, was lost in the end. Somehow everyone was hoping, and perhaps believing, that our Chuck was going to make it. All the fundraising, all the benefit concerts, all the auctions, have they all been for nothing? Or is fate just being fate in the end? I believe that nobody needs to be convicted, because it will neither make the pain less, nor change the fact that Chuck's eyes are shut forever since December 13, 2001. Each and every one of you is going to honor Chuck in your own way and give him a place in your heart. Even though Chuck certainly still had a lot more in store for us, we're not left empty handed, his music will live on, even after we have reunited with Chuck.

Until then it will be all our little stories, that will keep Chuck alive. Like the chaotic grill party together with friends and an old cassette player, blasting away on 'Evil Dead' and growling along with 'Zombie Ritual' long enough to get half a dozen of neighbours on our backs. Or the endless air-guitar solo's in our rooms. The overwhelming feeling when Chuck stood right in front of you on stage, and all the open mouths of those that were not banging but were trying to follow his fingers with their eyes. The maxims 'sound magician' and 'philosopher' definitely apply for this extraordinary human being. The more startling it is that Chuck already gave us many answers to our questions and hopelessness.

To comprehensively unlock Death, to understand the complete magic, without knowledge of Chuck's brilliant lyrics, is almost impossible. The time, to discover new things of Chuck and Death, has not ended on December 13. Even the possession of all 8 studio albums won't do it. To hear, feel and understand Death we can only do by ourselves. The capability of Mr. Schuldiner to let the same album, the same song, make us feel sad one day, and give us infinite power the next, who's capable of doing that? Death is magic, and the magic is Death. Below we gathered some little things, recent and past stuff, cheerful and sad stuff. We hope, despite our subjectiveness, to speak on behalf of many of you. Our sympathies especially go out to Chuck's mom Jane Schuldiner and all his family members. Thank you Chuck, for all that you gave us. We will never forget you.

Volkmar & the Legacy team.



Part II - By Jan Fischer

Chuck was a purposeful perfectionist. Not only shown through his brilliant music, but above all through the symbiosis of lyrics and music, and of course in the lyrics themselves. At the beginning the lyrical outpouring was formed by themes about death and horror (from which Satanic cliches from the demo-days were eliminated before the first album release), but the subjects changed and widened with every release. Gore lyrics disappeared and were replaced by pondering and often philosophical contemplations about all sorts of issues. And another important element showed through in the lyrics, Chuck was a very emotional human being. He reacted hard at unjust criticism, especially at rumors about him and the band after he cancelled several European tours (i.e. the tour with Kreator in 1990, because of health problems -his band members toured without him, took a roadie as 'vocalist' and hung notes with every gig on which was to be read that Chuck was a loser and would only be playing Hard Rock from now on. At the gigs 'fuck Chuck' slogans were provided that were taken more or less enthusiastic. The worst however was, that the German metal press took part in it all and reported very one sided. As a matter of course Chuck set in his lawyer, and the fronts hardened even more. Years later the Rock Hard still showed a picture of Chuck on their subscription page (with a cynical quote underneath it) on which he had an issue in his hands with a critical story about him, holding up his middle finger.

The consequences of this farce didn't take long. Chuck fired his band members and for the next album hired high calibre substitutes. And the effect it all had on this sensitive musician was greatly to be read from then on up till the last album in his lyrics. And of course in the liner notes on the albums. For some of you the saying 'Support Music Not Rumors!' certainly is legendary.

It comes as no surprise that many old Death fans would rather fly to the USA to hand over their gift to Chuck's family in person than to participate in one of the fundraisings that are being organized by the same press who treated him so bad back then. Considering all, one has to think what the former labels contributed to Chuck's recovery. There will always be re-releases, and there will always be money for all sorts of nonsense. However, when the artist who filled their wallets needs something in return, they maintain a stony silence.

Supplementary statement from Götz Kühnemund - Rock Hard
The trouble with Chuck at the beginning of the '90's was based on several cancelled European Death tours that we (Rock Hard) presented. Because lots of fans started complaining to us, we had to give out some kind of explanation (once his band even toured without him-I'm sure you remember). We were not able to induce Chuck to make a statement himself, therefore we asked his former manager. He stated in an open letter to Rock Hard that Chuck has a disturbed behaviour and was being paranoid. Therefore he cancelled several European tours, just being in a bad mood. This was confirmed by his band at the time (Terry Butler, Bill Andrews & co.) who came to Europe very aggravated. Because we published the management statement, several statements from his band and some comments of annoyed fans, Chuck threatened us a few weeks later with his lawyer. As a response to that we offered him to tell us his version in an exclusive interview, which he accepted. Somewhat later I talked with Chuck myself, because since the early Mantas-demo-days we had a good relationship. We 'officially' reconciled with each other and after that we interviewed Chuck several times. So it's absolutely ridiculous when people try to play nasty tricks on us still. After all, back then we only tried to explain to our irritated readers why Chuck quit or cancelled 4, (as presented by Rock Hard), Death tours, without giving an explanation. Neither can nobody accuse us of giving Chuck bad publicity, because despite our temporary troubles, for which Chuck made his excuses to me personally, his albums always got the best reviews from us. Our current fundraiser almost gathered 6.000 Euro's. We are awaiting the profits of the 'In Death We Trust'-benefit concert (organized by both Rock Hard and Legacy) so hopefully we can transfer even more to Chuck's mom.

Götz-Rock Hard




Part III - Guido Heijnens

Guijdo Heijnens, labelboss of the Dutch Hammerheart Records was one of the few Europeans who got a chance to meet Chuck after the last European tour. To bring the record deal for Control Denied to safety, Guido was in America at the end of 2000 and had a chance to spend a few days with Chuck. Below, an impression.

LEGACY: How long did you stay in America? Was this your first encounter with Chuck?
GUIDO: Yes, it was in October 2000. We met at our US office and spent 5 very memorable days together. It was the first time I met Chuck personally and unfortunately the last.

L: How did you feel to sit with a human being like Chuck?
G: I was totally excited when we went to pick him up at the Boston airport. Chuck really was totally cool, very relaxed, not arrogant at all. I felt very good that day, we talked a lot about metal, it was great.

L: How did Chuck look? Was he showing that he was severely ill?
G: No, not at all. Back then his prospects were very good, he was almost better. He had physiotherapy to strengthen his muscles. He was walking and talking normally, and he could even play the guitar. He even had long hair, which was very surprising to me. There still was some of the tumor left in his head, but it was disappearing. Until March 2001 this was the case, unfortunately things changed after that.

L: What do you remember especially?
G: Oh, actually everything was wonderful. We really had some beautiful days. We mostly went shopping in CD stores, had great diners and at night went to bars.

L: What kind of person was Chuck, how did you get to know him? About what did you talk?
G: He was very friendly and very calm. We talked almost all the time about music, Chuck was a real music-freak. I remember very well, sitting in a bar, both drunk and screaming along with Judas Priests 'Painkiller'.

L: Was he funny, did he have a sense of humor?
G: Absolutely. I mean, he did not just sit and tell old jokes, he had a fine sense of humor.

L: So you did meet in Boston, why not in Florida? Did you also meet the other guys of Control Denied?
G: Well our office is in Boston. Chuck was alone and brought a tape with 4 brand new Control Denied songs, really unbelievable stuff. The other guys unfortunately weren't there. At the moment I'm in touch with Steve DiGiorgio.

L: What meant Chuck for you?
G: A musical genius and a true fan of the music he played.

L: What are you missing the most?
G: The feeling, never to hear anything new from him again. Hopefully we get to release the new Control Denied album, but that will be the last what we will ever hear from him.



Part IV - Reviews

Scream Bloody Gore
Spiritual Healing
Individual Though Patterns
The Sound Of Perseverance
The Fragile Art Of Existence



Scream Bloody Gore (1987)
by Björn Thorsten Jaschinski

At the end of '87/beginning of '88 it were mainly the underground magazines on this side of the Atlantic (like the Danish Blackthorn, or Ronny Eides (Norway) in the debut issue of Morbid Magazine), that tried to put down in words their enthusiasm about the dark output of two thin US guys. While Mr. Hand only would go into the Death annals as a model, guitarist/singer Chuck Schuldiner (out of necessity also playing the bass on this album) under the watchful eye of producer Randy Burns (back then the talk of town because of Dark Angel's release 'Darkness Descends) was at least assisted by drummer Chris Reifert (later on the founder of Autopsy). After selecting 10 qualitatively equal classics from the stock of 4 Death/Mantas demos, and the title track at the conclusion, the collection was found worthy enough to be recorded in the Music Grinder studio. On the re-release of this CD two more demo's 'Beyond The Unholy Grave' and 'Land Of No Return' as well as two Leprosy-tracks, live versions from the Ultimate Revenge II soundtrack, are to be found. The later by Atrocity covered 'Archangel' wasn't considered.

Although speed was one aspect, they never wanted to be compared with the most extreme representatives of the core-scene (hard- like grind), but always put clear structured songs above all. Blasting was taboo; fundamental fast songs were often opened with catchy mid-tempo riffs, and even Reifert's simple style allowed outstanding rhythm changes between verse and chorus.

In the passing, also in this stage of his career, Schuldiner's bizarre feel for melody and his love for precisely puzzled out solo's showed through. Not only Nile cashed in on the declared mystical bombast intro of 'Zombie Ritual'.



Leprosy (1988)
by Björn Thorsten Jaschinski

While Scream Bloody Gore was guided by strong nostalgic feelings, Leprosy was the first Death album on which Schuldiner's unrestrained urge to develop on all sorts of levels showed through, which in the future story of his band would cause the sacrifice of many band members. Kam Lee, Chuck's former partner and singer deserted to Massacre, while Rick Rozz (guitar) returned for this one recording, and Bill Andrews (drums) and bassplayer Terry Butler hung in one more round.

Although his thoughts are dedicated to the physical illness, it shows through how much the writer linguistically has developed, his ability to imagine himself into something that's even being appreciated by muscle-machine Mathiass Herr (German critic), the graphical translation of the title (again thought out by E.J. Repka) also satifies the gorehounds.

Out of the 8 new tracks becomes clear how much Chuck's guitar playing has developed, without, at this point, being able to use the label 'techinical' death metal. The breaks are more complex, the frequency rises and the melodic parts are being extended. Yet there's no sign of giving up on brutality.

Dan Swanö underlines: " Personally I take 'Leprosy" for the only real perfect death metal album, which I place on the same level as 'normal' music, because it opened dimensions. Cannibal Corpse has really complex riffs, yet Death uses simple structures, their riffs almost sound like a horror soundtrack."



Spiritual Healing (1990)
by Volkmar Weber

Biting, supreme guitars, and a deep, and at the same time, hammering snare drum were and are the first impressions that hit you inevitable when the gates of the spiritual sanatorium open for the first time.

'Living Monstrosity' represents all the primitive and grown power that Death, anno 1990, covers. What Chuck accomplishes here, destroys al lrivals. Really killer, deadly singing meeting a rolling wall of steel, chivalrously lead by his excellent personally, and provided with the perfect cover on the side. Andrews and Butler, who even managed to play on two Death albums in a row, deliver a pumping, heavy rhythm. So bold, so deep. Chuck and newbee James Murphy produce guitar-duels in this melting pot, that are unequalled even today. Because Death was, despite their real revolutionary ideas, like before also 'easy listening', and didn't need 10 run-ups (as on later releases) to really kill. Andrews certainly was traditional behind his kitt, seldom using breaks, no sign of fiddling. Not since this album has there been such a heavy and powerfull rolling rhythm machine. One thing remains clear, whenever there has to be drawn a line with Death, from which moment the battleship would weigh its anchor to explore new horizons, than it would obviously be after Spiritual Healing. Not few inveterate Death freaks refused consequently, even today, to acknowledge albums from their favorites outside the deadly trio 'Scream Bloody Gore', 'Leprosy' and this one. On this there are only hits. Perfect tempo changes, catchy strophes and choruses and above all the titlesong 'Spiritual Healing'. Chuck sounds almost demonically swearing, possesed, passionate. A real killer album. (VW)



Human (1991)
by Volkmar Weber

Practically not one Death album has such a brutal start. Flattening Of Emotions hammers, the double bass drum crack in breathtaking speed, and the perfect synchronic rhythm work bewilders you totally after just a short minute. Death was back again. The album was being received back then (1991) with astonishment, because there had been a lot of trouble in the meantime. I remember the so called 'fuck Chuck' tour with Kreator, the thwarting of the band members and the stabbing by the metal press over the entire world. But Chuck appeared to know it better again. He pulled out with a complete new line-up (a so called trade mark of Death), to strike back hard and wild. In Human's liner notes it says: "this album's my revenge". And what kind of revenge it is! He gathered real craftsmen around him. DiGiorgio (Sadus) on bass, Reinert and Masvidal (both Cynic) on drums and guitar respectively. They delivered a technical, decorated album which, in combination with the most ripened sound in the bands history, left a resounding effect. Especially the thought out breaks of Reinert were a feast for the ears and an omen of what was in store for journalists and musicians when they would gather around the drum kitt of the young savage during the next tour. The really insane framework of Human, finds its contrast in the breathtaking opponent of Chuck's melodic play. Chuck opens up, as far as you can judge that on a melody. The melancholic, yes almost fragile art, to play solo's like this, sends shivers down your spine. The middle part takes care of not falling into dreams. 'Lack Of Comprehension' is very heavy and real evil. 'Human' presents Death for the last time from a truly deadly, yes even destructive side. Also Chuck's vocal cords weren't spared any less than on the three predecessors. Absolute zenith of the album is the hymn like and at the same time enchanting 'Cosmic Sea'. Once again it shows that Chuck was far ahead of his time, because anno 1991 such progressive and at the same time un-metal-like outbursts in death metal were an absolute sensation. (VW)


Individual Thought Patterns (1993)
by Björn Thorsten Jaschinski

From the last line up Sadus' bass God Steve DiGiorgio remained, together with ex-Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan forming a genius rhythm section. The massive, today almost blind, Hoglan wasn't trusted by anybody before with such filigree abilities, that he provided proof of since 'Individual Thought Patterns' with Death. Up till the unexpected end of Death he would be the lasting constant. In retrospect this fifth album can be seen as a turning point, because Chuck found his musical paradise, and from now on followed the technical progressive impulse started with 'Human' in all consequences; the singing would stay the most striking link with the past. Lyrically he left the describtion and analysis of great common looks. Now he's occupied with the fate of mankind, suffering from itself. He never makes his emphatic psychological studies of characters and the raised questions in compositions like the opener 'Overactive Imagination', 'Jealosy' or the video track 'The Philosopher', stiff and lifeless.

In 1993 it was like before, despite brilliant music from bands like Morbid Angel or Atheist, the acceptation of death metal as a demanding variation on the classical virtues mattered bad. The collaberation of, unfortunatelly only one time participant, Andy LaRocque (Kind Diamond's right hand outside of Mercyful Fate) as a second lead guitarist at Chuck's side was also an important sign for the whole scene.



Symbolic (1995)
by Volkmar Weber

What a start, what a title track. Indeed symbolic for the album. Again significantly straight forward although not less technical as its predecessor, Chuck presents himself anno 1995 in absolute top form. Word went around that the zombie rituals are in the past for good. How many fans actually stayed with Chuck untill Symbolic is easy to read by the sales figures - appalling little. The message that Chuck would sell out, obviously left bigger voids than the new recruits of the Dream Theater camp could have filled. Despite the sales, technical aspects, that for that matter never can be an indication for the musical brilliance (…are chart-topping bands really that good?), Symbolic proves to be a ride through the ups and downs of the human being. Chuck obviously has engaged himself very much with the thoughts of human beings (and specially his own), otherwise such a philosophical theme work would have been unthinkable. Here words deliver orgiastic duels with the melodies, that render you fascinated to the lyrics sheet as well as the headphones. With the aforementioned title track, 'Empty Words', '1,000 Eyes' and 'Crystal Mountain' you find 4 imperishable cracks on this album, that every Death fan, also those who discovered them after 1990, will stand-by immediately.

But to classify Symbolic solely by the top songs would not be just, because without being a concept album, it's the sequence of the songs that let Symbolic swell to a real, top-notch album. To be heard clearly when played with the shuffle key on. Masterly!!



The Sound Of Perseverance (1998)
by Volkmar Weber

The Sound Of Perseverance, my God, could there have been a better title for this last Death album? Not less, including myself, were surprised by the release of this disc. But it did not end with that. Chuck's voice sounded high, in some way strange, nevertheless indescribable intense. Every Death fan, old and new, had to get used to it. But what kind of fireworks did Chuck and co. set off here, withdraw slow but sure from what all soundboards and words of this world can describe.

Mr. Christy (Burning Inside, Iced Earth) plays things on his kit, that appear to be unimaginable as well as inimitable. In between, an intruding bass playing counters melodies and decorates Chuck's excessively complicated riffs and melodies. This is all pushed to the limit. The sail are full in the wind and the pointers at the ready.

Several songs are being thought out into detail, provided with a lush decoration, with a scream put dramatically into scene. Certainly, a powerful piece of music wants to get heard, and without a doubt very rewarding because of the unremitting surprises that lie dormant in The Sound Of Perseverance. A record for the headphone, for a daring fusion of Mr. Band and Mrs. Olufsen. A 'Spirit Crusher', a 'Moment Of Clarity' and of course a 'Painkiller'. The last in memory of the surpreme Judas Priest, that made his respect in Metalistan and was received delighted.

With the genius 'Voice Of The Soul' it's hard to control emotions, especially with Chuck's death in mind. Unfortunately it's sure that this became the last legacy of Death. But it's a decisive departure, perfect and spotless, although it's questionable whether this is a right way to put it in this context. I would be glad if I could tell you now that somebody would continue Chuck's work.

It is totally inconceivable that Chuck won't present us with a surprising successor. And there is, besides my own pain for this loss, the actual tragedy. What did Chuck take with him, about which we haven't got the slightest notion?



The Fragile Art Of Existence (1999)
by Volkmar Weber

Our little retrospective on Chuck's legacy would be incomplete without this disc. Almost the complete line-up from the last Death album appeared at the take off. Richard Christy (drums), Shannon Hamm (guitar), and once again on bass Steve DiGiorgio and of course Chuck. But he only concentrated on the virtuoso caress of his guitar, his biting predator singing stayed in the closet this time, because behind the mic, the up till then rather unknown, Tim Aymar (of Psycho Scream) gives away an impressive performance. Despite the generally very difficult song structures, the album has an aggressive sound. It is all but a power-metal album, as was to be read here and there, and which lead to irritation amongst the Death community. Aymar's voice is enchanting and if you like Manowar's Eric Adams, you can safely risk this album. The volume of the singers voice is not an insignificant part of this records attraction, he moves playfully through all regions, is able to sing very mean as well as very soft. Chuck leaves his singer enough playroom to open out, because the instrumental department not once settles for a driven pounding rhythm, which would have sounded unequivocal as old-school Death.
Yet it is the difficult technical parts of Schuldiner, Christy, Hamm and of course Steve DiGiorgio, that really make jaws drop. You have to really hold on tight, because each and every one of those guys is capable to blow away a complete army on his own. Quite often the mood is almost hymnal, best described with the feeling wanting to suck in this record with the arms held high constantly.
I consider the disc as a clever build bridge of progressive technical metal structures, presented with the heaviness and boorishness of extreme metal. Sure, the road from death metal to Dream Theater seems impossible, yet, with The Fragile Art Of Existence as a guide it could work out. As long as there's enough hunger to leave the flattened (and sometimes cursed) roads. Unfortunately this record is sold out at the moment, and therefore hard to find. Whenever you see it somewhere, strike without hesitation.

Chuck's most important work the last two years was arranging a successor for this record. Like is to be read in a recent statement of Steve DiGiorgio, Control Denied will try to record this album without Chuck, because the compositions of all songs is almost finished. So there's some hope left that not all the ideas of Mr. Schuldiner get lost forever with his departure.


to memorial

Translated by YK/MM for EmptyWords-Published on June 16 2002