Magazine: Metal Hammer / UK
Article: Where is Thy Sting?

Written by: John Duke
Published: March 1990



It's the witching hour and I'm snatching information from the very jaws of death, so to speak, in the foreboding shape of Chuck Schuldiner, singer/guitarist and founder member of those Florida Fatalists, Death!


Back in 1983 these guys started pounding out a style of metal that was less fashionable or tasteful than a present day South African cricket tour! But there's nowt curiouser than extreme sub-genres, as they say up north, and a few years on the sudden emergence of bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Atheist and Pestilence, have all given death a new lease of life - if you see what I mean! Consequently there has never been a more opportune moment for the bona fide originators of the genre to come roaring back with their third, and to my mind best, album to date. With a casualty list of such ditties as 'Defensive Personality', 'Altering The Future', 'Within The Mind' and the title track itself, 'Spiritual Healing', we have a slower, more melodic, and more varied sound to contend with. It's obvious that in 1990 with a sustained European tour on the horizon, we are not talking about sudden Death, or even a violent Death, but a far more marked and lingering expiration! I asked Chuck if the mature sophistication of their third offering is a natural Death?

Chuck: 'Yes, it's how we've always wanted to sound. I have never been happier with any of our releases than with 'Spiritual Healin'g. We have achieved something that people have been saying can't be done in death metal, that it's impossible to be melodic or varied. More importantly I think we've proved a lot of people wrong who look down on death metal as a genre, who lump it all together as simply Satanic based three chord progressions. 'Spiritual Healing' is still brutal death metal but it's deliberately based on more melodic riffing, we took our time to try and make everything extremely catchy, and that accessibility crossed over to my vocals as well, they are there to be heard because the lyrics are very important on this album.'


How much of this new direction was encouraged by the second generation of death bands, most of whom are still concentrating on speed and hack and slash subjects?

Chuck: 'We've been around for quite a long time and I've always tried to keep the band from getting lumped into any trend and at the moment I'll just say that it's important to try and stick to that. We wrote about gore four years ago because it was right for us at the time. The acts you mentioned just reinforce the need to change, to still be leading the way, to do it first. That's where the trouble with Rick first started because the material I was writing for 'Spiritual Healing' was simply way over his head. He refused to improve as a player and I was forced into worrying about writing stuff that was TOO complex, and when it gets to that point something has to be done!'

Now Chuck has brought the subject of long standing guitarist Rick Rozz being ousted from the Death ranks (not for the first time) I though he might explain himself further.

Chuck: 'We fired Rick Rozz for good about eight months ago because he wasn't progressing musically. Rick basically refused to improve himself as a guitarist. It took us a month to find James Murphy (ex-Agent Steel) but it worked out great from the very beginning. To be honest it's a relief now to have someone in the band who is really into being professional.'

Scott Burns has given Death their best EVER production and one of the high spots is the work of drummer Bill Andrews, surely one of the most underrated musicians around.

Chuck: 'I really appreciate your saying that, it's great to hear, because I honestly don't think Bill gets half the credit he deserves for the Death sound. He did a great job on this record and Scott's production undoubtedly brought out the best in him. Everything is extremely clear and crisp compared to previous drum mixes, and I know that Bill was very, very happy with the way things turned out. The guy always comes out with drum beats that help to emphasise the riffing, it's one of his strengths and really the two SHOULD bring out the best in each other. Drums are crucial to the death metal sound and if you haven't got an imaginative drummer, as much so even as a guitarist, then it's going to limit your scope severely. A lot of Bill's style comes from musical influences that we all share, Anvil, Angel Witch and Torch, in fact in many ways the early eighties is where our whole sound comes from. I was an exciting era that preceded the thrash scene and it's a pity that a lot of kids are oblivious to what existed before '83 and Metallica.'


Do you think that with various bands getting prominent deals and coverage death metal is now being seen as a musical force in its own right?

Chuck: 'It's definitely being looked at as a serious movement even though there are still people who simply cannot grasp the idea of any death metal band doing well! But the thing I always say to these people is learn from the past! Look back to '83 and when 'Kill 'Em All' first came out, people were saying it's garbage, they'll go nowhere, but I knew that band would be huge. And when they were it blew so many people away it wasn't true! Seven years down the line we are just taking it one step further. I mean I know that there are still people who don't see us as a serious group but hopefully we will be the first death metal act to break free from the sort of barriers that are pretty much levelled on this genre from the OUTSIDE. With 'Spiritual Healing' we are putting out complex and involved music that we are VERY serious about. Admittedly that hasn't been the case with the whole band before and it's a pity that part of our career is captured permanently on vinyl. All I can do is apologise on behalf of myself and the band, something you just have to live and learn!'


to talks

EmptyWords-Published on November 3 2002