Magazine: Metal Shock / Italy
Article: Death, Symbol Of Perfection

Written by: Francesca Fabi
Published: October 1995



Chuck Schuldiner is finally satisfied. His band and his music have reached a more "wide and mature" dimension. The Ronnie James Dio of the band, Chuck Schuldiner, doesn't have any problem defining "Symbolic", the last LP born from his genius mind, as "the best Death album". It's not the banal answer and rhetoric to the promotional interview realized by the front-man, but an objective and tangible reality that jumps immediately to the forefront as soon as you hear it. Over ten years of a career riddled with difficulty, instability, betrayals, gossip and fundamental albums, Death return to impart a proverbial lesson with their sixth LP. The harmonic mix of heaviness and melody that has always characterized the Orlando band, has reached a degree of perfection that is almost inhuman, thanks to the devoted and tentacled (and obese) Gene Hoglan, (ex Dark Angel,) on drums and new arrivals, guitarist Bobby Koelble and bassist Kelly Conlon. Chuck and I were able to speak over the phone on a sultry late summer afternoon. The band and he are currently in Louisiana, celebrating the realization of this unbelievable recording with a seven week tour with Nevermore (the new creature of ex Sanctuary Warrel Dane), a band that Chuck doesn't hesitate to define as "killer." "Symbolic" is the latest album by Death, but we can affirm that it represents a new beginning: new line-up, a different producer instead of Scott Burns, a new and important label. Can we begin illustrating the reasons for these important changes?

"1994 has been one conclusive year for the band, full of noteworthy events. First, we have moved from Relativity to Roadrunner, a move that we did not hesitate in making, since for a long time we had problems due to lack of interest. The choice, to work with producer as Jim Morris was forced, since when we entered the studio, our friend Scott was already booked. Nevertheless Jim proved to be phenomenal. He's a serious, reliable and prepared professional, with tons of ideas and plenty of experience."

What exactly is the contribution given to " Symbolic " by Morris?

"Jim made the sound immense and spacious. He understood my music and made it better, the sound is more mature and the way he layered the sounds everything sounded clearer. "

Let's return for a moment to the obvious question the change of formation. The difficulty must have been to rouse musicians to your and Gene's status...

"The most complicated side of the matter is to succeed in recruiting some professionals that really know the band well and that are sufficiently honest and reliable, ready to hold faith to the job. The search for a guitarist, particularly, has been long and weary and it has been since the times of ITP that I hoped to find someone with the ability worthy to replace Andy LaRoque, who has always been busy with King Diamond. I've held hundreds of auditions, auditioning people from all corners of the United States and at the end what I looked for I have found it behind the corner, in the most literal sense of the word. Bobby Koelble is in fact an old acquaintence of mine, having gone to the same high school, and it has not been difficult to track him down since he lives five minutes from my house. Besides to possess an unequivocal talent as a guitarist, Bobby (or better 'Babby', to want to pronounce it with the idler, irresistible and sharpened accent of Florida that Chuck Schuldiner has) he's also equipped with those qualities that I've always looked for in my friends: the ability to get along with everybody, to always keep his feet planted firmly on the ground and to be humble."

What can you tell me about the bassist that replaces Steve Digiorgio, Kelly Conlon?

"Kelly isn't in Death anymore."

Already? what's happened?

"Gene and Bobby and I decided to expel him from the band because it was evident that he didn't have that experience and that ability with which we believed he was endowed. We didn't succeed in getting in tune with him and for the good of all we're glad that he left the band. I have to admit to have made the mistake, I was much too precipitous in choosing him: I should have set aside more time to spend with him and try to understand what type he was. After all, he joined only three weeks before entering studio for the recordings of "Symbolic"."

And who has taken Kelly's place on the dates that you have currently done here in Europe with Unleashed and on your American tour in progress?

"An old friend of mine that plays in Pain Principle is lending a hand."

What has been the contribution by Gene and the others to the arrangement of the songs and the creation of the atmospheres on the album?

"Bobby as well as Kelly, had joined Death as soon as one month before the recording sessions and he hasn't had the opportunity to contribute, if not in some final arrangement. Gene has been conclusive, as always. He has had full liberty and he has been able to modify every song and every riff adapting it to his way of playing. So even if it's been me, primarily, who conceived the basic ideas for the composition of the songs, the passages were born of my hands and Gene's. I'm not a dictator and that's what I've always tried to make clear to the others."

It's evident that with "Symbolic" Death have reached amazing results and a technical and compositional level hardly incomparable.

"Thanks, I really appreciate your words of respect. I believe with time we have had the tendency to constantly improve. We have had more experience, put it to the test, and it pushes us to the limit, physically and mentally, and that's what conceived "Symbolic", I had decided to overcome myself and to overcome the limits of my possibilities. In comparison to preceding tests, this new job's technically and musically unusual, because of some elements of novelty introduced in the layout and in the execution, but contemporarily it has the same vibe and atmosphere of a typical Death album."

If I can be honest with you, I've always considered your vocals as your true weak point but I've noticed that vocal parts of "Symbolic" make a great improvement; do you agree?

"Yeah, you're perfectly right: I've always been limited as a singer but in this circumstance I've decided to give correct attention to importance of vocal interpretation, to be on par with the music. I've worked and succeeded in making my vocals more articulate and harmonic with results, everything considered, which are appreciable, even I know l that I'll be never a great singer!"

To me it seems the album's more intimate and rich in comparison to ITP, which was dominated by grudge and revenge. It has to be something that has brought you to change so much, internally.

"Yes, in last two years my private life has taken a new and better direction and this has pushed me to behave me in less irascible way and has made me more calm and satisfied. Besides I've learned to deal with the record industry, to take the distances and above all to make them respect me. In the past, due to excessive good faith, I was easily decieved by the music business. Now I'm sorry for them, I'm grown and I'm not that naïve boy anymore. "Symbolic" is my answer to those who tried to stab me in the back. It's a record that represents a turn, a definite cut with the past and it's shaped a new beginning. For this reason it's deprived of grudge and anger and it's more full of positive vibrations. This doesn't remove the aggressiveness, that's still a fundamental component of my music and as such it's also present here. After all, there are plenty of things in the world that still make me rabid."

Such as?

"Over all corruption and the rudeness of certain individuals."

Who did you think of when you wrote the song "Zero Tolerance"?

"A pair of people, but the content can be applied to whoever abuses their own power and position to hurt others. Also this is a form of intolerance, neither more neither less than racial discriminations. For instance the press, especially in USA, it has a boundless power and it often uses it in an unfair and arbitrary way. And it's really the press I was addressing in my oral attacks in ITP."

Are your relationships improved with the mass-media in the meantime?

"Yes, that is I've learned to distinguish between serious magazines and newspapers that they aren't worth anything. I don't want my fans to waste their money in the acquisition of a garbage-magazine full of gossip and defamatory nonsense."

In a passage of "Symbolic", "Perennial Quest", you set to yourself and the listener questions on the existence and you reflect on the eternal search of the happiness in which the man is immersed. Do you believe it is possible to reach her indeed?

"Yes, definitely, even if the path to it is full of obstacles and sour times. For me, to be happy means to have reached serenity and internal equilibrium and to have acquired the ability to distinguish what it's really important from what it's not. I hope to be on the right path."

Twelve years of a career is a long time; when is the moment you are fiercest?

"This one. I finally feel recognized and considered as a musician. Many specialized newspapers have acknowledged me as a guitarist and this is without a doubt the greatest satisfaction that I could receive. In America I have gotten recognition from "Guitar World", one of the most well-known and appreciated publications in this area."

After all these years completely devoted to Death, does a remote possibility exist to see you involved in a side-project?

"I would like to throw myself in to a collateral project and a few times I have thought about it. My dream would be to be able to give life to a group that played classical heavy metal with Ronnie James Dio doing the vocals."

Are you serious?

"Yes, I love Ronnie James Dio, I would also make false papers to be able to play to his side."

Why don't you propose him?

"Because he would not take me seriously and I don't believe that he would ever accept me. Who knows how many other guitarists he has at his disposal. He doesn't need me for sure."

It seems to me you still listen to the old 80's metal and you haven't surrendered to other musical suggestions in the meantime.

"Never! I was and I remain a 'defender of the faith', even if I don't have prejudices or blinkers; I listen to everything. But the records of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest don't have equals in today's musical panorama. These are combos that have marked an epoch, they've changed the course of music and that has influenced thousands of bands. Without them, Death and hundreds of other groups would not exist."

What do you think about Blaze Bailey the new vocalist chosen in substitution of Bruce Dickinson?

"What can I tell you... I'm so worried for the future of Maiden! I'm so anxious to see what Bailey will do, but I doubt that he'll succeed in surpassing Bruce. It's an arduous assignment for him."

Maybe you can satisfy my curiosity: I have heard that Cynic have split up. Is it true?

"I haven't any idea, but I've heard something similar."

You are not friends with them anymore?

"Not really and it doesn't interest me to know what they've done. I think they shouldn't grant interviews to metal magazines and to play to a metal audience if in reality they hate metal and don't belong to that scene. It's not coherent, it's not honest. They should go play in a jazz club instead."

Which is your most appreciable quality?

"I think my determination. I never stop in the face of obstacles 'till I have reached my goal."


to talks

Translated by MB/YK/MM for EmptyWords-Published on January 31 2002