The year 2001 ended with a drastic,
emotional, and, for a lot of fans and music lovers, tragic goodbye
to one of the most influencual musicians that the metal world
has ever known. On December 15, the news got out that Chuck Schuldiner,
frontman of Death and guitarist of his other brainchild Control
Denied, lost his battle with his disease two days prior. At the
moment I started writing this homage, I thoroughly realised that
it's almost impossible to give a grandmaster like Chuck a memorial
worthy of him. He was at the same time 'the face' and the center
figure of the death metal genre. Unquestionably a lot of musicians
were inspired and influenced by Chuck.
FROM MANTAS TO DEATH
At the end of '83, Chuck Schuldiner, Rick Rozz and Kam Lee (both
later in Massacre-remember the beautiful "From Beyond")
got together and founded MANTAS. The band, influenced by bands
like Venom and Slayer, is active for only a few years and somewhere
mid '84 released five rehearsel tracks under the name "Death
By Metal". The extreme sound of the band and the lack of
understanding from mainly the local scene made Mantas split up
pretty soon. With the goal to be the most extreme band on this
earth, Chuck ultimately founded (at age 18) DEATH, and with the
help from his old bandmates he recorded "Reign Of Terror".
The six tracks on this demo go around the tapetrade network all
around the world. The take off of an 'extreme' metal legend is
now a fact.
After the release of the next tape
"Infernal Death" the band members grow apart further
and further and Chuck decides, after some wandering around, to
continue the band with other members. By the time that the "Mutilation"
demo sees the light of day, drummer Chris Reifert (later vocalist/drummer
of Autopsy and Abcess) took the place behind the drumkit and Death
manages to score a record deal with Combat Records.
The debut album "Scream Bloody Gore" sees the light
of day in the beginning of '87 and is being received almost everywhere
as THE death metal release of all time.
Again an intensive line-up change
takes place, and with Rick Rozz, Bill Andrews (drums) and bassist
Terry Butler, the band goes into the studio in 1988 to record
"Leprosy". Despite the explosive growth of death metal
bands, Death manages to stay, without any problems, one of the
most influentual bands, also because of all time metal staples
like "Pull The Plug", "Open Casket" and the
title track. The personal problems with Rick Rozz make Chuck send
him away and take in James Murphy as a replacement.
The third album "Spiritual
Healing", released in 1990, would become the turning point
for Death. Music-wise the band deviates a little bit from the
'basic' death metal, and instead the music is better arranged,
more technical, and with more socially critical lyrics. The progression
(lyrically as well as musically) that is started on this album
will be of major importance to distinguish them from an avarage
death metal band. Later that year some of the band members got
the crazy idea of touring Europe together with Kreator and Devastation,
without Chuck. Chuck stays home and Devastation lends out their
singer during the tour to replace him.
The urge to reach musical progression
is being continued on "Human". Again a drastic line-up
change takes place within the band. Slowly it becomes more and
more clear that Chuck needs to change to be able to expand his
ideas and enrich them with fusion and technical elements. On "Human"
we see a refined line-up with two members of the technical death
metal band Cynic: guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert.
Also Sadus' bassist Steve DiGiorgio makes his entrance. Songs
like "Suicide Machine", "Lack Of Comprehension"
and (the instrumental) "Cosmic Sea" guarantee the quality
and success Schuldiner stands for. The constant changing of line-ups
isn't being received well by some of the press and fans. Chuck
gets (wrongly!) a reputation of being arrogant and selfish. It's
true that Chuck was a reticent yet honest human being, which is
wrongly being confused with something negative.
The stubborn and musical perfectionist
Schuldiner, manages again to gather a very respectable and impressive
line-up for his fifth record. Bassplayer Steve DiGiorgio is left
over from the former session and seems to be the only one to be
able to keep track of Chuck's ideas. Completed with drum monster
Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel) and guitar virtuoso Andy LaRocque (King
Diamond), it is the ultimate line-up! The four manage to lay down
ten masterpieces on "Individual Thought Patterns", among
which "The Philosopher" and "Trapped In A Corner".
The music again on "Individual.." is much more refined
and has more depth than its predecessors. In short, an album on
which the original ideas of a musical genius turn out perfectly.
In 1995 "Symbolic"
is released and marks an uparalleled success in taking the best
out of both worlds (techique and death metal). Also Morrisound
(studio) start to manifest themselves as an indispensable part
within the Floridian band. "Symbolic", "EmptyWords",
"Crystal Mountain" and "Zero Tolerance" are
just a few jewels on this album. Besides the perfectly executed
songs, there's also a lot of melody on it, which makes this album
into a masterpiece. Next to Gene Hoglan, Chuck is being accompanied
on this album by bassist Kelly Conlon and guitarist Bobby Koelble.
Three years later what was unfortunatly
the last album that Chuck would ever record with Death is released:
"The Sound Of Perseverance". Again an album that perfectly
balances between death metal and technical skills. The base turns
out perfectly and technically the album is scarily impressive.
This is heard on "Spirit Crusher", "Flesh And The
Power It Holds" and "Bite The Pain". The nine songs
on "The Sound
" unmistakably form the most daring
and surprising album of this cult band. Also because of the musical
contributions of Shannon Hamm (guitar), Scott Clendenin (bass)
and Richard Christy (drums), this album is landmark for the progression
and development that the band went through.
A NEW START, BUT FATE STRIKES!
In 1999 Chuck surprises everybody with a new project, Control
Denied. Before "The Sound Of Perseverance" was even
released, Chuck was busy writing material for the new project,
which was going to use a more traditional sound. Chuck is concentrating
completely on the guitar and leaves the microphone to somebody
else. Together with Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm, bassist Steve
DiGiorgio and singer Tim Aymar, Chuck records eight tracks, on
which a typical 'Schuldiner sound' is forming a red thread across
the songs. On "The Fragile Art Of Existence" the musical
influence of Chuck shows to full advantage, and again his unparalleled
musical genius has been layed down.
Just after the release of this
album the disturbing news is send into the world that Chuck is
suffering from a rare form of cancer (braintumor). After a lot
of wandering around, and negative reactions from several doctors,
Chuck didn't give up hope and got a chance to undergo treatment.
Because of the enormous costs everything seemed to go wrong. Fortunately
he got the support from metalfans and bands all over the world.
By means of benefits and auctions, money was raised. For a little
time it looked as if Chuck was recovering well, but in November
2000 things got pretty bad. Because of the intense chemo therapies,
Chuck got so weak that he suffered from a severe pneumonia. The
last message was the sad and shocking news that Chuck lost his
battle against cancer on December 13th 2001 once and for all
The recordings of the second Control
Denied album "When Machine And Man Collide" were already
started and probably will be finished by the remaining band members,
as a tribute to this metalgod.