Magazine: Terrorizer / UK
Article: The Passing Of A Legend

Written by: Jonathan Selzer, Guy Stracha, Nathaneal Underwood, Chris Chantler
Published: March 2002



t's been said that death is the great leveller, and yet to believe that is to accept that it's the bringer of some ultimate force of justice, something that none of us can feel right now, and perhaps never will. Chuck Schuldiner passed away on Friday December 13 after a determined fight against cancer. The suddenness with which it took him, just when his recovery was such a distinct possibility, is a gratuitous cruelty that only casts his resolve and his nobility into sharper relief. Those qualities were deeply rooted in Chuck Schuldiner's music, which in turn is deeply rooted in all of us. That past Death slogan, 'The first word in death metal' was no joke. At once visionary and definitive, Death were the standard by which all future acts would be judged, and yet to match the expressive, technical brilliance that ran from 'Scream Bloody Gore', through to 'Leprosy', 'Symbolic' and beyond would always be the hardest of acts. To listen to them now isn't just to bring memories flooding back, it's to lose yourself in a complexity so beautifully structured that they still feels like a template for new possibilities, an ever-renewable source. The death that took Chuck Schuldiner has cheated all of us, and yet his spirit will be reborn again and again, as a long as all of us continue to inherit his defiance and his fire. Our deepest condolences go out to Chuck's family, friends and colleagues, and over the next six pages we pay tribute to one of metals brightest flames, with help from his many friends.
Jonathan Selzer

  EmptyWords isn't an official Death website, but many have assumed otherwise, partly because of the professionalism and elegance of the design, but also because of the breadth of information contained therein, all lovingly compiled. As news of Chuck Schuldiner's death broke, EmptyWords became a place of pilgrimage for thousands of fans, as they contributed to the online book of condolence Jonathan Selzer spoke to two of the site's founders, Kees and Yvonne

What was your first experience of hearing Death?
Kees: "In the 80s there was a weekly Dutch radio show called 'Vara's Vuurwerk' (Vara's Fireworks) where they played all sorts of metal. It was the only program on radio that played metal at all. I'm a nurse working evening shifts, so there was no other way to listen to that show than through hospital radio, I was always pretty busy so I couldn't sit down and put the headphones on, so I just hung it in it's holder and turned the volume louder. Man, did those patients look astonished when they came out their anaesthetic, for all the noise that came out of those little headphones, hahaha. They dropped right back in narcosis, thinking they woke up in the wrong world. That's where I heard Chuck for the first time and he blew me off my feet right through that little earpiece. I was hooked ever since and I infected Yvonne with it as well. Yvonne: "Kees never stopped talking about that one band called Death, so no wonder he got me infected hahaha."

How did you hear about Chuck's death, and what was your reaction?
Yvonne: "Chuck's mom wrote us a few hours after Chuck passed away, and despite that we knew that Chuck was very, very sick, we were in shock." Kees: "Chuck's mom asked us to wait a while with bringing out this news. In consultation with her we decided to publish it on Saturday December 15." Yvonne: "I believe this was the hardest moment for us... after a day and a half of disbelief we felt like making it definite..."

Reading the online condolence book is a pretty overwhelming experience. Were you surprised by the volume and intensity of responses?
Yvonne: "We were totally surprised by the volume and the speed, we opened a book with space for 2,000 entries thinking that would be enough for the time being, and it was full within 10 hours! At the moment book seven is online and almost full. So that's almost 14,000 entries. Luca is still working on the books to make them visible again on the site (the first two already are). We were overwhelmed. Also by the many responses from well known musicians and bands." Kees: "But we weren't surprised by the intensity of the responses, Chuck's fans are very, very die hard and we know exactly what difference he can make in a life, both musically and lyrically."

Have you been in contact with Chuck's family, and have they taken comfort from your efforts?
Yvonne: "We've been to Florida to visit the memorial service. The week prior to that we spent time with Chuck's mom, sister and nephew. It's been quite an emotional week. The family definitely takes comfort not only from our but from every fan's effort. The moral support is appreciated beyond words. All those words about how Chuck touches peoples lives and what he means to them makes Chuck live on in a way." Kees: "A lot of stories were told and a lot of travelling down memory lane by the fireplace. In brief: a week full of melancholy."

What is the future for the website? Is it going to continue to be updated, and is the condolence book going to stay as an ongoing tribute?
Yvonne: "We will continue to work on EmptyWords the best we possibly can, there's still a lot of info missing and we know there are still a lot of interviews, reviews, tour schedules etc, that are not on the site yet. Over the past weeks fans have send us a lot that we are working on right now. We'll keep the fans posted about what will happen with the 2nd Control Denied album and of course the condolence book will be open at all times." Kees: "For us there's no reason at all to stop with the site. On the contrary, we see it as an important task to promote Chuck's musical legacy this way. In the future his music will be discovered by new people who want to read the background stories as well, we are convinced of that."

The metal community pays tribute to a brother....

"Death was one of the very first extreme metal bands I ever heard. The first album I got was 'Leprosy' after hearing a tape of 'Scream Bloody Goer'. I've always admired Chuck's voice and I guess I've tried to copy him in the past. I'd say Death pretty much sum up what death metal is about. And later they were one of the premier progressive death metal outfits. I think it's a great loss, all of the band does and he will be missed!"-
Mikael Akerfeldt, Opeth

One of the godfathers of extreme metal, no doubt. He will be remembered by his fans forever!" -Aphazel, Ancient

"Death were one of the first names that influenced me in death metal. I was impressed with Chuck's talent, the originality and the finest capacity to compose songs, the raging vocals and the hi-technical skills. He showed me how death metal must be." -Rangel Arroyo,Abhorrence

"Chuck - The mentor of death metal! Death have been a big source of inspiration for me. His musical abilities and uniqueness will be sadly missed... but always remembered. Through Death..." - Blasphemer, Mayhem

"Chuck Schuldiner has been one of my main influences when I started out playing the guitar, years ago! Chuck's style was one of a kind, which appealed to my imagination immediately. I forced myself to learn each and every song by heart, up to the 'Individual Thought Patters' album. Although I somewhat lost track after this particular album, I still notice his influence on some of my compositions today. Especially his fusion between really aggressive music and melodic passages has been an example for a whole generation of musicians and provided a bridge between different genres of extreme metal. Although Chuck himself regarded his musica mainly as 'metal', instead of 'death metal', he will be remembered as one of the great founders and pioneers of this particular genre. I hope he will get some piece of mind on his journey through the Aethyrs! But my guess is, he will continue to haunt a few insurance agencies and other institutions in this dimension! Liars!" -Jerry Brouwer, Centurion

  "I spent much of my time as a young prick in the Florida hardcore punk scene. I saw Death several times as a child and never quite understood how great they were till years later. It's a crime that people so influential die like this, but his legacy lives on through the tens of thousands of bands worldwide he has inspired. Celebrate the music and long live death eternally. Thanks Chuck and goodbye..for now..." -Casey Chaos, Amen

"Death were a major influence on everything heavy and brutal. In fact, in the mid-80's they were a much more significant influence on the underground scene than even Slayer. In the tape trading scene it was always a great source of excitement and curiosity whenever there was a new demo or rehearsal tape with new stuff on. Death definitely set the standard for what was later to come. Just listen to the "Mutilation" demo now, it still sounds as sick and evil as it did back in '86. Chuck as a talent was undeniable, a killer guitar player, inventive, unique. I only met the great man a few times, but he always came across as passionate and sincere about his music and life in general. It's a great loss -RIP [Evil] Chuck." -Lee Dorrian, Cathedral

The first time I heard Death was on a live tape from Tampa, Florida. I even remembered the dates, 31/12/84. At that time I played in my first band, Warhammer. Death were one of the bands that made you want to play faster; his riffing style influenced me so much it's untrue, and thousands of others I'm sure. Even now when I write a Napalm song I usually say, 'now it's time for the Death riff'. A very sad day indeed. Here's to evil Chuck wherever he is." -Shane Embury, Napalm Death

"Chuck Schuldiner was one of the main founders of the death metal genre. He was an extremely talented singer, song-writer and guitarist. Although our paths crossed only briefly in 1989, I was always aware of Chuck and his work throughout his career. On behalf of World Management and the artists we represent I wish Chuck's family our deepest sympathies and condolences. He will be missed but his music will live on." -Gunter Ford, World Entertainment Management
  "I know cancer very well as I have carried several close relatives to the grave who suffered from this cruel and often humiliating disease. Chuck was a true talent. I could praise his importance to the scene, how inventive he was. Everybody knows that. His work was outstanding and shall remain. Everyone knows that, too. I am mostly sorry and angry that he had to go through this hill and at such a young age, it is unfair and wrong..." -Gunther, Ancient Rites

"A great loss for the world of metal. We owe him so much and the extreme music of today would most definitely have sounded different if Chuck hadn't enriched us with his talent. He must not be forgotten." - Tobias Gustafsson, Vomitory

"Chuck and I shared a lot of magic moments together; the fun chaos of creating 'Individual..' and 'Symbolic'; the tours, the tears... (you know he was never comfortable with being called 'The godfather of death metal', his reply was always, 'It's just metal, dammit'). His contribution to metal is obvious. We've lost a leader but remember a mother has lost a son, and a sister and nephew have lost a brother and uncle. Keep them in your thoughts as you remember Chuck, our metal brother." -Gene Hoglan

"Our deepest condolences goes out to Chuck's family and loved ones. We share and feel you loss of a legend who meant a lot to thousands of people. May you conquer wherever you may be..." -Iscariah, on behalf of Immortal

"I remember talking with Chuck endlessly in the early days of Mantas and Death. We would talk about horror movies, fanzines and the metal scene. The funny thing is that we never referred to the music of Death or Necrophagia as death metal but instead horrorcore... Chuck always did things his way and never followed trends. He was always looking for ways to improve, even at the beginning. I'll miss him greatly... Darkest Regards." - Killjoy

"Chuck was one of the best death metal guitarists ever and always will be. Growing up listening to Chuck's songs has, in a way, made me the guitarist I am today.

  Once again one of the greatest has left this world but his music will always be with us and should be heard by everyone and I have no doubt it will inspire them as it dit for me." -Jari Kuusisto, Carnal Forge

"The one sworn in the metal wind... "We, the true ones from Lost Horizon, would like to pay you, Chuck, a final hail and salute on this world's side. Our paths have never crossed, but we shared the same flame... You are a brother in the magic that we, who see, hear and feel better than others partake, understand and gets fulfilled by. You were a man with great ambitions, talent, visions and a good heart. A man who consistently and passionately strived to develop and realize his visions, and did what he believed in and loved. A man who listened to and followed his inner voice. That damned paradox -the good guys die, while the human waste keep on living. Your passing away brings indescribable sorrow in your family's and in your friend's life. It deeply marks ours and many, many others' existence. You have given us some of that force, to value a little higher our seemingly miserable lives that we apparently wrongfully depreciates. And just so you know, your emotions, your thoughts, your music will inevitably live within all of those whose hearts you have filled. See you some day man, in an other time, in another space. "Let the force be with you!" -Lost Horizon

"We would like to dedicate our new album to the memory of Chuck Schuldiner, great musicain, composer and genius who has shown new ways in metal, technical music, full of expression and passion of creativity." -Marcin, Yattering

"Chuck has been one of the most influentual musicians in extreme music. There is not much I can say about him dying much too young, but I know that his spirit will live on in his music forever. We'll miss you Chuck!" -Mille, on behalf of Kreator

"We can add the name of Chuck Schuldiner to the sadly ever growing ranks of deceased metal legends who have died on the field of battle. So to a man who never compromised one iota and stayed true to the metal cause we'll rais a glass or two.. rest in peace brother..." - Nemtheanga, Primordial

  "I find all the Death albums great in their own way, and to hear that such a talented and important person as Schuldiner would have to end his life this early was a tragedy. I am amazed and impressed by the big interest from the metal scene in his struggle for life. Respect. RIP." -Patrik, Thyrfing

"Chuck was one of the innovators of death metal, and was not afraid to expand and experiment in his music as long as it was true to his soul and I always respected that, the quality of the musician that he was will be truly missed in our genre. I really did not know him personally but he will be missed by many. Rest in peace." - Erik Ruton, Morbid Angel/Alas

"Chuck was and still is one of my biggest vocal influences. His voice totally got me into what I did in Grave and now in The Project Hate. We got the chance to play a few shows with Death in '95 with Grave. We got drunk and started to play songs out of empty beer bottles. So we practised 'Infernal Death' and stormed into Death's backstage room and played it to a well stoned Chuck, hahaha... I'll always remember that laughter he burted out, hahaha... RIP Chuck and thanx!" -Jorgen Sandstrom, Entombed

"When I was informed of Chuck's passing I was deeply saddened, the music world has lost a true innovative talent and a man with a vision. Such personalities are rare in this business, he will be missed" -Jon Schaffer, Iced Earth

"Chuck Schuldiner was the pioneer of death metal, and influential in his way of capturing the true feeling of death. "Scream Bloody Gore" is one of the reasons I even started to play. This tragic event makes me even more committed to be a part of this great music scene." -Peter Stjornvind, Entombed

"The loss of Chuck has been devastating to all of those involved with him. I just hope that he can find some comfort knowing all of the people that he has affected." -Devin Townsend


Death weren't just pioneers in death metal, in Chuck Schuldiner they had the music's most passionate advocate, a restless soul determined to keep pushing the boundaries, regardless of the attitudes of others. The result was a journey of discovery, not just for him, but for all fans of metal; from the furious, roughly produced demos to the more worldly-wise, intricately layered textures of 'Symbolic' and beyond. Guy Strachan, Nathanael Underwood and Chris Chantler pay testament as they trace the history and enduring legacy of a legend.

The Demos 1984-1987

In these technologically advanced days, it would seem as though any bunch of talentless no-hopers can put out a record. The US music industry magazine Billboard reckoned that of some 288,591 records released during the year 2000, 205,212 (or 71 per cent) were released on indies. Yet that glut only accounted for fewer than 17 per cent of total record sales. So how does a band get itself noticed amongst all the other contenders? The answer is one that Death were to become the pioneers of; unleash a series of demo and rehearsal tapes onto the underground. 15 years ago, the tape-trading scene was massive, if only because it was the sole way of getting to hear the latest bands. Initially put out under the name of Mantas in the Summer of 1984, Death's first demo ('Death By Metal') was woefully under-produced and primitive but managed to catapult the band's name throughout the underground, going so far as to be rated second only to Possessed as the band most likely to break big.

In October of the same year with the band name now firmly established, the trio of Schuldiner Rick Rozz and Kam Lee released demo number two, 'Reign Of Terror'. Recorded in the back room of a local music store for a princely $80 and thus suffering from a terrible production, this was the demo that truly created the underground buzz that continued around the band up until their debut album. A live set was recorded on December 30 1984 at Ruby's Inn in Brandon, Florida and circulated through the taping network. Dubbed 'Slaughterhouse', the raw soundboard recording knocked 'ROT' into next year and fully revealed the trio's enormous technical capabilities.One trait of the band's desire to stay in constant contact with their legion of underground fans was their policy of releasing rehearsals of individual tracks upon their completion. Thus there are untold versions of tracks such as 'Open Casket', 'Aggressor', 'Mutilation' and 'Slaughterhouse' floating around on a myriad of rehearsal tapes, each version of which has a slight twist from the other.

March 1985 saw the recording, a tape that was intended only for prospective record companies yet still managed to find its way into the usual circles. Death's first proper (ie: mixed) demo, 'Infernal Death' marked the end of the original Schuldiner/Rozz/Lee line-up. Although the tape ultimately failed to get the band their heart's desire, it did gain them the addition of one Scott Carlson (Genocide/ Repulsion). This incarnation was sadly short-lived, although the band did find the time to tape a rehearsal session in mid-1985 that was released under the moniker of 'Back From The Dead'. Death's longest recording at that point, it also unveiled the future classic 'Beyond The Unholy Grave' for the first time. Despite now receiving accolades from fanzines around the world, the following 12 months saw Death nearly fall to pieces, what with an abortive attempt to form 'the fastest band ever' with Eric Brecht of DRI in San Francisco and then moving to Toronto in order to join Slaughter who were just about to record their 'Strappado' debut.

Having decided that he needed to play in his own band, Schuldiner hooked up with drummer Chris Reifert and in April 1986 the pair recorded the three-track 'Mutilation' demo. This would ultimately lead to the band realising the coveted signed band status as Combat quickly snapped them up and put them in the studio in July of that year to record their 'Scream Bloody Gore' debut. There was, however, one last twist to the story. As Combat ended up taking almost a year to release the album (it eventually hit US stores in May 1987) which could have harmed the band's sizable underground following, advance tapes of the original mix of 'SBG' were widely circulated at the end of 1986. Featuring a couple of tracks that ended up being dropped from the album and a slightly rawer and thinner sound than the eventual finished product, the tape ensured that 'SBG' sold healthily upon its release and fast became a classic. Having worked so well, it wasn't long before others went down the build up a following through multiple demos road. Morbid Angel are the most obvious example of a band who had a huge underground fanbase before Earache signed them, but the likes of Repulsion, Terrorizer and Necrovore are bands that remain legendary from their demo legacy.
Guy Stracha


Death 1987-1991

After their well-received demos, the band formerly known as Mantas set out to record their first and uninhibitedly primitive album 'Scream Bloody Gore'. Death's first official release in 1987 was without precedent in terms of the brutality of both its musical and lyrical content. Aged 16, Chuck had found a way to vent his enmity and rage for all that he saw as wrong in this world, and this initially took on the unsubtle form of one of the first few gore-orientated death metal albums. 'Leprosy' came as and unexpected leap in sonic maturity, as well as the perfected expression of rawness that was 'Scream Bloody Gore', as if its unmitigated brutality had been focused, honed and magnified. This perfected outcry of primal inhumanity, with its potent riffage, tearing vocals, ultra-brutal sound and bludgeon-minded approach to song arrangements, as much as it did totally blow my teenage mind, simply could not have prepared me for the ultimate assertion of focused Death metaldom that was 'Human' - or even, for that matter, the first gig I ever attended.

In terms of album chronology however, it is of course 'Spiritual Healing' which came first. Itself a concerted leap into the unknown, crammed with intricate and sombre melodies, it succeeded in achieving this once again utterly remarkable vault into musical maturity. Which brings us to what is, in my view, another important aspect of Chuck's approach and contribution that really came of age in 'Human'. I am of course talking about the fact that solos were an integral part of Death's songs, as opposed to some wanky extra performed by some widdling, hair-sprayed, fashion conscious commercial rock poseur brought in for the session.

'Human' was to be the blueprint for a generation of surgically precise and technical death metal albums both in terms of musicality and production. Often imitated, but clearly never even nearly equalled, 'Human' epitomised Schuldiner's ability to surround himself with the most apt crew of musicians to bring out the best in his creations. Steve DiGiorgio's exceptionally sick fretlessness, Paul Masvidal's rock solid rhythmical foundation and flawless lead work, and of course the purity of Reinhart's artfully seismic pumelling empowered the songs, and provided a musical incarnation for the subtly defined textures of this album. To put it simply, it shed new light on the brutally inhuman reality of what it really means to be 'Human'. Death's lyrics dealt with everything from the grotesque of the ordinary to the unspeakable extremes of sentient existence, their almost naive and gauche sincerity somehow enabling them to reflect the true meaning of the music.

And finally, in spite of the idiocy of some of his feeble-minded swamp-dwelling contemporaries (see Trey Azagthoth's comments on 'Individual Thought Pattern's in the 'Speed Demons Of Metal' special edition of Guitar For The Practicing Musician in 1994), Chuck has certainly forged his distinguished place in the never-ending creative chain of human artistic expression in more ways than one. He will be remembered through his music, will live on in that of others, as through the integrity which he inspires others to live by. Chuck Schuldiner RIP.
Nathanael Underwood


Death 1993-1995

By the time of 'Individual Thought Patterns' in 1993, the name of Chuck Schuldiner was being dragged through the mud by various European rumour-mill metal magazines, who had run several inaccurate and misleading stories, the flames fanned by various ex-colleagues with axes to grind, portraying Chuck as an unreliable, egotistical prima donna. The problem was made worse by an unsupportive label and financial problems with managers and promoters, but Chuck maintained a dignified silence, seeking solace in his music and his fans, who maintained their enormous faith and support throughout the campaign of vilification. On 'Individual Thought Patterns', Chuck used his music as his method of defiance: "I think of it as a big challenge to overcome all those who wanted to put me in a bad light and ruin me financially, with an unparalleled album, an album which brushes aside prejudices about me, an album to make people speechless and make them think: Chuck's right."Songs like 'Overactive Imagination' ("Like a plague your lies spread fast across the world/ Mastering the art of deception/ That increases your sick addiction") and 'Out of Touch' ("In time we'll see who lasts/ In time you will disappear/ Who are you to question my sincerity/ For now you are high on yourself") burn with a tangible emotive rage, bolstered by some of Chuck's best vocal and guitar performances and an intricate, dynamic new songwriting power.

In many interviews at the time Chuck stressed his dissatisfaction with the contemporary death metal scene, warning that it needed to adapt and mature if it was to survive. Though not only Death but also Carcass, Pestilence, Cynic and Entombed were moving the genre into new, unexplored areas, death metal's bubble had already well and truly burst. Even so, Chuck ran the risk of ridicule among the more backward-looking sections of his fan-base, stating in the first issue of Terrorizer in October 1993: "I think there's a definite lack of song-writing elements now, catchy hooks and stuff... I truly feel that I'm on a mission to bring back some of the elements that have been lost. I truly believe in this music and metal in general and I just want to see it kept alive, I really do. One way to help it is for more people to become more open-minded about metal in general." Behind Chuck on 'Individual Thought Patterns' were Andy La Rocque, Steve DiGiorgio and Gene Hoglan. This exciting line-up was, alas, to disintegrate soon after 'Individual...', though Gene stayed with Chuck to write the next chapter in Death's history. At last Chuck managed to get Death off of Relativity, where they had been neglected and under-promoted, and onto the much more suitable Roadrunner. Chuck and Gene, after having rehearsed new material for about nine months, recruited Kelly Conlon on bass and Bobby Koelble on guitar, and rehearsed together five days a week for what would eventually become the masterly 'Symbolic' album.

At the time, Chuck told Guitar World "'Symbolic' is our sixth album and I feel like things are just beginning for us. I'm compelled to keep moving ahead and coming up with new material - I'm more driven and excited than ever." This all-conquering sense of limitless possibilities ("Death wants to re-open the idea of unlimited musical potential within a seemingly limited musical genre") came across powerfully on the album. In 1995 I remember feeling quite perplexed by it. As time passed, though, 'Symbolic' made more and more sense. It continues to grow with every listen, the layered textures of dense, propulsive extreme-fusion and cosmic death-prog later echoed in the work of Emperor and Opeth, or the perfect marriage of soaring twin-guitar melody and heads-down DM brutality that had a thousand Swedes making frantic notes. 'Symbolic' was barely short of perfection; the most persuasive statement of Chuck's self-motivational urge to innovate, to progress and to save death metal from self-restricting clichés and bandwagon mentality. It was Death's proudest, deepest achievement. And in five years time, it will be even better than it is now. It's that kind of album.

Perhaps, then, it is unsurprising that when the Death line-up inevitably dissolved yet again after 'Symbolic', the band were put on indefinite hold while Chuck concerned himself with the more traditional power/prog sounds of his long-discussed side-project, eventually unveiled as Control Denied. For many years in the press he had been enthusing over Judas Priest, Nasty Savage, Dio, Anvil, QueensrØche, Dream Theater and Exciter, and with a different singer Chuck could finally explore these sounds to the full, unrestricted by the Death aesthetic.
Chris Chantler

The music of Chuck Schuldiner reached far beyond the confines of death metal. We heard from members of the hardcore community who took influence from the raw energy and attitude of Death, who all incidentally offered their services to the 'Scream Bloody Roar' Chuck benefit show long before his tragic passing. Ian Glasper helped gather their thoughts.

We (being my band, Stampin' Ground) were recently privileged enough to be asked to play a benefit show for Chuck Schuldiner, who at that time was desperately ill, and, most of us being huge Death fans, we instantly agreed. We're actually right in the middle of an enforced hiatus from live work, working on our next album, but we've made the odd exception for special shows, and this was definitely worth emerging from the rehearsal studio to do. At the time of writing this though, that show is still a week away, but now, with the tragic passing of Chuck, it has taken on a much more sombre tone, having become a memorial show to this (relatively) unsung hero, instead of a benefit, although obviously Chuck's loved ones will be in receipt of any profits generated by the event.So, instead of joining together in hope for his recovery, 'Scream Bloody Roar' has become a noisy wake, where we can indulge in some of the spirited thrashings Chuck helped propagate, and ponder for a while the words of wisdom, and the notes of chaos, he imparted.


I wonder if, when Chuck Schuldiner wrote that song, he realised the prophetic nature of the title? Already had, in fact. Right from his early demos as Mantas, his uniquely brutal approach to metal music was being digested and regurgitated the world over; and latterly, when he forged out into more technical realms, again, his work was analysed and applied in countless rehearsal pads around the world. Always ahead of his time, the legacy of music he left us will continue to inspire for many years to come. Even those too young to remember first-hand his earliest releases...

"I was only six years old when 'Scream Bloody Gore' came out," recalls Adam Sagir, bassist with London noisemongers Labrat, who are also representing at the Bradford show. "So I got into Death a lot later than most. As a teenager, I was influenced by bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, and they were all undoubtedly heavily influenced by Death. It was actually those bands that led me to Death; they were all wearing their t-shirts, thanking them on albums or mentioning them in interviews. But I wouldn't say that musically I ever drew too[$italics] heavily from Chuck. My band before Labrat was a death metal band that just basically plagiarised Carcass, early Sepultura and all the aforementioned bands, which kind of shows through on some of our more brutal bits, but if it wasn't for Death, none of us would have had anyone to copy!"

Of course, not everyone can even remember when they first heard Death - as demonstrated by Mark 'Hic!' Fieldhouse, vocalist with Freebase, one of the UK's leading old school hardcore bands, who were also invited to play the benefit gig. "The truth is, the first time that I probably heard Chuck's music was when I was pissed up with a load of friends listening to loads of thrash and death metal vinyl and cassettes. At that time the scene was ripe with new bands, and tapes to trade. I initially didn't pay that much attention to what I heard, and even when 'Scream Bloody Gore' came out, if I'm to be totally honest, I was not a real fan. "That all changed with the release of 'Leprosy'! I picked this vinyl up along with nine other albums the same day, and the only other record that I remember to this day from that lot was Meliah Rage's 'Kill To Survive'. Doesn't that speak volumes? 'Leprosy' struck an instant chord and stood out as such a powerful, aggressive, honest slab of vinyl that I was instantly converted to being a diehard fan of that album. At the time, I remember it being one of my most played records! Thrash was big... but this band topped it all. It was one of the first records I had bought that did not have one single bad track on it!" Adam agrees, both on the gut-wrenching power of 'Leprosy' and the less-than-instant hardcore appeal of 'Scream...' "The first time I heard Death was actually on a Terrorizer covermount CD [we didn't pay him to say that, honest - IG], and I'd be lying if I said I was instantly hooked - the track was from the 'Symbolic' album, not one of my favourites. It wasn't until I first heard 'Leprosy' about five years ago that I really got into them. You just can't fuck with that album, it's really stood the test of time and doesn't even sound dated next to newer bands like Nile or Cryptopsy!"


Mark mentioned tape trading above, and I'm sure that many of us first heard Death on an unmarked second-hand cassette, sent in the mail with a soaped stamp on the battered envelope! A far cry from the super-slick production and packaging of an accomplished album such as 'Symbolic', but it was the effort made to obtain those recordings that guaranteed them a lasting place in your memory. This wasn't something you could walk into a store and pull from the racks; like the most arcane knowledge, it was something you had to work for, beg for, and earn... Not to disrespect any of the incredibly talented musicians that Chuck worked with over the years (when you think about the people who helped flesh out Death, it reads like a veritable extreme metal Hall Of Fame: Gene Hoglan, Steve DiGorgio, Rick Rozz, Terry Butler, Bill Andrews, James Murphy, Sean Reinert, Paul Masvidal, Andy La Rocque... need I go on?), but he was the one who was[$italics] Death. He launched her all those years ago; he steered that vessel through all the turbulent waters when no one gave a fuck about death metal, when all Chuck's peers were labelling him a pariah to work with; he was the one constant in the band's career, and it was his vision that helped shape and reinvent the band so many times over, each time more challenging than the last. From the sledgehammer blast of 'Infernal Death' that ushered in that bubonic debut album, right up to the triumphant cover of 'Painkiller' that closed the curtain on 'The Sound Of Perseverance', Death were always unmistakably Death. Always ahead of the pack, never content to run with the hounds, Chuck always strove to create something new and exciting every time his band set foot in a studio, and it's testament to his vision that his last album remains, for me, his strongest. His most rounded and mature, where technical precision and hardcore aggression and all the other wonderful ingredients he'd brought to the table with previous line-ups, all came together in one spectacular neck-snapping metal meltdown!


What started out as a gratuitous glorification of death and all its gory trappings actually ended up as a celebration of life and the indomitable spirit to overcome all, despite the odds. In the space of 15 years, Chuck went from 'Sacrificial Cunt' to 'A Moment of Clarity'. It was an exhilarating ride along the way, but if you managed to hang on by your fingertips round some of the hairier corners, one that made perfect sense when the rollercoaster finally slowed to a halt. Over the years, Chuck Schuldiner touched many of us not only with his music, but also with his lyrics, and the way he dealt with his many detractors (not one of them fit to hold his snotty hankies) over the years. We watched his maturing from the spotty youth mouthing profanities for their sheer shock value ("They torture you by cutting off your cock... Pray if you want/ Pathetic rancid cunt" - 'Torn To Pieces') to a well-rounded human being struggling to find meaning behind his own existence ("Passion burns like fires in the wind/ The end of time/ A time to begin/ It builds you up one way/ And tears you back down" - 'Flesh And The Power It Holds'). Whilst his guitar tattooed its licks into your cerebral cortex, his words cut at your psyche; his doubts were your doubts, his fears were our fears, and a burden shared is a lighter load to bear. And therein lies the beauty that is within even the ugliest of music. I wonder what Chuck would say if he could read these tributes to his works? Aw, shucks, thanks everybody? Or fercrissakes stop reminiscing about yesterday and get on with living today?

"Oh, definitely the latter; make sure that you enjoy yourself," reckons Mark. "Do as you like, not just as your friends or associates or whoever are saying you oughta do. No one knows your life span; LEARN, ACHIEVE, and ENJOY as much as you can. Live each day as if it was your last."
"From my point of view, he seemed to have a dedication to metal that very few can claim to have," says Adam Labrat, on the subject of the huge, yawning void Chuck's passing has left in the metal scene. "He'd been thrashing away for over 18 years, barely making enough money to live, but still carried on. He died without enough money to pay his medical bills. He was a more than competent guitarist and could have made a fortune doing session work if he so desired, but he stuck to his guns and it's that indestructible metal spirit that I'll miss most."
We'll leave the last words to a true modern day philosopher in his own right (!), Mark Freebase: "All I'm gonna say is this... if you don't have 'Leprosy', 'Spiritual Healing' and 'Human' in your collection, shame on you!"

A live review of 'Scream Bloody Roar' will appear next issue.


to memorial

EmptyWords-Published on March 25 2002