Magazine: Terrorizer / UK
Article: Symbol Of Salvation

Written by: Rob Clymo
Published: early '95



"We're thrilled like never before", beams a highly animated Chuck Schuldiner, the pioneering guitarist and frontman for Florida's celebrated heavyweights DEATH. "It's like a fresh beginning for us actually with everything that has been going on. It's a new record, new producer, Jim Morris, and it was great working with him, new record label because we're on Roadrunner now, so yeah, it's like everything is going hand in hand, definitely". Yep, DEATH are back big time, with, as he says, a new deal, new members and a fabbo new album in the shape of Symbolic. Things have definitely picked up a little since the last time I spoke with Chuck. Back then, internal problems were taking their toll it seemed...

"Yeah, thank God", says Chuck with a sigh. "There were years on that label (Relativity) spent being neglected, we got totally thrown to the side. So finally I guess Relativity didn't want to have any metal bands, we were the last of any metal or hard rock bands that they had, so for the last album they totally did nothing for. Roadrunner had been interested for a while so we made the deal with them. It took a while but we finally got off and now we're on Roadrunner officially".

"Our last album, (Individual Thought Patterns) did great in Europe", adds Chuck reflecting on the situation. "We did some really great tours, and it also did good in the States considering that we really got no tour support or anything from Relativity. We did the whole tour by ourselves. But the press has really picked up over here and there's been a lot of magazines taking notice of us over the past year".

"We toured with Gorefest on the last US tour", adds Chuck on their previous on the road stint Stateside. "They're super cool and we had a great time, definitely..." But as the man says, Symbolic does see DEATH bringing in some ideas, not least of which is the fact that they've linked up with Jim Morris for the first time following a recording history with fellow Morrisound man Scott Burns. Was that a conscious decision to get away from that "sound"?

"Well, Scott had prior obligations", informs the guitarist. "That he didn't want to break. So we just moved forward and my first choice was absolutely Jim, who I definitely wanted to work with for some time now, it's always been in the back of my mind. It was killer and we're definitely gonna be working with Jim again on the next record. Jim has so much experience with different types of music, and that's what we need, because we're not just one type of band. I think we have several different things to offer and we needed a producer who has worked with different types of stuff, stuff that we've wanted to achieve that's why this record turned out so well". Jim has certainly worked with a lot more, shall we say, 'traditional' metal bands. So was this a calculated decision to maybe shift away from Scott whose basically renowned for doing the death metal stuff?

"Well, it just worked out great that's all", says the fretster. "I think everything happens for a reason, and working with Jim was perfect, because he totally knew where we were coming from, his background with traditional heavy metal stuff, he'd been used to working with big sounds, which is what we wanted on this record, we didn't want it to sound compressed, big drums, real guitars, everything just back to the basics, a real record, and I think we achieved that". Not only that, this album also sees two recruits into the DEATH fold. What's the deal there I wonder because Chuck has a reputation for working with somebody different on every album...

"That's another development", furthers the guitarist. "Unfortunately people don't always seem to realize that it's not always my decision to keep people in the band. I can't force people to stay in this band, like Steve (Digiorgio - bass), we really tried to make him stay but he didn't want to, so either we fill the void or we don't have a bass player, ha! We have to get a new one, but we were with Steve for two records and it's definitely sad to see him leave when you know someone so well. He's a really good bass player but it's just a matter of finding the right person. It took me a while, I got in touch with some friends of mine from a band called Pain Principle who're from Orlando, I called them up and said that Steve had left the band and we really needed a bass player and they gave me the number for Kelly Conlon, and he was totally familiar with all our material, he came in and played a bunch of stuff with me and Gene (Hoglan - drums). He's a very positive person too which is really great, you need positive people around, so that worked out great. Then as soon as we realized Andy (LaRoque) wasn't gonna be able to make it on this record, we started making phone calls again. I knew Bobby (Koelble - guitar), I'd actually met him when I was 16 in high school via mutual friend. He was a killer guitarist when I met him ten years ago, heard he was still around Orlando, did dome investigating and here we are, it's really weird but it's worked out great". But does it ever get demoralizing having to kind of start all over again?

"Well I don't think about it like that", reckons the guitarist. "These people are totally professional and have learned everything really quick, note for note, even when they were trying out. We were really impressed with these guys, they're killer and it's definitely a step in the right direction. For me it's not a hassle having to teach new people stuff, especially if they're familiar with the band already. Like I said, everything happens for a reason, and these guys don't have obligations to any other bands like Steve had and stuff. It feels very natural right now". So how far does he look ahead - does he envisage recording with this line-up again?

"Oh yeah, absolutely", confirms Chuck. "That's what we're planning, without a doubt..." Obviously Gene has been in the band for a while now though, so did he have any kind of hand in the writing of the material this time around? "Well Gene plays drums, and he wrote all the drum stuff like last time", explains the mainman. "I write the riffs and then give the tapes to Gene and tell him to go with it, which he does. Gene's the master on drums! I have total faith and he's kicked ass with the drumming on the new record, he doesn't need to be told what to do and we have a great working relationship". The latest Roadrunner biography has quoted Chuck as saying that the lyrics are definitely less angry this time around too - he's feeling better in himself about the way events for DEATH are going now as opposed to previously?

"Definitely", enthuses Chuck. "Absolutely. Things are much more organized now and organization is crucial, to have professional people working for you. Things are much more different now, definitely. So yeah, the lyrics are much less angry, and also still dealing with reality, things that say life is not perfect, for anyone, so there are definitely a lot of things to continue lyrically that I feel strongly about. We got a lot of mail in on the last record from people who really were into what I'm singing about, and that to me is the ultimate feeling to be able to connect on this level". Unlike some bands it seems...

"Well a lot of times in metal that just doesn't happen", he says. "Lyrically for some people especially. A lot of times there's just not that connection. I would rather deal with reality and that to me is very intense, just like life". But saying that, does he ever feel a little stifled by the framework of DEATH - does he feel limited by what he can do within that spectrum?

"Absolutely not", he states. "DEATH has never been about that, I think it's plain to see on the new record too. There are no limits, you're only limited by however far you want to be limited, and we're all very open minded. Gene has got a lot of different background influences and so do I, Bobby and Kelly as well and we're all into moving forward and pushing ourselves musically. We're beyond satisfied with what we're doing musically right now, and luckily people seem to enjoy it out there which is what counts. We've got a good thing going, definitely". He's well known for being into the older, more traditional metal styles, and I hear quite a lot of stuff creeping into Symbolic from the same kind of era - is it getting too difficult to resist doing that now?

"Ha, no it's just natural", laughs Chuck. "And it just keeps coming out more and more on each record, it's always been there definitely, it's just creeping out a little on each record. It's just part of my background and what's inspired me, absolutely". So would he say he shares much in common with today's music scene or does he prefer to languish in the past?

"I feel like an old fogey", laughs the fretster. "Nah, you know, I really like to break out the records that inspired us but I also really try to keep up with things, like the new Mercyful Fate album sounds really cool, the new Dream Theatre is killer, new Slayer, cool... the new Queensryche is very disappointing. I've heard that from lots of people. I've waited four years and it seems too long for that they actually put out. They should have had a triple record coming out, ha ha! No, that's just my opinion. But I definitely try and go out and keep up with records and the music of today because obviously I don't want to live in the past but at the time it's just like my parents. When I grew up you'd see them playing records that they'd enjoy that's how I'm getting now, I still love listening to that early eighties metal and that's where it all came from and today's music got started from. I think it's gonna come back full circle personally, the roots of metal". But then other people say that things just look set to get more extreme?

"Well, I don't care how extreme someone goes, it can be nothing at this point because it's been done a trillion times before", adds the guitarist. "We've seen it over the last twelve years. I remember five years ago people were saying death metal was absolutely dead, and people really can't say something can't come back, y'know? Because it does, it really does, just like the seventies vibes, that stuff came back really strong over the last couple of years, and I really hope the traditional stuff comes back and that people aren't scared of melody, because they can keep it heavy at the same time. I think the scene always needs that bit of variety anyway. As a fan I look for variety, definitely". Funnily enough, I point out to Chuck that the original Venom line-up is reportedly getting back together, although cynics might add that it appears to be more to do with the money that's involved. What did he think to that being a long time fan of the original incarnation of that band?

"That's what I heard and that's God man, I'd love to see that", he enthuses. "But the money thing sucks! I'd love to see Venom though, especially the original line-up. I've never seen Venom play actually, but hell yeah, if they ever played near me I'd be there absolutely. That's incredible". And finally, a lot of people have spent a lot of time impersonating DEATH over the years but who would he say has been the most blatant about it? - c'mon Chuck, we want names here.

"Oh, I don't know", he laughs. "I'm not gonna say any names, that's a trouble question there. No, it's flattering though, it's the ultimate thing if someone has been inspired by us, God I never thought we'd do that, it's a great thing to have said about you. I don't care if someone has ripped us off, really, if anything that's really cool, definitely..." Symbolic hits the racks on the 27th of March!


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Edited for Empty©Words 04-01-07