Magazine: Watt / Netherlands
Article: Death / Het keurmerk uit Florida
Published: # April 1995

Written by: Robert Heeg
Translated by: Yvonne Kluitman
Revised edition (04-10-99)


With Symbolic, Death, or rather Chuck Schuldiner, already delivers a sixth album. The disputed character of the man has been little more than an afterthought for years now, due to the quality albums he makes with clock-like regularity. For Death in 1995 it’s new rounds, same chances.

The words of Patrick Mameli –known from Pestilence in the distant past- buzz through my head as Death’s frontman Chuck Schuldiner calls me. “That voice…”, was how our national death metal genius once described the sound that his arch-rival Chuck Schuldiner brings forth in a conversation. And indeed, in big contrast with the primeavel grunt known on stage and CD, the one that brought the Floridian the nickname “Evil” Chuck, is this man’s syrupy speaking voice. Many times over the past years “that voice” told me how much better the line-up and CD of the moment were compared to the previous Death incarnations. And equally as many times he was right indeed.

We’ll leave aside for the time being whether or not super super cool guitarist Bobby Koelble’s solos completely outwits his illustrious predecessors, such as Cynic’s Paul Masvidal and King Diamond’s Andy LaRoque, or whether Kelly totally cool Conlon plays the bass tighter than Sadus’ virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio. One good thing though is that the huge drum monster Gene “God” Hoglan is still in the band, which makes Chuck a privileged bandleader. “Gene belongs to Death, he and I are a good team. We share the same background, our roots go back to the metal of the early eighties. Gene is as much the bandleader as I am (certainly with his former band Dark Angel-RH), I never tell him what to do. I give him some riffs and then he comes along with some killer drum parts! Our goal is the same: create something new, something with a huge impact. I hope Gene stays forever. Fortunately Bobby and Kelly are into our attitude as well, they both love heavy as well as progressive. And the best part is that they’re from Orlando. For the first time I have the feeling to be part of a real band, finally I have musicians that I can hang out with after work.”

Symbolic continues the progression with what the Human (’91) carcass started (apologies for the metaphor in this context-RH), and what was so brilliantly deepened on Individual Thought Patterns (’93). Death’s exciting mix of progressive musical power and brutal aggression is miles ahead of the more traditional rivals Morbid Angel and Obituary. But Chuck doesn’t want to take it as far as the technicians of Cynic and Atheist. Balance is the word. “I hope to break some bounderies again with Symbolic and to underline my roots more with every record at the same time, the latter expresses itself in a growing feeling for melody. Death certainly won’t make the same record twice, I’ll make sure of that. Balance is delicate, it’s easy to screw up. I know the phenomenon because many of my favorite bands made this mistake (laughs). You must know that we are big fans ourselves, I know what it’s like to be disappointed or to have to wait four years for an album. Being a fan helps both feet stay on the ground. Bands that change styles halfway through their career and slate the metal they played two years before is vicious. Music is so important in the daily life of many fans, that they get angry when you cheat them. You build up trust, people invest time and money in you, and when you all of a sudden change your style you violate that personal connection. You’ll never see me do that. It’s my dream to once make a traditional metal album, preferably with Ronnie James Dio on vox, but I will never do that under the name of Death.”

It’s daring enough that Chuck, after having made three albums with pre-eminent death metal producer Scott Burns, moved on to Jim Morris. Although both producers work in the death metal mecca Morissound, it was Burns who got the buck passed at first as the death metal market began collapsing. Despite all critisism on Burns’ line production, Schuldiner stayed faithfull to him all the time. That is up till Symbolic. What would the teased producer have said? “Et tu Brute?” And does Chuck’s deep sigh give away a gnawing conscience? “I don’t hope this step has damaged our friendship, he’s in the bad books enough already. Yes it was a difficult moment, I felt bad. But on the other hand it was time for something else and we very much wanted to work with Jim Morris for once. Jim worked with so many different people, and that’s apparent in his professional approach. The difference in sound between ITP and Symbolic is a difference between night and day. Death had to move on and I’m convinced it was the best for Scotty as well to do something else.”

“Evil” Chuck gossiped about co-workers, they gossiped back, he denied, they did as well, he was at odds with everything and everybody (Mameli can’t claim exclusivity in this), he canceled an entire tour, but in the end Chuck Schuldiner will be the one laughing. For the time being, Symbolic leaves every vulture behind in a cloud of dust. Nothing but picked bones are their share.

Robert Heeg


to talks

Edited for Empty©Words 04-27-05