Tribute to Chuck Schuldiner of Death/Control Denied - The Godfather of Death metal

13/12/2017 Metal Gods Share

In December 13 2001,Chuck Schuldiner, the godfather of death metal had died. He was without a doubt one of the most influential musicians in the history of heavy metal music. His loss left a huge gap in the world of music, and in our hearts, as well. He was born in May 13th 1967 in New York. His family moved to Florida in 1968, and Chuck got his first guitar at the age of 9 or to be more precise, in 1976, which coincided withthe  death of his 16-year-old brother.  With the death of a loved one, the guitar became his faithful companion. Little did he know that he would become a guitar prodigy in the years to follow. „My first record was "Destroyer" by Kiss. That album changed my life. Actually, I didn´t buy it by myself but I got it as a Christmas present and I brightly remember that magic feeling in my heart which probably anybody cannot know [I would think that the translation of this would be "...feeling in my heart which everybody probably knows"]. I was almost weeping with joy. It still brings this beautiful feeling to my heart. It was the most beatiful period of my life and that was the time I decided to become a musician” Chuck stated.

 Early days and Scream Bloody Gore era

As Chuck's interest in music grew stronger, he decided to make his own band called Mantas. To know what Chuck Schuldiner's musical vision was, we must be familiar with his musical influences. He was pretty fond of bands like Black Sabbath,Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Queensryche, Watchtower, Raven, Anvil, Exciter, Angel Witch, Torch (Sweden), Satan, Manowar (:S)  etc. It is not surprising to see how with every record, Death became more and more melodic to a point where some of the fans just couldn’t understand the progression from Scream Bloody Gore on one side, to The Fragile Art of Existence on the other. Chuck even stated:  „Nobody can say we all of a sudden went wimpy just because we play decent leads and melodies. They have always been there and will always differ Death from others.

He was striving for his own, original music and didn't want to play „Motley Crue covers or somethin idiotic like that.“ . When he was 15, in 1983, Chuck started a band called Mantas(named after a Venom guitarist of the same name) with Kam Lee and Rick Rozz. In 1984 this lineup recorded the infamous Death by Metal demo which is without a doubt, one of the most brutal pieces of music at that time. To some, this demo is the very first death metal release. „It was just Rick, Kam and myself - we didn't even have a bass player back then. That's when we recorded Mantas' Death by Metal demo in my mother's garage on that old Panasonic radio (which by the way is still in the possesion of Rick Rozz who still uses it to record Massacre practices, but that's another story). Those were some good old days - actually I think about those times quite often. Though we've certainly come a long way since those early days, it seems like things were a lot simpler back then.”Chuck recalled. The band was trying to play the most extreme, shocking, and aggressive music ever and to outdo their predecessors as well. And that was probably everyone’s goal in the 80s. Mantas used to do photo shoots with makeup and fake blood. Chuck and friends were even sending photos of dead rats to a band called Genocide to prove how extreme they were. However, you have to give a credit to Kam Lee whose brutality on vocals was unheard of at the time. However, Chuck’s vocals can still be heard in the song Power of Darkness. And he was not to be trifled with. In the end, Kam Lee even left the band because Chuck wanted to take over the vocal duties (which makes perfect sense, right?). Speaking of music, the similarity of the main riff in Legion of Doom and Spiritual Healing’s  practice what you preach riff is striking! And of course, Beyond the Unholy Grave and Evil Dead were brutal enough to end up on Death’s debut album.

The flourishment of horror movie industry was strongly felt in the early death metal movement. It is no mere coincidence that Chuck gave the band a new name (Death) after watching a horror classic Evil Dead. According to the book Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal, the very first Death gig was on New Year’s eve in 1984 with Nasty Savage in Florida. But soon afterRick Rozz left the band and  then Chuck wanted to merge Death with fellow Genocide (first band of Repulsion’s front man Scott Carlson)in spring of 1985. The lineup was: Chuck Schuldiner, Scott Carlson, Matt Olivo and Kam Lee. Funny enough, Kam Lee once again left the band and Death became drummerless, which lead to Scott Carlson and Matt Olivo's  departure. Luckily, those two continued with the cult grindcore band Repulsion. At that moment, Chuck was the only guy in the band and he moved in to California where he jammed with the drummer Eric Brecht, the brother of Kurt Brecht of D.R.I. Of course, that didn't last long and then Chuck got an invitation from a Canadian band Slaughter to join them which he did in January of 1986.  That lasted for about 10 days and Chuck went home disappointed. Chuck Schuldiner became a strongly determined musical nomad who was doing everything to make his dreams come true. Finally, he went to California once again where he met Chris Reifert (the drummer of Autopsy).

Chris Reifert: I met him in early 1986 when he was living here in the Bay Area. Probably around March or so. He had placed a radio ad looking for band members so I called him up and we hit it off right away.He asked what bands I liked and I remember mentioning SlayerKreatorArtillerySodom and stuff like that. We got together and next thing I knew, I was in the band!.He adds: Funny as it sounds now, we couldn't find any other band members at that time. We tried but got no results. That shows you how weird death metal was back then. It was strictly for freaks. 

Chuck Schuldiner: Well, when I first moved to California back in late '85, the scene was just starting to flourish. There were lots of places to play, and the fan support was just overwhelming. Unfortunately, as time went by, most of the clubs closed down and the scene just sort of died out. I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to get a band together there, so I decided to go back to Florida, I told Chris he could move back down with me, but he said he didn't want to.

Death recorded the infamous Mutilation demo in L.A. with Randy Burns as a producer.

Chris ReifertMutilation was actually recorded in Lafayette, which is up here in the Bay Area, but yeah, we did Scream Bloody Gore in L.A. As I said earlier, Chuck was in California looking to find a new lineup for Death.Fortunately for me he was 20 minutes away from where I lived at the time.

Finally, in the summer of 1986, Chuck had entered a studio to record his debut album Scream Bloody Gore. After some technical difficulties, the record label decided that this album should be recorded in the Music Grinder studio with Randy Burns as a producer. Oddly enough, Steve DiGIorgio was a potential bass player for Scream Bloody Gore but he didn’t want to join Death because of his own band, Sadus. TIme has shown the importance of this record. It is one of the most influential death metal releases which to some really is the very first death metal record of all time. But Chuck Schuldiner did not agree with that.  When he was asked to give his own opinion whether he sees himself as the father of death metal, Chuck stated:

This is a complete mistake; I am not the one. People say that a lot, but it is not true. There were bands that played this stuff that we later tried, bands that were presented as extreme metal. I started, considering Death as a metal band, I hadn’t heard the term “Death Metal”. Later, we were categorized as this type. Of course, “Seven Churches” by Possessed came out earlier than “Scream Bloody Gore”. I think that people forgot that Possessed were extremely brutal with characteristics such as easily-remembered riffs and classic construction of songs. That’s what we wanted. I believe that Possessed deserve a lot more mention than Death do. Personally, I consider myself to continue the tradition of metal, I like putting it this way, I am tired of hearing death metal this and death metal that. I don’t want to get stuck in closed paths, this is apparent on our new album. Death moves on, hugging its roots, I am trying to bring melodic elements in extreme music. I grew up listening to bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Raven, Judas Priest, Manowar, the most of these bands are melodic, nevertheless, I always enjoyed the aggression of Slayer, the band that I consider my main influence: Fast riffs, double bass drum and double lines on bass, I always liked all these in combination with melody. Slayer maintain their style, they are the kings of extreme sound, they are faithful to what they are doing.

But even Chuck Schuldiner can make mistakes, can’t he? (haha) Lyrically speaking, Scream Bloody Gore was in-your-face blood & gore themed death metal which has to do a lot with Chuck's interest in horror movies. It kinda seems that if it weren't for the rise of horror industry in the 80s, there would have been no death metal as we know it. Lyrics come to me from watching cool gore flicks or just from my mind. Especially when I'm fucked up! That's when I write good music also. young Chuck stated. He also said in an1989 interview:   I'm really not interested in it all, to tell you the truth. We had some Satanic lyrics back in the old days, but most of those were written by our former drummer/vocalist Kam Lee. As soon as he left the band I kind of took control of that side of things, since I'm the vocalist now. My lyrics are based more on the subject of death and real-life gore. I get a lot of ideas from seeing gore flicks. For example, "Torn To Pieces" is about the movie "Make Them Die Slowly", and "Scream Bloody Gore" is about "Re-animator"."And if you add the fact that the movies like Evil Dead,  City of the Living Dead (a.k.a. The Gates of Hell), The Beyond&The Zombie you have to agree that the horror industry created an avalanche of gore obsessed death metallyrics. You just cannot imagine that Cannibal Corpse would exist without this record (and a bunch of horror movies), can you?

When I wrote those early lyrics, especially on Scream Bloody Gore, I was 18 and thought a lot differently. And the gore was really the thing I wanted to get across. I always wanted to avoid the Satanic deal, 'cause I'm not into that. So, gore was cool for a couple of albums, but to be taken on a serious level, I think you need to write stuff that people can relate to. People can't relate to a zombie eating somebody's arm off or something. It just doesn't happen in real life. So, I like dealing with real life situations – said Chuck.

 Leprosy era

In 1987, Chuck formed a new lineup which consisted ofthe classic Massacre lineup, featuring Rick Rozz, Bill Andrews and Terry Butler. The band soon went on a US tour, played at the very first Milwaukee Metal fest and then entered Morrisoud studio to record the second Death album, Leprosy.  Leprosy was pretty much what old school death metal was all about in terms of music. Even on that record, Chuck's riffs were getting more and more melodic, which in the end became the trademark of his musical legacy. When asked about the lyrics on this album, Chuck said: ...- on 'Leprosy', they'll be more realistic than on our debut album. I found it easier to write about real life and I think they appeal to a lot of people. In this world too many things happen that are worth being written about. All you need to do is to open a newspaper or turn the TV on.Still, Leprosy was more brutal and eerie when compared with its predecessor, and it also had better production. And we have to thank Dan Johnson and Morrisound for that. The snare drum on Leprosy is easily recognized within seconds. Chuck’s vocals on that one sound as if he was transformed into a Nazgul of some sorts. That album was also the last to feature the whammy bar molester i.e.  Rick Rozz on the guitar.Soon after  Leprosy came out, the band’s performance was recorded  for Ultimate Revenge 2 video, featuring Forbidden, Faith or Fear, Death, Dark Angel, and Raven. Right then, Chuck had a dispute with Dark Angel, but that is also the moment when he met the legendary Gene Hoglan. Who knows what would have happened in the future if it weren’t for that incident.

                In 1989, Chuck wanted to expand his musical vision. He wanted to record a death metal album with cleaner, more polished production, but he was also searching for a new guitarist with shredding capabilities. Even Paul Masvidal, the mastermind of Cynic was in the band for a while:

Paul Masvidal: We had an established relationship by then, and were in touch. So, when he was touring Leprosy and parted with Rick Rozz, he contacted me asking if I could fill in for the dates in Mexico. I also toured with Chuck for some dates on the Spiritual Healing tour after he had parted with James Murphy.

 Spiritual Healing era

Soon after, James Murphy, one of the greatest metal mercenaries came into picture.  When he joined the band, Chuck already had 4 songs written: Living Monstrosity, Altering the Future, Defensive Personalities and Spiritual Healing (Altering and Defensive were co-written with Terry Butler).  It is important to note that this is the last album to feature an additional songwriter in Death.  Of course, James Murphy took part in writing the rest of the songs plus he did amazing job as a solo guitarist. Spiritual Healing was his first studio experience (before that, he only toured with Agent Steel in Europe). On this album, Chuck Schuldiner wanted to get rid of blood & gore lyrics and started to focus on society-related topics.   It's funny how Chuck looks upon his previous lyrical effort:  Seven years down the line we are just taking it one step further. I mean I know that there are still people who don't see us as a serious group but hopefully we will be the first death metal act to break free from the sort of barriers that are pretty much levelled on this genre from the OUTSIDE. With 'Spiritual Healing' we are putting out complex and involved music that we are VERY serious about. Admittedly that hasn't been the case with the whole band before and it's a pity that part of our career is captured permanently on vinyl. All I can do is apologise on behalf of myself and the band, something you just have to live and learn.  Some may say that Chuck went into thrash metal mode for writing the lyrics on SpiritualGenetic Reconstruction has, by far, the greatest lyrics on that album. That song deals with Chuck’s technophobic vision of future which was later perfectlypreserved in the lyrics of 1000 eyes (and just for the record, Chuck hated internet and computers in the years that followed). This song also deals with eugenics, and race of human machines without emotions . So it can be described as Equilibrium meets 1984.

 

Spiritual Healing is also an album that closed one chapter of Chuck Schuldiner’s career, meaning that the old school death metal days are over. But what’s the most striking is the fact that Spiritual Healing was seen as a sell-out album by the fans and other death metal bands as well, mostly because of its polished production and lyrics that have nothing to do with blood & gore, nor satanism. Some even went too far to say that he is not even death metal anymore"My feeling on "Spiritual..."? I'm throughly proud of it. I think it set new standards for production on a death metal album. It is a death metal album, despite what these new breeds go around saying about my material. I don't think someone who is so narrow-minded that they have to listen to only one type of music can talk shit about me. I've been in the scene for years and years, I have supposedly influenced a lot of people, which is great. The thing is, how can people go around saying "Spiritual.." isn't a death metal album? I take that personally, because I know it's a death metal album. What is death metal though? These days, death metal is something that people label as limited. I hear people say that if you're not a million miles per hour and satanic, you're not death metal, and that's not my idea of what death metal is. Death metal is a feel, a sound, not a limited instrument deal, or limited production deal.”...Scott (Burns) gave us a clean sound on "Spiritual...", and that's what we wanted. Did that make it wimpy? I don't understand that, the riffs were brutal, my vocals were still brutal. They're pronounced better, which is difficult to do in this type of vocal style, and in my opinion, that was an accomplishment right there. I care about my lyrics, I spend time on my lyrics, just like fucking homework man, it's a pain in the ass, but it means a lot. Some bands don't care , some bands think, if you don't sing about satan... How limited satan is. How many times can I sing about demonic angels killing nuns? That's lame, I've never sang about it and I never will.

 

1990 was a cathartic year for Chuck in so many ways.  After the US tour, James Murphy had left the band. Chuck was tired of touring and had some personal issues at the time. All the pressure was put on Chuck because Death didn’t have a manager at the time and Chuck was handling a lot of stuff by himself:  If I would have gone to Europe, I would have probably lost it. I was at the end of my rope. The US tour was very stressful. Because we don't have a manager, I am always the one being saddled with the problems. Another reason why people look at me as the bad guy, because I take care of the comercial side of the band. When somebody takes advantage of us I am the one to get things back in order again. Then it's always: "what a windbag!". That's always being pinned on me. "Chuck this, Chuck that!" However, I am just asking things normally a manager of the band would do. Like I said, all of a sudden it just became too much for me."He was also fed up with touring: “We came home very stressed and disappointed. Disappointed because we came across a scene we didn'tlike at all. I think for a lot of kids nowadays music isn't the most important anymore. They just go to a concert to let go of their aggression. Many of them aren't interested at all in the band and the music. When I go to a gig it wouldn't even occure to me to destroy the bands equipment, let alone disturb the show in any way. At some gigs of our US tour the kids were totally out of control and spitted at us on stage. As a professional musician I just can't appreciate that, I take the music seriously.  In the meantime, the rest of the band wanted to go on a tour with Kreator in Europe without the godfather of death metal himself. The rest of the  band turned back on Chuck.  His and Death’s name was defamed by negative press and rumors which portrayed him as a psychotic monster, a dictatorial lunatic within the band. The rumors were that he was in a mental institution while the rest of the band was on tour, that he quit Death, that he wanted to start a glam band etc. It is pretty amazing that Chuck didn’t disband Death for good.

 Human era

Chuck Schuldiner: When this new DEATH album comes out, there's gonna be a lot of words. This album is revenge for me. For myself, to prove myself, and to make other people look like the liars that they are. The truth will be revealed when this album comes out.

1991 was a new beginning for Chuck Schuldiner& Death. Due to the lineup problems and problems with the music business itself, Chuck decided to write his music all by himself. The new lineup was stronger than ever. Paul Masvidal was behind the  guitar duties, Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus)  finally joined the band (even though he could have been Death’s bass player since the Scream Bloody Gore album) while the new drummer was Sean Reinert of Cynic. In 1991, after records like Suffocation’s Effigyof the Forgotten, Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence, Cynic’s Roadrunners demo, Morbid Angel’s Blessed are the Sick&Pestilence’s Testimony of the Ancients, Gorguts’ Considered Dead... It seemed like death metal had  reached its peak. No one would ever dream that all the thrash & death metal bands will be wiped out by the grunge movement just two years later. However,  91’ is a year of technical death metal and of course, Chuck Schuldiner and Death were  part of it. It’s funny to see how present day technical stuff sounds generic &  robotic which is exact the opposite of Human, Death’s best selling record.To Chuck, this album was a statement, a revenge! like he said in the inner sleeve of Human.

Chuck Schuldiner: All I have to say is, when this record is released, there's gonna be a lot of people eating their words. This album is revenge for me. For myself, to prove myself, and to make other people look like the liars that they are. The truth will be revealed when this album comes out." 

It’s funny to see how even though he was going through personal and professional hell, Chuck managed to create an album like Human.  Old school death metal riffs were a relic of the past. On this record, Chuck and the rest of the band raised the bar pretty high even for present day standards. Chuck wasn’t even listening to death metal at the time. He was into bands like Lush or Spandau Ballet.  His musical vision at the time was not limited to heavy metal only.

Paul Masvidal: Chuck was open to trying new things and looked to us to get there. We were ultimately in service of doing whatever necessary to articulate Chuck's vision with the songs, and certainly played a role in how we contributed and performed on them. In other words, it would have been a completely different record had three other musicians played on it and he was expanding his musical palette during this period.

A lot of the stuff was recorded in one take. Sean Reinert’s drumming was so intense that Gene Hoglan(while listening to Human for the first time) said something like: I don’t want to be the drummer in this band. The album was mixed and recorded by Scott Burns (the father of all death metal bands) in Morrisound studios.The only flaw on Human are the bass lines, buried deep down in the mix. It is Steve DiGiorgio and his crazy bass work (which sounds as the guy was playing lead guitar all the time) what makes Human even more masterful and technical. Too bad we had to wait until 2011 to hear that.  Sadly, Steve DiGiorgio left the band because he was too busy with Sadus and was replaced by Scott Carino who took part in writing of Cosmic Sea. He also appeared in the Lack of Comprehension video. That was Chuck’s big FUCK you to whole PMRC thing and Tipper Gore, the most hated person in the world of music. Lyrics for that song were inspired by Judas Priest’s trial,held  because some kids, who were Judas Priest fans, committed suicide. Of course, the media and politicians blamed metal gods  for it and  started to wage their war on metal via mass media. Therefore, one of Chuck’s main goals was to get rid of the satanic and evil stigma heavy metal had, partially due to the „lack of comprehension“ of the public opinion  for any kind of underground movement, and partially because some bands were into satanic and blood & gore stuff. You just can’t expect more from a guy who wanted to become a vet  or a cook if his music career fails and who also wrote a song about cats and dogs (I bet you don’t know which song that is!)

Individual Thought Patterns era

In 1992 Death toured with Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Dismember and Pestilence. But soon after that, Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal left Death due to the commitment to their own band. Chuck was looking for a new lineup. He wanted Bobby Koelble as the guitar player but couldn’t find his phone number at the time. One of the potential shredders for the upcoming record was Akira Takasaki, the guitarist of a Japanese metal band Loudness. But that never happened. Chuck got in contact with Gene Hoglan, the drummer of Dark Angel and started writing music for Individual Thought Patterns. Then, he contacted Andy LaRocque, the guitarist of King Diamond who has agreed to play leads on the upcoming record. Bass duties were given to Steve DiGiorgio who this time had a  proper& loud enough bass sound and had an opportunity to show who he really is musically. Once again, the album was recorded by Scott Burns in Morrisound studios. Gene and Steve got invitation to play in Death on a permanent basis but Steve declined because he became a father and didn’t want to tour with the band.Then, Chuck invited a pretty unknown guitarist in the death metal world at the time, Ralph Santolla to tour with Death.

The lyrical concept of Individual Thought Patterns deal with Chuck’s frustrations with the music business and people  he had a grudge against at the time: "I shake off all problems of the past few years on Individual Thought Patterns. The album is an outlet, a statement: ITP illustrates my relation with the press and the recording industry. I hate it, even worse, I detest them. I have a lot to do with people of this business and 75% of them misuse their power. In the beginning they promise you golden mountains but when it comes to it they are only out on their own profit. Most A&R managers are wolves in sheep's clothing, they are very corrupt.” With this album, Chuck incorporated more progressive and diverse riffs when compared with a pretty straight forward death metal album such as Human.

Chuck was also frustrated with the rise of  Norwegian black metal and bands whose actions hurt the image of heavy metal music (the church burnings and the death of Euronymous which happened in 1993): The black metal movement won't thank me for this, but I don't care. I'm not influenced by some idiots claiming out of the name of Lucifer that I've fallen from believe. What nonsense! Nobody has to get uptight about the music he makes when people like listening to it? I've got better things to do. Another thing, I grew up with Venom, satanists all over, but they were not trying to convince others with force. Why is this the way many black metal band do it today? A sad case. It's crazy that many death metal bands are being intimidated, afraid to get hurt ;cause a small group of people are trying to stop changes? By such shameless behaviour death metal stays in a bad book. It has to end, no matter what.

What a lot of people don’t know is the fact that  Chuck got the idea to form  Control Denied-like band in 1993. He wanted to focus on the guitar and had a plan to invite a singer like Rob Halford, Christian Augustion of Sortilege, Warrel Dane (sadly, he died today. Rest in Peace!)  or Ronnie James Dio: By all means, I still feel the same urge to get out something on the side, something different that has nothing to do with Death. I still want to do that. I'd love to get a great singer, like Christian Augustin, formerly of Sortilege (most recently in French dance band Squatter), and do something really different. I really have that creative urge inside me, and definitely one day I'll do it."  Chuck even had some thoughts on disbanding the band due to the negative press,rumors, problems with the lineup and the music business  that defamed the name of Death itself. WIth all this pressure above his head, Chuck managed to outdo what seemed impossible: he made Individual Thought Patterns sound more complex and diverse than Human. The band shot 2nd video for the song The Philosopherwhich had a huge air play on MTV.

Symbolic era

Because he, once again, lost half of the lineup, Chuck was looking for new bandmembers. Symbolic lineup was featuring Bobby Koelble on the guitar, Kelly Conlon on the bass and Gene Hoglan on the drums. Chuck was looking for  a  different direction both for the music and the lyrics: Lyrically, the album is definitely less angry than the last album. But it didn't affect the aggression of the music. I don't want people to get scared and think, oh they're not angry anymore. We're still pissed! The lyrics definitely deal with very real, real situations in life that maybe I personally am going through or have gone through, or I've just been around me, and that I could relate to.” Chuck said. He added: I hope to break some boundaries 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.”  The song whose lyrics stand out from the rest of the album is 1000 eyes. In this one, Chuck Schuldiner warns us that we live in an Orvellian nightmare, in a totalitarian surveillance state,  (no matter the country) and reminds us that privacy and intimacy as we know it will be a memory. (and we are talking about a song written in 1995, and now is 2017!)

Chuck: Song 1000 eyes concerns weapons, crimes and all these matters, especially in the United States. It´s about "the video age", when security will be controlled by police using cameras. I mean that they will see and control everything that everybody does, something like people with cameras instead of eyes who would observe and control us and that would mean the loss of privacy for every human being.

Bobby Koelble:  Chuck was always moving forward, of course. Each album went somewhere different from the last one. A similar band in that respect would be Voivod. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that Chuck had his biggest recording budget for that album, which definitely shows in the production quality. I'm sure that's partly responsible for people having that perception of it.

The music on Symbolic became very simplistic when compared with previous two records. Yet, that was the reason why Gene Hoglan’s drumming was so intense. He just let himself loose, because he thought that if he put some 80s beats on the whole thing, Symbolic would  kind of go power metal. The band had the biggest recording budget up to date and Jim Morris did an extraordinary job in terms of production. Scott Burns was supposed to do his magic on Symbolic as well, but he was busy working with other bands.In the end, the band had like 9 months to do Symbolic, and the final result was just perfect. On the other hand, Individual was done quickly and it sounds kinda rushed to some extent. Funny thing is that some of the Death fans vilified this record for being too simple and melodic. But after all, Chuck Schuldiner was never afraid to experiment, nor did the make the same record twice. The band was promoting a new record but right before the tour Chuck Schuldiner decided to put an end to Death because he wanted to start a brand new project – Control Denied. Interestingly enough, Chuck came up with the album title, The Fragile Art of Existence back in 1995, and that was supposed to be the title of the last Death record, but you know what happened in the end. Chuck recorded 2 demos for Control Denied in 1996. Scott Clendenin (RIP) and Shannon Hamm were part of the lineup.  One of the main reasons that made Chuck do something different were the death metal vocals.  To Chuck, the vocals were a necessary evil in a way. However, this project was put on hold because there was a lot of hunger for a brand new Death record. Chuck broke up the deal with Roadrunner Records because of the lack of promotion for the band and the rise of nu metal he hated so passionately,and finally, got signed for Nuclear Blast. Chuck Schuldiner thought that metal in the United States was dead because corporate America (a phrase he used often) was putting a lot of money in 3-chord chugga-chugga baggy trousers bands. He just couldn’t deal with the fact that the real metal (the one from 70s and 80s) was a matter of the past. He hated genre categorization, but he also hated musical trends. He was pretty frustrated to see that  people like Courtney Love were on the front page of Guitar World magazine.

 

 

Sound of Perserverance era

Chuck: What have we been subjected to by corporate America?" Fuck corporate America you know. I'm a fan; it has nothing to do with me being in a band. It's time for the real music to come back. I'm sick of having to rely on import albums to satisfy my need to hear something new. It's very frustrating. But it's about to come back in America because there are alot of people like myself and yourself that are sick of it. It's totally time for the tradition to come back into music. Two riff bands can only last for so long. It's time to play other frets on the guitar and other drums on the drum set. I'm just sick of the simplicity that has dominated the scene in America.

Full of revolt (as always) Chuck Schuldiner wanted to make a record that sounds like real death metal. 1998 was a year when a lot of bands started to sound like nu metal or had nothing to do with metal at all (for instance Slayer’s Diabolus in Musica, not to mention the 90s albums from Sepultura, Anthrax, Metallica and others). Music-wise, The Sound of Perseverancewas a mix of Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic. On this album, Chuck wanted to gather a lineup that’s situatedin Florida so he wouldn’t need to travel to California for a rehearsal. Therefore, a new lineup consisted of nameless local musicians who proved themselves worthy to be playing with the godfather of death metal. Therefore, the lineup was Shannon Hamm on the guitar, Scott Clendenin on the bass (RIP) and Richard Christy on the drums. Once again, the album was recorded by Jim Morris in Morrisound studio. The album was mixed and recorded in just 3 weeks.

Chuck: I still compose everything like in the past, but at the same time, we form a band in the sense that everyone can fully exploit its talent. I don’t see why you would have good musicians if they can’t show their skills. Working with good musicians is a must if I want to feel free to write what I want without following any trends. I want to abolish trends. I’m tired of America and it pisses me off!! This country is so hungry for trends that it has become sickening. In America, when you are original, you get laminated by trends, but here (in Europe) there are tons of fans that are addicted to pure metal, and this is exactly what the new DEATH album proposes! We can’t wait to go to Europe and around the world, but America is still the country who needs the most help. I really hope this album will be a turning point in the American metal scene because most bands only follow trends. I am not accusing anyone in particular, but a lot of big American bands have forgotten the roots of metal.  

The Fragile Art of Existence era - 2001

On the latest Death record, it seemed like as if Chuck was “singing” without free will. He even said that now he had written  some great riffs, he had to ruin everything with vocals. That is the main reason Control Denied existed. He just wanted to focus on the guitar. Sadly, 1998 is the year when Chuck was diagnosed with cancer. Both Live at Eindhoven and Live in L.A. DVDs were released to help Chuck raise his funds for medical reasons. Chuck spent 6 weeks in New York, doing 10 minute long chemo therapy a day. However, the doctors were really positive about his condition and it seemed as if the cancer was almost completely destroyed. At that time, Control Denied was Chuck’s main focus and he put Death on hold. It’s kinda ironic how  The Fragile Art of Existence album title says it all in the end. However, his vision was not to record a full power metal album.

Chuck: I've been under the shadow of Death for so long and realistically, I think I have taken it as far as I could take it. I think Death just came unhinged in its ideas and that is where Control Denied came in. The last Death album (The Sound Of Perseverance) was a good record, but the vocals I think held a lot of the music back. I'm over-singing, I think. I have been screaming for a long time. For a long time people have been saying that they really are into the music of Death but could do without the vocals.

For Control Denied lineup, Chuck brought Steve DiGIorgio on the bass,Tim Aymar on vocals, Shannon Hamm on the guitar. The lineup was stonger than ever. Fragile Art of Existence was released in 1999. Sadly, Chuck’s health condition had worsened. He wanted to release another Control Denied album When Man and Machine Collide but that didn’t happen to this day, despite the fact that there’s about an hour of music written. Not many people know that Chuck Billy, the singer of Testament was also fighting cancer at the time. Bay Area thrashers made a Thrash of the TItans benefit gig  (August 11, 2001) to help Chuck Billy get his funds for medical bills (that gig was one of the most crucial events for the resurgence of thrash metal but that’s another story).  Chuck Billy was kind enough to give half of the money (120 000$) to Chuck Schuldiner,whom he even didn’t know at the time.Sadly, only one Chuck remained with us.  Chuck Schuldiner died on December 13th 2001. He was only 34 years old. However, he will forever be remembered as one of the founding fathers of death metal. Ironically enough, his legacy is stronger now than when he was still alive. His music gave him immortality. He will be missed.

 

 

We asked Chuck Schuldiner's friends and bandmates to give a statement about his work and him as a person to honor the 20 years of his death:
 

He was a friend first and then a colleague. I'm grateful to him and the opportunities he afforded me as an aspiring young musician. He gave me my first break into the business and I learned a lot from him. He had a great sense of humor and we shared a love for animals. As a musician, I appreciated and was inspired by his discipline, perseverance and dedication to the work. He created something truly unique and offered it to the world. I'm grateful for the example he set in that he stuck to his guns and kept at it through the thick and thin.” Paul Masvidal, Cynic

Well, we were both teenagers when I was in the band, so we were goofing around a lot and stuff like that. Nothing was taken too seriously except the music. At that time we were really close friends and that's what I'll remember the most. As a musician, I was totally stoked to jam with him, especially since I was already a fan of the band before I got to join. It was one of those right time, right place things and I feel lucky to have been a part of the Death story.” Chris Reifert, Autopsy

  “He was a visionary and a super cool person.One of the last times I saw him was at Janus Landing (area in Tampa, Florida) to see King Diamond for the "HOUSE OF GOD" tour! Which we both talked and made peace with one another! As a musician he was an awesome song writer and a great guitar player, you can't take that away from him.Look at all the great music and albums he made!”Kelly Conlon

“I owe Chuck Schuldiner a lot. Not only for the opportunities that he afforded me, but also for the friendship and inspiration, and the amazing body of work, of course. He believed so much in what he was doing, and wouldn't let what was going on around him alter his vision. Do what you love and what you believe in, and if you're sincere you will affect others in a positive manner. That's a lesson better learned late than never. Cheers, old friend. We miss you \m/.” Bobby Koelble (ex-Death)

"Chuck was a very important person, if not the most important in my path for becoming a musician. I always loved Metal as a teenager, but when I heard SCREAM, BLOODY, GORE that was a turning moment for me. That's what got me to buy my first guitar cause I wanted to sing like him, play guitar like him and write the heaviest music ever like him. Chuck is the purest incarnation of DEATH METAL at it's finest. Got the chance to meet him three times, and share the stage with him three times as well. I pay him tribute today with the shape of my guitars." Luc Lemay, Gorguts

“Chuck was a genuinely cool guy and a visionary musician. He contributed more than most to the extreme metal genre and was obviously very influential in the sounds of many bands who came after him. I personally am a big fan of his work.“ David Vincent, I am Morbid, ex-Morbid Angel

"Chuck was a truly exceptional guitar player and songwriter. He wrote some of the most amazing riffs of all time. I only meet him once when we had opened up for them at Sundance, our first major show we played on. He was down to earth and extremely cool. It truly is a shame that we will never get to hear his songwriting again - until we meet again RIP." - Frank Mullen, Vocalist Suffocation

"Chuck was a great person, amazing songwriter, a good friend, and one hell of a musician.  He left his mark on all of us from sharing stages to the musical legacy he left behind.  He is always sorely missed and imitated from the sound he created.  The mark he left on our music scene will forever be a staple in death metal for years to come.  R.I.P."Terrance Hobbs, Suffocation

I didn't really get to know Chuck that well, despite being out on tour with him once or twice. He seemed to be quite a shy, private person  - if polite and personable - and I felt I should respect that.
Musically, there are a lot of people I know who have admiration for Chuck's guitar work on the later Death albums, but that stuff left me a little bit cold, if I'm honest. For me it was always the rawness of the demos and Scream Bloody Gore / Leprosy albums, which will always be highlights in the varying quality of death metal over the decades. Mark "Barney" Greenway, Napalm Death


“As far as my relationship with Chuck. I used to see him a lot over at Chrystal Mahoney's house who was the Possessed Fan Club President (RIP). Chuck stayed with Chrystal at her house first in Antioch, CA, then later they moved to Florida.  I had no idea who or what would become back in those days. And now, of course, Chuck & Death have inspired the world of Death Metal and music.”.  Jeff Becerra, Possessed

Chuck was a groundbreaking musician. An explorer, and one we owe a tip of the hat to. As a person, he was more complicated, and guarded. He was passionate, and I respected that. He will always be the Godfather of Death Metal!”--- Kelly Shaefer of Atheist

“I never had the pleasure to meet Chuck Schuldiner in person but his music was always with me, from my early years until now. Chuck was ahead of his time musically and we were all very lucky to witness such a legend, i really feel blessed for that. To me he will always be the Frank Zappa of metal, a true legend, an innovator, an amazing composer and an outstanding performer! The greatest of all time.” George Kollias, Nile

“Chuck was an important person in my life. He basically handed me a career on a silver platter, and I was too stupid and naive to realize it. He was also a Visionary musically. Playing his music made me a better musician.”--- Ralph Santolla

"Chuck Schuldiner's music was definitely a game changer in metal, his vision, the emotions transmitted by his voice, lyrics and music were a mind opener for lots of people on this earth. For me it transformed the way I write music and opened my ears to a new sound, a new approach to extreme metal , a place for nuances, musicianship , challenging music with great execution whithout losing musicallity . I had the chance to see Death Live in Milwaukee in 1998 and meet Chuck. He was very kind and was the kind of person who really cared about fans and listened to what you had to say looking at you in the eyes, even though he probably had heard what I said to him a thoushand times. Uniqueness, Authenticity, Chemistry, Virtuosity, Musicality and humility are the words that comes to my mind when I think about Him and his musical heritage." - Dan Mongrain of Voivod, ex-Martyr

“Hard to believe how many years since Chuck has passed. I first met Chuck in 1988. Scream Bloody Gore was already released and he was starting work on Leprosy. I was looking for a ban and helping my friend Mark Van Erp in the band Cynic. We were trying to book a show with Cynic and Death in Ccoanut Grove in Miami. That show was booked but never happened. We would see Chuck at various shows and at Morrisound. The last time I saw Chuck was at the Kiss Convention in Orlando and we exchanged a few fords and all was good. Such a shame what cancer did to take away true metal warrior.” Lee Harrison, Monstrosity

"What Chuck and Death's music me can in fact be measured to some degree. It can be quantified in miles traveled around the world,  amazing people I've met, becoming friends with your idols,  experiencing cultures,  etc etc etc.  When I first heard DEATH it was early 1988 and I was already an avid fan of the extreme metal of the day,  slayer,  kreator,  dark angel and any of more extreme,  not happy thrash as i call it bands.  So by the time i heard what sounded like a monster or demon doing vocals i was primed and ready to take that next step to even more brutal music! While I will all always remember the first time i heard SBG and it gravity of it's impact, it wouldn't be until later that year when i heard LEPROSY that my path would forever change.  What Jeff hanneman had planted in me, Chuck and death metal would sow into the person i am today... it's THAT heavy! Leprosy to this day is an album that i just can't get sick of! And here i am some 30yrs later playing in the ultimate tribute to Chuck and his comrades and having the most fun I've ever had playing music! Let the motherfucking metal flow!!" Gus Rios, Gruesome

“Although I never got to play in any bands with Chuck, I have known him since the mid 80's and we have always gotten along well when we got the chance to hang out. He was always a straight forward no bullshit type of person, but we always got along!” – Mike Browning, Nocturnus AD

 
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