In an old interview, the Godfather of Death Metal, Chuck Schuldiner, laid out the blueprint of what the genre is, what its themes are, and what listeners should expect from it. He described the genre as “fantasy, tongue-and-cheek, Horror movie level type of scary stuff…” Many bands within the genre have followed this blueprint and carried on the tradition of writing gore lyrics, but none better than the legendary, Exhumed, who have always leaned more towards the gore aspect of Death Metal and later coined the term Gore Metal. Their new album, Horror (Relapse Records) follows this blueprint very well.
I’m beginning to notice a bit of a trend amongst modern Death Metal bands, and by beginning to notice I mean this has probably been happening for a while now. Loads of newer acts like Horrendous and Gruesome are quite eager to strap on the Nike high tops, leather jackets and reminisce about the good old days when guys like Chuck Schuldiner and his outfit Death were blowing the Thrash dudes out of the water with albums like Scream Bloody Gore or Spiritual Healing. Undead Prophecies’ Sempiternal Void (Listenable Records) sure as shit sounds like they’ve been inhaling the ash of whatever’s left of Morrisound Recordings. Continue reading →
Progressive music and Death Metal have always been strange but undeniable bedfellows. From the very early days of Death’s career, Chuck Schuldiner would play with a technical precision akin to the most progressive bands around and this overt musicianship has continued through the genres’ long and storied histories, from Dream Theater to Tool to Black Peaks, and from Cannibal Corpse to Venom Prison. Musical dexterity is the cornerstone of the two genres, so when they collide you get something mind-bendingly complex. Continue reading →
Thirty-five years after forming as Mantas and nearly twenty years since the passing of frontman Chuck Schuldiner, Death continues to reverberate as one of the premier names in extreme music. This spring Antichrist Magazine will launch the next album in their series of tributes, this one celebrating the music of Death. The album will release on March 22nd, 2019, and the track listing can be seen below. Continue reading →
As summer swings round towards autumn, there are no shortage of odes and tributes to the Gods of power and glory that brought us traditional and classic Heavy Metal. Ghost Cult dives in amongst the raised fists and studded wristbands to round-up the latest album releases.
Death By Metal, the “definitive documentary on DEATH frontman Chuck Schuldiner”, will receive its highly-anticipated DVD release this week, on July 6 via MVD Visual. Chuck was one of the founding father’s of the death metal genre who passed away from a brain tumor in 2001. Watch the trailer for the film below. Continue reading →
Has Death Metal become the most crowded of the extreme genres? I ask because the last few years have been absolutely stacked with stellar releases ranging from the old guard (Morbid Angel, Obituary) to the new breed (Archspire, Artificial Brain). One must come absolutely correct to make it in the house that Chuck Schuldiner built. Skeletal Remains has the right stuff in spurts on Devouring Mortality (Dark Descent) but aren’t quite ready to run with the wolves yet.Continue reading →
Death Metal legends Possessed are gearing up for a huge year in 2018. The band have been busy preparing a brand new album, due for release this year from Nuclear Blast Records, one of the most anticipated new albums for this year. Ghost Cult’s Keith Chachkes caught up with frontman Jeff Becerra at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest this past fall, where the band played a blistering set, blowing away the crowd. We found Jeff in great spirits, sharing his enthusiasm for people to hear this new Possessed music. We also chatted about some death metal relationship, Jeff’s close friendship with late Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner, other death metal favorites, and more. Videography and photos by Omar Cordy/OJC Photography. Continue reading →
“One of the things why, and I’m not giving away any of the trade secrets – a lot of what made Death what it was – I didn’t realize until I did this record. The way he put riffs one after another was very, very, very particular to Chuck. He had a very specific way that he arranges his songs and it wasn’t until I started recording that I was like – so that’s why this sounds so much like Death.”
“Matt [Harvey] unlocked the code. Technically Dan’s [Gonzalez] the better guitar player, but Matt is a musical genius. He knows a lot about songwriting and I actually called him and had a conversation about it. I’ve been listening to Death…what, almost 30 years now? It never dawned on me that Chuck used certain musical devices repeatedly. He wrote very specific riff stylings and again, it wasn’t until I did this that I [realized why] this shit was so good. That’s why this stuff sounds so much like that.”
While recording Savage Land, they recruited one time Death guitarist James Murphy to do a guest solo on a song. Being a friend of the band already, Rios felt having him participating on the Gruesome album and him giving them the ultimate thumbs up helped their credibility behind making such an album of music.
“One of the turning points of the band was when we were making the demos, I called James Murphy. I’ve been buddies with him forever. Death metal is a small genre. That’s the thing. If anybody’s a rock star in a death metal band, then you’re a fucking asshole. Nobody’s a rockstar.”
“Go across the street to that restaurant and ask anyone ‘do you know who Chuck Schuldiner is?’ They’re gonna go ‘who?’ Death metal’s a small little genre. So no one’s a rockstar. It’s a tight knit, everybody knows everyone, especially in Florida.”
“I called James and said ‘this is what I’m doing. It would be super cool if you could do a solo on it.’ Then he goes ‘alright. Send me the shit. Let me check it out.’ “
“Now it switched from James, my buddy to this is James fucking Murphy. This is the dude who was in Death. End period we’re trying to emulate. If he called me back and was like ‘this sucks’…abandon ship. It isn’t going to work.”
“Normally James texts me, but when my phone rings and I saw that it’s him – I hope he has something good to say. I answer it and he’s like ‘dude this is fucking killer!’ “
Having Murphy guesting on Savage Land was a huge honor for the Gruesome members. What meants a lot was also having the surviving members of Death also giving their blessing to them, which meant a lot to Rios.
“I remember we had a conversation about it and he was stoked. He was like ‘I loved the part you wanted me to solo. It’s perfect for what I wanted to do.’ I immediately called Matt and went ‘it’s on.’ James Murphy thinks we’re unsung good. If he thinks it’s good, dude it’s probably good. So that was a big turning point.”
“For guys like Terry [Butler] loves the band. For guys like that who were in the band and to be like ‘this shit is really good’…for us that’s like the seal of approval. Eric Greif – same thing. The guy managed Death forever and still manages all things Death and DTA. He was like ‘you guys are doing something good here. This is solid. I know you’re doing this from the right place and I know you guys love Chuck.’ It seems like all of the ducks are in a row. We’re all in this together. We all love Death. We sound enough like them obviously to love this. I love this.”
Lastly, he spoke about the Slayer cover of “Black Magic” found on the deluxe edition of Savage Land.
“The reason we did that was because Matt saw Death live in ’89 and they did that. Apparently that was one of Chuck’s favorite songs so that’s the back story on that. It was like ‘we should do some bonus tracks.’ We purposely did eight songs because Leprosy had eight songs. Spiritual Healing had eight songs.”
“There’s nothing that we did that Death did that we didn’t know very well. I produced the record and my motto was if it didn’t happen in ’88 then it ain’t gonna happen today. So aside from the two inch tape machine I couldn’t afford, I didn’t use a computer to edit drums. I used a microphone on a real guitar amp and played the songs all the way through. For the most part, I didn’t use a computer plug in to simulate a guitar. Some of those songs on the drums were one take all the way through. There are some parts that aren’t super perfect. I liked the whole performance. I feel good about it.”
“I remember when I first met Sean [Reinert] back in ’96. I started taking lessons with him. I’m worshipping him for Human and he’s like ‘that album’s riddled with fuck ups.’ I’m like I don’t hear any and he puts a CD in and goes ‘boom…boom…’ “
“Back in those days there was no computers. That’s the point. In those days you had to play your instrument. There was no getting around it. You had to play your shit. Sean was my teacher for about a year and a half before I moved here to LA. He’s changed so much the way I play drums, and we remain pretty much best friends to this day. To have him here tonight…it’s pretty cool.”
“He literally walked up and he was like ‘I’m here….this is your fault!’ The other night we played with Obituary and Don comes up to me and says ‘killer show. I made the old ladies jump.’ I said ‘I learned by watching you!’ It’s all full circle.”
The members of Gruesome have enjoyed the strong response to their debut albumSavage Land, and recently announced that they would be working on new material, due out tentatively in mid 2016. Drummer Gus Rios shared his thoughts on the band making another record and their mindset entering the next chapter.
“One of things I like about Death the most is Chuck [Schuldiner] never repeated himself. Our challenge is to maintain Gruesome to that same level as much as we can within the world we want to be in. Our next record, I’m not going to give anything away, is not going to be Savage Land Part 2.”
“There’s a few directions it could go in and hopefully when people hear it they’ll be like ‘wow that’s awesome;’ ‘I didn’t expect that;’ or ‘I’m glad they did it.’ It’s not going to be the same exact record again.”
The uniqueness behind Death’s writing approach is what appealed to Rios, and something the members of Gruesome kept in mind when they began crafting new tunes for their next recording. He also talked about keeping the element of surprise much like how they did back in their time period.
“That’s one of the great things about metal back in the late 80s and early 90s. There was no internet…like Slayer’s record came out Friday. You already heard half of it before it came out. Where is the surprise in that?”
“When Spiritual Healing or when Leprosy came out, you didn’t know what the hell you were getting. You go into the store and you knew there was a new Death record and you bought it. When I first got Human, I went from getting Spiritual Healing and now I’m getting Human. Saw the logo was a little different, the album cover was a little different and went ‘I don’t know.’ Then I heard it and I went ‘oh my god…this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.’ “
“I don’t know if we’re going to do any of that because to some degree people know what they’re getting. It’s going to sound like one band. Like I said, our hope is at least from one record to the next you’re not going to get Savage Land Part 2. With the next record, and the next one after that, it’s not going to sound like that.”
“Even sonically, that’s one of the things I don’t like about modern metal. Every record that you hear that comes out, it’s the same drum samples, the same guitar reamp. For me personally, if I buy Band X’s record, and two years later they come out with another record, I want it to sound different. Records are supposed to be a snapshot in time of what you’re trying to accomplish at that time.”
Rios elaborated about their recording approaches when they created the songs on Savage Land, and their old school approaches helped craft their stripped down sound, unlike modern techniques he felt took away from the raw sounds found on older records.
“When you set up a drum set in a studio, you get the snare sound and maybe you tune it differently. You tune your toms and you mic the kicks up. You move the mics around until you get the best sound and then you record it. You put your best performance into it at that time.”
“What a computer does nowadays most of the time when you hear a record is it takes anything you did as a human and perfects it, replaces all of your tuned drums with samples of perfect drums and in my opinion, for me personally, sucks the soul out of the record.”
“If every single record gets that same library of the same tom and same snare and same kicks and the same guitar simulator plug in, I’m just getting different riffs on the same record. In the late 80s or early 90s, no two Deicide records sounded the same. No two Morbid Angel records sounded the same. Certainly no two Death records sounded the same. Even if they went to the same studio with the same producer, it was a different day. It was a different drumset.”
“I can guarantee you the next record will sound nothing like Savage Land. Sonically. Riff wise, you’re going to know it sounds like Death. Very, very, very clearly. But is it going to sound like the era or the sound that we got on Savage Land? No. I guarantee you it won’t. There lies the little shred of originality Gruesome may have. We’re homaging one particular band but as artists I guess, our challenge is to keep the listener entertained one record after the other without regurgitating the same exact stuff over and over.”
“Dan [Gonzalez] and I are writing too and that’s another element. Matt wrote the entire first record. I’ve already written three songs. Dan’s written two. At least that’s our take on what we think Chuck would do. There enlies at least one slightly different element that’s going to be different. I think that’s the fun and the challenge of it. We’re still paying tribute to one single band but we’re trying to snake our way around it as many ways as we can.”
“I said in another interview that as long as there’s dudes on stage with vocals with (doing Cookie Monster imitation), Chuck will never be dead. In my opinion, I credit Chuck with definitely the creation of what everybody knows as death metal. Possessed Seven Churches came out first but that to me is more like Satanic thrash kind of shit. I remember being in middle school and this kid Rob Watson brought to school Scream Bloody Gore. In those days it was a cassette tape and a Walkman. This is in late 1987 and it was like ‘Slayer….please.’ “
“I remember looking at the album cover and that’s the thing. Everything about what we did…everything piece of what Gruesome is about is thought out. That logo, that flame…everything is thought out. Every piece of what Death was in the late 80s to little teenie Gus and Matt…every piece of that, the album cover. I remember looking at Scream Bloody Gore before I heard it and the album cover…when I heard the music it sounded like what I thought that album should sound like. I remember hearing those vocals and I just went ‘holy shit!’ I couldn’t understand a word he said or what the lyrics were.”
“Back in those days the cassettes had no lyrics in it. ’Infernal Death,’ ‘Regurgitated Guts’…gore horror. That’s death metal to me. If somebody from that restaurant across the street said ‘hey Gus, what is death metal?’, I’d probably hand them Leprosy and go ‘there.’ To this day that’s still my number one favorite death metal album.”
Through the music Gruesome had created, Rios said the band’s visions was to take newer fans back in time, much like his reference to Back To the Future did with revisiting their death metal past.
“Now what we’re trying to do is…Matt [Harvey] actually said it last night in San Diego ‘well we couldn’t build a Delorean. [We] can’t bring us all back to ’88 to re-experience that.’ All we can do is bring it back in some form.”
“It’s all in praise of…it’s not just Chuck. We say this every day. It’s Chuck. It’s James [Murphy]. It’s Rick [Rozz]. It’s Bill Andrews. It’s Sean Reinert. Gene Hoglan was there last night. Friday we played a festival with Obituary and we got to play ‘Born Dead’ with Terry Butler!”