Death were a band so good and pioneering that the Death Metal genre may as well have been named after them. Their place in extreme metal’s hall of fame had already been cemented long before front-man and guitarist Chuck Schuldiner‘s death in 2001, but reminders of the man’s greatness are always welcome. The Death back catalogue is undergoing the reissue treatment, with the sophomore 1988 album Leprosy (Relapse) the latest to be re-released in two and three disc editions.
The first disc consists of the original album, remastered. As a bona fide classic there’s not much to say about it that hasn’t been said before. It is old school Death Metal, mixing thrash with musical brutality and Schuldiner‘s evil bark, taken to a new level of extremity not heard before. A swirling mass of rapid riffs and time changes, it set an impeccably high standard for others to try and follow. Whether it’s ‘Pull The Plug’ or the menacing ‘Choke On It,’ this is the sound of a genre being defined. The band may have moved onto to more adventurous grounds, but Leprosy remains an essential part of Death Metal history. The new remastered sound has an extra crispness but keeps the atmosphere of the original release, inviting you to play it even louder.
Disc Two is a collection of demo tapes from a couple of rehearsal sessions. Obsessive completists will no doubt be chomping at the bit to listen to these, but there is little here of interest for the average listener. The sound is raw and muddy and few will particularly relish hearing rough versions of ‘Left To Die’ multiple times in a row. It provides a nice insight into the band’s recording process, but for most this won’t be essential listening.
Disc Three, however, proves more interesting, featuring live recordings from two shows: Backstreets in Rochester, New York and The Dirt Club in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Little more than glorified bootlegs, the sound is rough around the edges, but it captures the energy of a band on the rise. The changing volume levels and voices occasional talking over the music add to the bootleg quality, and as a little bonus has a few tracks from their debut Scream Bloody Gore sprinkled in the set lists. Better than the rehearsal disc, this still needs to be labeled under ‘one for the hardcore fans.’
Even after 26 years and countless imitators,Leprosy still sounds vibrant and essential, putting the majority of today’s Death Metal acts to shame. But, as with all reissues of classic albums, the question is always “Is it worth buying it?” And the answer is usually the same: if you haven’t already got a copy, get it. If you’re a Schuldiner worshipper, you’ll get it no matter what the reviews say. And if you’re a casual fan who already has the original, probably not.
10.0 / 10.0
Bonus Disks 6.0 / 10.0