Death (metal band)

Last updated
Death Mexico 06-89.jpg
Death in Mexico City, June 1989. (from left to right) Terry Butler, Paul Masvidal, manager Eric Greif, Bill Andrews, and Chuck Schuldiner
Background information
Also known asMantas (1983–1984)
Origin Orlando, Florida, U.S.
Years active1983 (1983)–1996, 1998–2001
Associated acts
Past members

Death was an American death metal band from Orlando, Florida, founded in 1983 by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner. Death is considered to be among the most influential bands in heavy metal and a pioneering force in the extreme metal subgenre of death metal. Their debut album, Scream Bloody Gore , has been widely regarded as the first death metal record (although there is some dispute to that claim as Possessed's debut album Seven Churches and Necrophagia's debut album Season of the Dead were released before).

Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes, and chromatic chord progressions. The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, religion, occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

Orlando, Florida City in Central Florida

Orlando is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and the county seat of Orange County. Located in Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in July 2017. These figures make it the 23rd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. As of 2015, Orlando had an estimated city-proper population of 280,257, making it the 73rd-largest city in the United States, the fourth-largest city in Florida, and the state's largest inland city.

Chuck Schuldiner American guitarist and singer most notable for founding the metal band Death

Charles Michael "Chuck" Schuldiner was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He founded the band Death in 1983 and was their lead vocalist until his death in 2001. His obituary in the January 5, 2002 issue of UK's Kerrang! magazine said that "Chuck Schuldiner was one of the most significant figures in the history of metal." Schuldiner was ranked No. 10 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists in 2009 and No. 20 in March 2004 Guitar World's "The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists". Schuldiner founded the publishing company Mutilation Music in 1987, affiliated with performance rights organization BMI. Schuldiner died in 2001 after a two-year battle with glioma.


Death had a revolving lineup, with Schuldiner being the sole consistent member. The group's style also progressed, from the raw sound on its first two albums to a more sophisticated one in its later stage. The band ceased to exist after Schuldiner died of glioma and pneumonia in December 2001, but remains an enduring influence on heavy metal.

Glioma A type of tumor that starts in the brain or spine

A glioma is a type of tumor that starts in the glial cells of the brain or the spine. Gliomas comprise about 30 percent of all brain tumors and central nervous system tumors, and 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors.

Pneumonia Infection of the lungs

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the small air sacs known as alveoli. Typically symptoms include some combination of productive or dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Severity is variable.


Early history (1983–1987)

Chuck Schuldiner, founder of Death, in 1992. Chuck Schuldiner.jpg
Chuck Schuldiner, founder of Death, in 1992.

Founded in 1983 by Chuck Schuldiner under the original name of Mantas in Orlando, Florida, [1] [2] Death was among the more widely known early pioneers of the death metal sound, along with California's Possessed. In the late 80s, the band was both a part of and integral in defining the death metal scene which gained international recognition with the release of albums by a number of area acts.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents across a total area of about 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Possessed (band) American death metal band

Possessed is an American death metal band, originally formed in 1983. Noted for their fast style of playing and Jeff Becerra's growled vocals, they are often called the first band in the death metal genre. The band is also notable for featuring Larry LaLonde, who was the guitarist of Possessed during the mid-1980s, and went on to join Primus.

Together with Kam Lee (Barney Kamalani Lee), and Rick Rozz (Frederick DeLillo), Schuldiner started to compose songs that were released on several rehearsal tapes in 1984. [1] [2] These tapes, along with the Death by Metal demo, circulated through the tape-trader world, quickly establishing the band's name. In 1984, Schuldiner dissolved Mantas and quickly started a new band under the name Death. Tim Aymar, in an article written in December 2010, states that Chuck Schuldiner renamed the band Death in order to turn his experience of the death of his brother Frank years earlier into "something positive". [3] Its members included the same Rick Rozz and Kam Lee. Another demo was released, called Reign of Terror. [2]

Kam Lee American musician

Kam Lee is an American death metal vocalist. He is best known for his vocal contributions to an early incarnation of Death in 1983–84, and later joined Massacre in 1985, founded and formed by Bill Andrews and Allen West.

Rick Rozz is an American guitarist. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and spent his formative years in Altamonte Springs, Florida, attending Lake Brantley High School. He is best known for his work with the death metal bands Death and Massacre. He still resides in Florida.

In 1985, the Infernal Death tape was recorded and released. Rick Rozz was out of the band by early 1985. Kam Lee played with Scott Carlson and Matt Olivo, bassist and guitarist respectively, of the band Genocide (later to be renamed Repulsion) for a short time. However, Kam had some "personal problems" that caused him to be ejected from the band. Olivo and Carlson left soon afterward. [2] Schuldiner moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and recruited Dirty Rotten Imbeciles drummer Eric Brecht, then recorded the Back from the Dead demo. However, Chuck was not happy with this incarnation of Death and moved back to Florida without a band. In 1986, Schuldiner got an invitation from early Canadian thrash metal band Slaughter to play on their album, which he accepted, moving to Canada. However, this only lasted two weeks, and he returned to the States. He returned to Florida, then moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area again, where he joined with 17-year-old drummer Chris Reifert. They recorded the Mutilation demo, which led to a deal with Combat Records, owned by Important Distribution (later becoming Relativity, and subsequently Sony), that enabled them to record the first LP.

Scott Carlson is an American musician, who most notably worked as the lead vocalist and bassist of pioneering grindcore band Repulsion. Additionally, he was briefly the bassist and vocalist of pioneering death metal band Death, as well as bassist of doom metal band Cathedral, bassist and vocalist of Swedish death metal band Death Breath, vocalist of Japanese doom metal band Church of Misery, bassist of hardcore punk band Septic Tank, guitarist of garage rock band The Superbees and guitarist of From Beyond.

Repulsion (band) American band

Repulsion is an American grindcore band from Flint, Michigan, founded in 1984.

San Francisco Bay Area Conurbation in California, United States

The San Francisco Bay Area is a populous region surrounding the San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bay estuaries in the northern part of the U.S. state of California. Although the exact boundaries of the region vary depending on the source, the Bay Area is defined by the Association of Bay Area Governments to include the nine counties that border the aforementioned estuaries: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and San Francisco. Other sources may exclude parts of or even entire counties, or expand the definition to include neighboring counties that don't border the bay such as San Benito, San Joaquin, and Santa Cruz.

Scream Bloody Gore was released in 1987, widely considered a genre template for death metal. Schuldiner briefly had a second guitar player, John Hand, but Hand did not appear on the album (though his photo did). By this time Schuldiner had moved back to Florida, splitting with Reifert who had elected to remain in California, where he went on to form Autopsy. There, Schuldiner teamed up with former bandmate Rick Rozz and two members of Rozz's band Massacre, Terry Butler and Bill Andrews.

<i>Scream Bloody Gore</i> 1987 studio album by Death

Scream Bloody Gore is the debut studio album by American death metal band Death, released on May 25, 1987, through Combat Records. It was considered "the first true death metal record". Chuck Schuldiner plays bass and guitar, wrote all the songs on the album and provided all the vocals. John Hand is noted on the cover as playing rhythm guitar, though this was incorrect and Hand was only in the band for a short period and was not on the recording. This is also the only Death album to feature drummer Chris Reifert, who had joined for the Mutilation demo.

Autopsy (band) American death metal band

Autopsy is a death metal band, founded in 1987 in the United States by Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler. They disbanded in 1995, but reunited in 2009.

Massacre is an American death metal band. They were formed in 1984 by Allen West, Bill Andrews, Rick Rozz, and Terry Butler, and soon after vocalist Kam Lee joined. The band has reunited several times with varying line-ups, most recently in late 2011.

Mid-era (1988–1992)

In 1988, that line-up recorded Leprosy . After much touring in support of the album, including a quick and ill-planned tour of Europe, Rick Rozz was fired in 1989. After a tour of Mexico featuring guitarist Paul Masvidal (later to re-emerge in the Death camp), a replacement was found in James Murphy, with whom the third album Spiritual Healing was recorded in Tampa in the summer of 1989. Murphy left the band relatively quickly. By this time Schuldiner abandoned the "gore" lyrical theme for more social critique and melody was added to the band's sound. [4]

In 1990, on the eve of a European tour, Schuldiner decided against traveling, claiming at the last minute that he felt the tour was not adequately organized (and citing the group's previous disorganized European tour in 1988). Andrews and Butler continued with the tour of Europe as 'Death' to fulfill the band's contractual obligations, and recruited roadies Walter Trachsler (guitar) and Louie Carrisalez (vocals) to replace Schuldiner, much to Schuldiner's shock and disgust. Schuldiner took legal action and Butler and Andrews were fired from the band.

Schuldiner abandoned the idea of a band set-up altogether and began working with session musicians only. Schuldiner hired Steve Di Giorgio and recruited Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal from underground Florida band Cynic. In 1991, Death released Human , which is considered a more technical and progressive album than their previous works, incorporating complex rhythms, riffs and song structures. Human was Death's best-selling album yet, receiving many accolades and some MTV play for the group's first video, directed by David Bellino, for the track "Lack of Comprehension". Due to obligations with his primary band Sadus, Di Giorgio was forced to depart after the recording of Human and new bassist Skott Carino did Death's extensive world tour, from October 1991 until March 1992, in addition to appearing in the music video for "Lack of Comprehension".

Schuldiner fired his manager Eric Greif after Spiritual Healing but settled and re-hired him before the recording of Human. [5] Although there were at least two lawsuits between Greif and Schuldiner, Schuldiner was characteristically mellow in an interview with Thrash 'n Burn about what the writer referred to as his "gruesome collaboration" with Greif: "We just came to the conclusion that it was stupid just fighting all the time, taking each other to court and all that stupid shit." [6] "Fate has an interesting way of working these things out ... Yes, we had a falling out, but we're working together again and it takes a lot of worries off my mind knowing Eric is the man for us", Schuldiner told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. [7]

The final years and Schuldiner's death (1993–2001)

In 1993, Reinert and Masvidal left the group to continue with the band Cynic, as they were working on a full-length album at the time. Schuldiner, unable to persuade them otherwise, replaced them with drummer Gene Hoglan of the recently dissolved thrash metal band Dark Angel, [8] and guitarist Andy LaRocque from King Diamond for Individual Thought Patterns . Since LaRocque was obligated to his band, Schuldiner hired a then-unknown Ralph Santolla as touring guitarist. Death was arguably at the peak of their commercial and popular culture success, and the video for the track "The Philosopher" even made it on to an episode of Beavis & Butt-head in 1994 (Beavis also parodies Schuldiner's vocals in a mock 'drive-thru' order of 'tacos, to go!' in death-metal style). Also in 1994, Death abandoned its eight-year relationship with Relativity and signed with Roadrunner Records, their European distributor. For 1995's Symbolic , Santolla and Di Giorgio were exchanged for underground Florida musicians Kelly Conlon and Bobby Koelble. For the Symbolic tour Brian Benson was brought in on bass (Conlon having left the band prior to the tour).

After Symbolic, Schuldiner broke up Death after tension with Roadrunner Records. [9] Schuldiner focused on Control Denied following the break up of Death. [10] The seventh Death release entitled, The Sound of Perseverance , included Florida musicians Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm and Scott Clendenin, and the album was completed at Morrisound Recording in Tampa and released on Nuclear Blast in 1998.

After the album and two supporting tours, Schuldiner put Death aside to pursue Control Denied with Christy and Hamm. Clendenin was dropped in favor of Steve Di Giorgio, who was once again available, and an underground power metal singer named Tim Aymar. Although the line-up and writing style was largely the same, Schuldiner created Control Denied in large part because he was displeased with the harsher vocals for Death. However, rather than betray what the band Death meant and sounded like to the fans, he opted to create a new band: "For me, it is just a matter of evolving, doing it the right way. I didn't put out a Death record with this stuff on it. I made the right choice and changed the name of the band. I tried to do everything the right way." [11] As Schuldiner finished Control Denied's debut album, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, forcing the band to scrap plans for a U.S. and Canadian tour. As he worked on the second release, Schuldiner's condition improved, but the tumor left him in a weakened, vulnerable state. He contracted pneumonia and was placed in a hospital. On December 13, 2001, Schuldiner was released and returned home an hour later, where he died.

The aftermath (2001–onwards)

The second Control Denied release has yet to be completed and was mired in legal problems involving its Dutch label, the musicians and Schuldiner's sister Beth, the former of whom have publicly stated their desire to complete the album, and former manager Eric Greif representing the Estate. In 2004, Hammerheart Records released a two-part bootleg made up of old, pre-Scream Bloody Gore demos, along with partial demos of the unfinished album and live Death recordings from 1990. This was issued under the name Chuck Schuldiner, not Death or Control Denied, but its markedly unfinished state and lack of vocals led to the release not being successful, aided by Schuldiner's mother Jane's pleas for fans to stay away from it. In October 2009, Greif litigated against Hammerheart, representing Schuldiner's Estate, and all matters were settled by December, theoretically allowing for the Control Denied album to be completed by the other musicians.

Members of Death have since stayed active as musicians. Gene Hoglan from Dark Angel and Andy LaRocque from King Diamond had already made a name for themselves, with LaRocque continuing to work with King Diamond while Hoglan has done stints with a wide variety of bands including Strapping Young Lad, Old Man's Child, Opeth, Zimmers Hole, Unearth, Pitch Black Forecast, Dethklok, Fear Factory, and most recently, Testament. Paul Masvidal found success with Cynic alongside fellow Death member Sean Reinert, who continue to release albums and tour in the present. Richard Christy went on to gigs with Acheron and Iced Earth before joining The Howard Stern Show, though he has recently resurfaced on the metal scene with Charred Walls of the Damned and guesting on a Crotchduster album. Ralph Santolla has also played with Iced Earth, as well as Sebastian Bach; both are bands which Steve DiGiorgio played in as well. Santolla was in Obituary and he was previously in Deicide. Di Giorgio also played for Testament and is still active with his original band Sadus. Bobby Koelble founded the Orlando rock-funk-Latin fusion group JunkieRush in 2000. James Murphy was also in Testament, formed projects such as Disincarnate, as well as having stints with death metal bands Obituary and Cancer. Murphy was also stricken with a noncancerous brain tumor, for which he received treatment, and, along with Deron Miller of CKY, attempted to organize a Death tribute album. Kam Lee became well known as the frontman and face of the band Massacre, and formed the band Denial Fiend with Terry Butler, who has also found success in Six Feet Under and is currently in Obituary. Lee also continues to perform and record today with numerous underground projects, including Bone Gnawer and The Grotesquery. Scott Clendenin died on March 24, 2015 at the age of 47.[ citation needed ]

On May 10, 2010, it was announced that Perseverance Holdings Ltd. and the Schuldiner family had partnered with Relapse Records to re-master and re-issue the Death and Control Denied releases. On December 13 of the same year, it was announced that The Sound of Perseverance would be the first Death album to receive this treatment, and was released February 2011 in a 2-CD and 3-CD format. [12] The Human album has been remixed, with Schuldiner's intellectual property lawyer Eric Greif stating that Sony had lost the tapes of the original mixes, [13] and was reissued in 2-CD and 3-CD formats as well as a digital release. Shortly after, the Individual Thought Patterns album was reissued. In February 2012, Relapse Records released a 2 CD live album entitled Vivus! that included the previously released 1998 concerts Live in L.A. and Live in Eindhoven, including liner notes by drummer Christy and manager/lawyer Greif. The Relapse deal does not include Death's acclaimed 1995 album Symbolic , whose rights are still retained by Roadrunner Records as of 2008.

On March 16, 2012, it was announced by Sick Drummer Magazine and the Schuldiner's corporation, Perseverance Holdings Ltd, that musicians who previously played in Death would take part in a benefit tour titled "Death to All" for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. [14] The former Death members slated to participate were drummers Gene Hoglan and Sean Reinert, bassists Steve Di Giorgio and Scott Clendenin, guitarists Paul Masvidal, Shannon Hamm and Bobby Koelble. It was later announced that Obscura vocalist Steffen Kummerer and Abysmal Dawn/Bereft frontman Charles Elliott would assume vocal and guitar duties for the tour, [15] but visa issues made Kummerer's participation impossible and he was replaced by Exhumed vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey. After the tour, Eric Greif, acting as President of Perseverance Holdings Ltd. (PHL), alleged that the owners of Sick Drummer Magazine, Ian Macdonald and Anton Hefele, had not paid the charity, the musicians, PHL, the crew or the booking agency despite the five shows of the tour being successful. [16] However, dates for a second edition of the tour were announced in February 2013, with no involvement from Sick Drummer Magazine, [17] and a successful tour of North America in April 2013 was followed by a sold out three-week European tour in November 2013, featuring Masvidal, Reinert, Di Giorgio and vocalist/guitarist Max Phelps. The Death To All moniker was altered to Death (DTA). [18]

Musical style and legacy

The original Death logo was created by Chuck Schuldiner. This is the last logo used by the band found on the cover for their album The Sound of Perseverance. Death band.png
The original Death logo was created by Chuck Schuldiner. This is the last logo used by the band found on the cover for their album The Sound of Perseverance.

Death is considered to be one of the most influential bands in heavy metal and a pioneering force in death metal. Death is also now recognized as one of the most acclaimed music groups of all time, held in high praise by critics, metal musicians, and fans. [19] [20] Scream Bloody Gore is widely regarded as the first death metal album. [21] Music biographer Garry Sharpe-Young considered Death "a genre-breaking band centered upon frontman Chuck Schuldiner" and that the band "would become one of the prime instigators of the death metal movement". [22] However, Schuldiner dismissed such attributions by stating, in an interview with, "I don't think I should take the credits for this death metal stuff. I'm just a guy from a band, and I think Death is a metal band". [23] In Death's later output, the band's music became more technical and melodic, moving to a technical death metal, progressive metal and melodic death metal style. [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] In January 2001, Mahyar Dean, an Iranian musician, wrote Death , a book about Death and Schuldiner and released it in Iran. The book includes bilingual lyrics and many articles about the band. The book was sent through the site keepers of to Schuldiner, who in his words was "truly blown away and extremely honored by the obvious work and devotion he put into bringing the book to life". [29]

Regarding percussion styles, Gene Hoglan is recognised as a percussionist using double kick drum equipment and one of a crop who 'set new standards in speed and endurance'. [30] During an interview he described Sean Reinert's drumming on Human as 'godly' and praised it as 'the fastest double bassing around at the time' and 'a template which we tried to match on Individual Thought Patterns.' [31]

Schuldiner designed the Death logo and its various incarnations during the length of his career. In 1991, before the release of Human , he cleaned up the logo taking out more intricate details and the "T" in the logo was swapped from an inverted Cross to a more regular looking "T", one reason being to quash any implication of religion. The logo was changed again, between Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance, with a more streamlined look and the removal of the hooded reaper above the "H", among other changes (shown right)


Final lineup

Previous musicians


Death (metal band)


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<i>Leprosy</i> (album) 1988 studio album by Death

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<i>Spiritual Healing</i> (album) 1990 studio album by Death

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