Remembering Chuck Schuldiner, "The Father of Death Metal"
Band Photo: Death (?)
December is a time for remembrance for many metal heads. Three years prior to the on-stage murder of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, metal lost another icon. Today marks nine years since Chuck Schuldiner's death. On December 13, 2001, "The Father of Death Metal" lost his battle with pontine glioma, a form of brain cancer, at just 34 years of age. Schuldiner was modest about his part in the history of death metal, noting "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."
Schuldiner was the singer, songwriter, rhythm and lead guitarist of the band Death, which he founded in 1983 under the name Mantas at just 16 years of age. For an extreme metal band, Death received much acclaim with their releases and Schuldiner was hugely influential on countless metal musicians. The band took a decidedly more progressive and technical turn by their final album, "The Sound of Perseverance" and on Chuck's following band, Control Denied.
While I never had the chance to meet Chuck Schuldiner, see him perform live, and wasn't much of a fan during his life, I would like to take a moment to pay my respects to a hugely influential headbanger who eventually won me over after he was gone. At the time of his passing I was merely a casual Death listener, having picked up a couple of albums including "The Sound Of Perseverance." around that time. It took several years for my appreciation of Chuck's work to set in, however. Finally, with the reissue of "The Fragile Art Of Existence," I discovered something that I liked even more. How did I not hear this album earlier? Thankfully, there's still more to come too.
Control Denied vocalist Tim Aymar recently posted a lengthy statement announcing the planned release of Control Denied's second album. In it, he details his first meetings with Chuck while trying out for the band and more. Aymar says of Chuck: "We first talked over the telephone, and he was not at all like what I had expected him to be. My band-mate, co-writer and dear friend Jimmy Dofka from Psycho Scream had turned me on to Death a few months before, and the picture I had in my mind of Chuck, judging only by how precise and beautifully violent that music is, was of a brutal tyrant. I mean after-all, just listen to Gene Hoglan's drumming and the command of Chuck's blood soaked screaming, and you'll know what I mean. Well, I was delightfully wrong. The voice on the phone was just a guy like me, an easy going, slow talking hippie with a burning passion for metal. We both understood the seriousness of the business at hand, but neither of made it seem anything but exiting and fun, and that was awesome. That's just what professionals do."
While I have acknowledged Chuck Schuldiner's contributions to metal for years, only within the past few years have I grown to truly enjoy his music and understand the scope of his contributions and truly feel his loss as a musician and to the metal community.
With the impending release of a new Control Denied album, featuring some of Schuldiner's last work recorded, as well as the new Death live DVD and reissuing of Death's catalog, the number of fans that discovered Chuck's work after his passing are bound to grow beyond those who knew him when he lived. Whether you're an old-school fan or newer fan of Death and Control Denied, put on your favorite album and pay your respects to "The Father of Death Metal" today.
If you have not had a chance to check out either Death or Control Denied (it's ok, there's a TON of metal out there), today's a good day to do so.
(High quality recording of Death's entire setlist at Dynamo Open Air in 1998 (Courtesy of KillerMetalUploads), the first live appearance of the "Sound Of Perseverance" line-up.)
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