Remembering Death Frontman, Chuck Schuldiner
Band Photo: Death (?)
If one were to ask the average person who Chuck Schuldiner is, there's a fair chance that the response would be little more than a blank stare. However, if one asked a dedicated metal fan who he was, they would instantly retort in detail that he was one of the most innovative musicians in the history of metal, whose passing ten years ago today affected them on a massive scale and whose band, Death, changed the face of extreme music forever.
Born in Long Island, New York on May 13th 1967 as Charles Michael Schuldiner, both of his parents were teachers, which perhaps influenced his strong performance in school before he decided to drop out (though he later regretted doing so.) Chuck Schuldiner the musician was born at the age of nine, in circumstances just as harsh as the music he would become known for, when his parents bought him a guitar, in an effort to appease the sadness he felt of his brothers death, who was only sixteen years old when he passed away. Though starting with a classical guitar, he expressed distaste for the type of music he was being taught and was on the verge of putting the instrument down alltogether, when his parents bought him an electric guitar, something he greeted with a much greater sense of enthusiasm, practicing every day of the week (though he was reportedly limited to three hours a day on school nights.)
When he was sixteen himself, he formed Death, initially under the name Mantas, along with guitarist Rick Rozz and drummer/vocalist Kam Lee. He briefly abandoned the band, in favour of moving to Toronto to join Slaughter, though soon recanted and returned to Florida to continue Death. The group went through a number of lineup changes before signing with Combat Records, at which time Death merely consisted of Schuldiner and drummer Chris Reifert. Despite only consisting of two members, Death released their first album, "Scream Bloody Gore" in 1987, which was immediately hailed as one of the finest extreme metal albums of the time, and seen by many today to be one of the first "true" death metal albums, clearly defining the sound for the first time. While many acclaimed debut albums cast a shadow over their respective artists, this was not to be the case with Death as practically every album they released was hailed as a masterpiece, or at least as excellent. Through his work with the band, Schuldiner garnered the tag, "The Father of Death Metal," although he himself played down his role in the genre and praised other musicians in the death metal scene.
Death wasn't his only contribution to the world of music, in 1998 he folded the band to form a new group entitled Control Denied, which also featured former Death members such as Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm and Steve DiGiorgio. Control Denied was a much more progressive take on metal than Schuldiners preceding outfit, heavily influenced by the likes of Watchtower and Queensryche and they released one album, "The Fragile Art of Existence" in 1999, with a second album entitled, "When Man and Machine Collide," consisting of material the band were working on after the release of the first album to be released sometime next year.)
In May 1999, Schuldiner went to see a doctor about what he thought was a trapped nerve in his neck. After undergoing an MRI scan, it was revealed that the trapped nerve was being caused by a tumour, shortly afterwards on his thirty second birthday, he was diagnosed with pontine giloma, which affects the brain, and immediately underwent radiation therapy. The tumour was successfully removed the next year, but left Chuck and his family with a staggering health bill of seventy thousand dollars. Upon hearing this news, many prominent members of the metal community began raising money for the Schuldiners by staging auctions and benefit concerts, perhaps most notably with the Thrash Of The Titans concert which saw the reformation of many landmark thrash metal groups such as Exodus and Death Angel amongst many others and also served to raise funds for Testament singer Chuck Billy, who himself was suffering from germ cell seminoma at the time. Unfortunately, while in hospital, Schuldiner, weakened by a the cancer treatment, fell ill to pneumonia and a short while later on December 13th, tragically passed away.
His memorial service was attended by many of the biggest names in extreme metal and rock music, including King Diamond, Soulfly/former Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera and Faith No More singer Mike Patton amongst many others. He is still regarded today as one of the most talented metal musicians to ever pick up a guitar and his influence can be heard in countless modern bands, though not one of them has ever been able to match his sound. His contemporaries still hold him the highest light and memorial concerts are regular event in the world of heavy metal, sometimes featuring former members of Death. While his name may not mean much to the mainstream, in extreme metal, it is the alias of an icon and a genius.
Death - "Voice Of The Soul"
Death - "Spiritual Healing"
Death - "Suicide Machine"
Control Denied - "Breaking The Broken"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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