"some music was meant to stay underground..."

OpEd

Remembering Death Frontman, Chuck Schuldiner

Photo of Death

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"

Diamond Oz's avatar

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.

What's Next?

Please share this article if you found it interesting.

You can get related band news and info in the sidebar and on the respective band pages.


17 Comments on "Remembering Chuck Schuldiner"

Post your comments and discuss the article below! (no login required)

Anonymous Reader
1. Death metal christy writes:

Miss you Chuck:'(

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 6:34 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

Member

2. silvermountains writes:

RIP Chuck, His beautiful music has inspired me in so many ways. Sad he is lost, but he will never be forgotten.
Great article once again Oz, really apprechate all the work you put into these articles.
SM

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 7:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. Horsecore writes:

Hails to the author and this site for keeping Chuck's memory alive. Chuck's music (in all of its incarnations) is among the list of pre-requisites for any metal fan. No matter what genre (or sub-genre) of metal you listen to, no matter what bands you might include in your own list of all time metal masters....Chuck owns a place in that list.

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 7:29 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
heavyhepp's avatar

Member

4. heavyhepp writes:

R.I.P. Chuck. I can't believe its been ten years. I remember hearing about it when it first happened but i didn't know who death was. Then I got into them and became a big fan.

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 7:48 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. sawboss17 writes:

Tampa Bay Misses you Bro!

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 9:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

6. hellrat writes:

Hell Yeah Chuck!! I raise my glass to ya again brother

y'are SUCH an awesome dude, my looney cat loves ya as well :)

thanks for makin the annual toast, Oz man...you rock bredda \m/

# Dec 13, 2011 @ 10:32 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Tivic's avatar

Member

7. Tivic writes:

Death was an amazing (still is) True Death Metal band never change to fit with the favor of the the time.

# Dec 14, 2011 @ 9:02 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

Member

8. Drum_Junkie writes:

RIP Chuck. Your legacy will not be forgotten.

Thanks for posting this, OZ!

# Dec 14, 2011 @ 9:16 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Driftski's avatar

Writer

9. Driftski writes:

Nice piece Oz! RIP Chuck.

# Dec 14, 2011 @ 10:23 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
wilco's avatar

Member

10. wilco writes:

real good oz a$$ allways rip chuck

# Dec 14, 2011 @ 12:44 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
funnylady68's avatar

Member

11. funnylady68 writes:

Thanks for being a cool friend to a geeky fat chick in a long-ago high school. You always had something to say to me and I truly appreciated your friendship, especially when we would run into each other at a concert or a show, and even though we hadn't seen each other in five years, you would hug me like it was just last week. Thanks, Chuck. XoXoX

# Dec 14, 2011 @ 10:40 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. albert croatia writes:

chuck was god of death metal guitarplayer and
no new death metal band comes close.

metal till death.

# Dec 15, 2011 @ 3:06 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BodomFan's avatar

Supporter

13. BodomFan writes:

legendary.....RIP

# Dec 15, 2011 @ 1:11 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

14. Diamond Oz writes:

Thank you very much Wilco, Hellrat, DJ, Driftski, SilverMountains and Horsecore for your kind words. I'm honoured that you feel I have paid a kind tribute to such a wonderfully talented human being.

# Dec 17, 2011 @ 5:28 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
psythe's avatar

Writer, Reviewer

15. psythe writes:

Great read, Oz, well done.

R.I.P. Chuck.

# Dec 17, 2011 @ 10:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

16. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers Psythe :)

# Dec 18, 2011 @ 4:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
17. punisherdeath666 writes:

RIP Godfather Of Death Metal

# Dec 29, 2011 @ 4:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

To minimize comment spam/abuse, you cannot post comments on articles over a month old. Please check the sidebar to the right or the related band pages for recent related news articles.