It’s October, so this month I’ll be starting a specific column on Chuck Schuldiner’s famous and esteemed death metal outfit, the aptly-named Death. Every extreme metal listener and fan has an opinion of Death, and generally speaking, most listeners are fans of at least one portion of the group’s outfit. Whether it’s “older Death” or “later Death,” most can agree that the man almost entirely behind the outfit, the remarkably talented Chuck Schuldiner, accomplished feats in the genre that few can boast of, while aspiring still toward what even fewer have attempted since.
Death – Scream Bloody Gore
Chuck Schuldiner –guitars, bass, vocals
Chris Reifert – drums
Randy Burns – percussion, producer
Recorded in 1986
Released on May 25 1987
There is a quality about Death’s music that distinguishes it even from the genre it helped establish. While Schuldiner’s highly intricate and unorthodox compositions would come later in his career, his technical virtuosity, and out-of-box thinking are on full display with the group’s his full-length album. It kicks with the heavy down-tempo chord crunches that heralded the coming of a new form of music before it picks up its pace into the now-quintessential up-tempo drumming and riffing in pseudo-chromatic scales accompanied by Schuldiner’s guttural, chasm-like vocals. The first solo kicks in just after the one-forty mark of the first track: a short, precise series of notes that cuts downward through the assault of rhythm guitar like a series of falling scalpels.
Although it’s hardly a case of lather-rinse-repeat for the rest of Scream Bloody Gore’s songs, an unfamiliar listener may find the blitzkrieg of guitars and fast-paced drums to be disorienting to a degree that the songs all blend into one another. This isn’t necessarily a fault with the album, as both the structures present in each song as well as the specific riffs Schuldiner employs all vary to quite a distinct degree. Such a ‘problem’ is at its core a problem of familiarity with extreme metal in general; as a genre, it isn’t an entirely easy form of music to become accustomed to, and it’s important to note that this album helped blow open the gates and pave the way for the variety and excess of extreme metal that we have today.
The least interesting thing to note about Schuldiner’s creation is the lyrics. Later Death albums would show off introspective, reflective topics touching on philosophical themes regarding life, death, and the interrelation between human beings. None of that will be found here. The prototypical death metal album to its core, Scream Bloody Gore is comprised nearly entirely of lyrics involving fighting zombies, getting brutally murdered by psychopaths, brutally murdering people as a psychopath, choking on blood, being dismembered, etcetera.
That said, death metal—and extreme metal in general—typically isn’t the genre to listen to for complicated, thought-provoking lyrics. Most of the time, the lyrics are indecipherable growls pouring around amid the texture of guitars and drums anyway.
Overall, it’s quite an impressive first LP for a band pioneering what would later become an entire genre, and a solid beginning of what would turn out to be a moderately long and extremely distinguished career for Schuldiner. I recommend it to fans of the genre and those interested in the origins of extreme metal. Newcomers beware.
Highlights: Evil Dead, Zombie Ritual, Scream Bloody Gore