Death – Leprosy (1988)

Chuck Schuldiner – guitars, bass, vocals
Rick Rozz – guitar
Bill Andrews – drums

Recorded – 1988
Released – 1988

Within the year that Scream Bloody Gore was released, Death had already begun work on songs that would form their next album, Leprosy. A musical product greater than its predecessor, Leprosy was at once exhilarating and entertaining while at the same time less of an achievement or benchmark for the emergent extreme metal genre.

With Leprosy, Schuldiner demonstrated his ability to catch onto the then-entrenched death metal riffs and build them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Although still owing heavily from the mire and blitzkrieg Death’s first album exemplified, the bigger role of the bass and a greater interest in longer songs with more varying structures differentiate it from his first LP. In the second track, for instance, the bass helps drive the song forward, supported somewhat artificially by the incessant drums and Schuldiner’s repetitive lyrics. These traits form the bulk substance of the work as a whole.

Lyrically, Schuldiner continues along the same path he began with Scream Bloody Gore; songs about death and dying, brutal mutilations, and horrifying illnesses pervade the album’s content with little variation.

Although a better and more cohesive album than his first effort, Leprosy adds little to the genre and to his repertoire of abilities that he hadn’t already showcased on the previous LP. Its songs, enjoyable as they are, blend into the background with the same ease of listening that empowers Scream Bloody Gore as a cornerstone, but this only weakens Leprosy as another step along the chain. It’s less than an intermediary, not quite a turning point, and not significant enough to be considered within any historical context. It can ‘merely’ concede to being an enjoyable work in and of itself, without relation to the bang that Death began with nor the later heights of compositional mastery that the band would soar to.

But despite that, it’s still a solid listen and musically superior to its predecessor. The guitars are more precise, bass more pronounced, and drums a bit more creatively thrown into the mix. The riffs are better, the songs are more enjoyable, and the album is on the whole simply better produced. It makes for an easier listen and a more digestible product, which is perhaps at once its biggest asset and its greatest flaw.

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