Released: 2011, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
If you’ve ever even considered a passing fancy towards anything related to death metal, you owe a great big heapin’ debt of gratitude to the late, great Chuck Schuldiner. Yeah, there were bands like Possessed and Venom prior to Death, but let’s be honest – no Death = no death metal. More important than planting the seeds of the genre, Chuck made death metal a legitimate form of musical expression. When other bands were still writing about blood, guts, and learning their instruments, Chuck was integrating heady, cathartic lyrical concepts and setting new standards for musical proficiency. He was always a step (or two, or three) ahead of where the rest of us were at, and when a new Death album dropped, the collective “whooaaaa” could be heard across nations.
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE was the final studio release under the Death moniker and was the most musically complex effort in the catalog. Though each new Death album would take tremendous leaps forward from its predecessor, the chasm between SYMBOLIC and TSOP was gargantuan. For those who don’t know the story, Chuck wanted to broaden his musical resume and had been shopping his Control Denied project to various labels. A more traditional metal ensemble with a powerhouse vocalist, Chuck had made it clear in the press that he wanted a break from Death and step into some new shoes for a bit. Control Denied was eventually signed to Nuclear Blast Records, but under the condition that Chuck release a new Death album for the label first. And so became THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE.
Since its original release in 1998, the album has become the stuff of legend, and Relapse Records has now given the album a full remaster treatment. Complete with “updated” artwork and bonus demo tracks from the recording sessions, THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE has never sounded better. Now, I’m usually wary about reissue packages, especially if I already own a copy of the original, but this isn’t a quick cash grab on behalf of Relapse. The production work on the album sounded phenomenal 13 years ago, but the gentle polish applied to TSOP really lights things up. I’d forgotten how unequivocally powerful these tunes were, and hearing them again in this edition brought many of the audio complexities I’d missed before to the surface. And the songs themselves still hold up a decade later. At the time of its original release, there weren’t any other albums on the market like TSOP. Its blend of progressive musicality and refined aggression are pretty commonplace today, but in ’98 it was a unique commodity. Hopefully this reissue will find TSOP a new audience and a new life.
The bonus tracks are an incentive to pick up the album again, or if you’ve never heard TSOP before, this is definitely the version you want. The demos range from ’97-’98, and show some of the variation and changes that the songs experienced during the writing/recording process (check out the lead guitar variations on “Bite the Pain” and “Scavenger of Human Sorrow”). Several of the bonus tracks don’t feature bassist Scott Clendenin in the mix, which should give guitar-philes immediate wood as the six string wizardry is put on full display.
Original album artist Travis Smith has updated the cover art for this reissue, and there’s a great interview with Smith on http://www.reigninart.com
which details the process and mindset behind the new art. Personally, I was fine with the original work, but what are you gonna do…Bottom line though; THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE is one of the quintessential metal albums all time, and Relapse Records has given you a new opportunity to discover why. Sadly, Chuck Schuldiner lost his battle with cancer in 2001, and I can’t help but wonder where else he would have taken us musically. Long live Death.