Released: 2014, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Before you read any further, do me a favor. Head over to the http://www.relapse.com
and order the limited 3-disc reissue of Death’s seminal sophomore full length LEPROSY, assuming there’s any left in stock. If there’s not, order the 2-disc set and consider yourself lucky.
I’m an unabashed disciple of the Church of Schuldiner, no doubt of that. Chuck Schuldiner left an indelible mark on death/extreme/heavy metal music as we know it today, and the world is a lesser place in his absence. But though his existence on this Earth was cut inexplicably short, the folks at Relapse Records have done a phenomenal job in sharing his legacy with new legions of fans through their reissues of the Death catalog. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – any band looking to have their catalog reissued needs to connect with Relapse Records, nobody does it better. And the reissue of LEPROSY is no exception to that hot streak.
Though HUMAN is my by far my favorite Death LP (and my favorite Relapse reissue), LEPROSY is a close second. Back in 1988, LEPROSY was the sound of a band in the chrysalis stage. Coming off the guttural, knuckle dragging aesthetics of SCREAM BLOODY GORE, LEPROSY was the first step towards Chuck’s inimitable brand of thinking man’s death metal that would become readily apparent on later releases. LEPROSY also paired Schuldiner’s technical leanings with ¾ of Massacre’s classic lineup for a death metal mashup of epic proportions. Chuck’s arpeggio and tech driven approach paired against Rick Rozz’ brutal whammy assault is comparable to the struggle of Cain and Abel, fighting for deathly supremacy. The result of those conflicting styles being classics like “Open Casket”, “Pull the Plug”, “Choke On It” and the title track. If you’re one of the few who’ve never experienced LEPROSY, this is absolutely the version to experience first. If, like me, you experienced LEPROSY decades ago and again on previous reissues, this is still absolutely your version of choice. Once again remastered by Alan Douches, this is hands down the best you’ll ever hear the original 8 studio tracks. The fact alone that you can hear Terry Butler’s bass lines now should be reason enough to merit a purchase, but yet there’s so much more.
Disc 2 features a collection of rehearsal demos from ’87, which for death metal fans could be considered first draft notes of what would eventually become the Bible. Hearing these pre-production demos is like stepping into a time machine, only to experience the periphery of what would eventually become these 8 heaviest of heavy tunes. It’s humbling to say the least. But if you’re lucky enough to snatch up the 3-disc set, you’ll find an uber-rare collection of live recordings from Backstreets and The Dirt Club. Yeah, they’re super raw, but hearing Chuck’s dedications on “Open Casket” and “Zombie Ritual” is priceless – “This next one is dedicated to those who don’t believe in death metal…this one is called OPEN…CASKET!!!!” Chills up my f@#king spine.
LEPROSY was a moment in time never to be repeated, but the music will be with us forever. This is a must have for any self-respecting metal fan. There will never be another Chuck Schuldiner, and there will never be another Death. But thankfully, reissues like this will make sure that we never forget it.