by Luxi Lahtinen, EvilG and Robert Williams
It’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago, on December 13th 2001, that the entire Heavy Metal world was hit by sad news: Chuck Schuldiner (also known as “Evil Chuck”) of Death had tragically passed away. He lost a lengthy battle with a cancerous brain tumor, dying at the age of just 34. The Heavy Metal world was in shock and mourned his loss, realizing how much joy Chuck Schuldiner had brought Metal fans around the world through his music for nearly two decades.
Chuck is considered as one of the true pioneers of the Death Metal genre, starting out his musical career in 1983 by using the Mantas moniker, and changing the name to Death in late 1984. Death’s debut full-length studio album, SCREAM BLOODY GORE, originally released on Combat Records in 1987, was in many ways a groundbreaking Metal album. It turned out to be a remarkable and influential Metal record for many young generations to come. Unquestionably from that particular album in question onwards, Chuck’s career as a musician, started to sky rocket – Chuck deserved and enjoyed the attention and success he gained with his band Death. People knew Chuck as an ambitious musician who always wanted to develop himself as a musician, to reveal some new sides out for himself. He got involved with a more experimental-sounding super-group called Voodoocult in 1994 for one record – and formed Control Denied (1995-2001), in which he was able to write more melodic stuff that didn’t suit Death’s music (it’s been told the ex-members are determined to finish the 2nd Control Denied album, as that was one of Chuck’s last wishes for all the fans). Chuck’s legacy in Metal is probably greater than any of us will ever realize.
It’s now been 10 long years since the legend left this world. Therefore, we here in Metal-Rules.com decided to honor Chuck’s memory together with several people from all around the world who were either very close to Chuck and knew him personally (Chuck’s ex-band mates, close friends, etc.), or to whom Chuck’s music made a great impact, resulting in thousands and thousands of young musicians forming their own bands – heavily inspired and influenced by Chuck’s signature vocal style, guitar playing and so on. All the people who got involved with this special feature, told their heart-warming and humble thoughts about our much loved, never-forgotten, and very much respected fallen hero.
Oh, just before you are about to start reading this massive tribute article to Chuck, first make sure that your room is filled up with some of Chuck’s music at the highest volumes possible. If you neighbors don’t like it, tell them you have an official permission today to play your music as loud as you want to, authorized exclusively by Metal-Rules.com.
Written by Luxi Lahtinen on October 30th 2011
This tribute is dedicated especially to Chuck’s family, relatives, close friends and all those people who really cared for Chuck and all his music he ever did. Chuck’s legacy and music are meant to live forever.
When was the first time you heard Death (or Mantas, pre-Death), and do you remember what song it was? What initial impact did it make on you?
Eric Greif (former manager of DEATH and president of Perseverance Holdings Ltd, managing the legacy of DEATH and CONTROL DENIED): I tape traded for the MUTILATION demo and received a promo copy of SCREAM BLOODY GORE. I first saw Death live at Milwaukee Metalfest in summer 1987, which is also the first time I met Chuck. I started managing Death between S.B.G. and LEPROSY.
Chris Reifert (AUTOPSY, ex-DEATH): Well, that would have been right when the band name changed. I had a friend who ordered the Mantas demo and they got the Death demo in the mail. Same tape, just freshly changed name. “Legion of Doom” would have been the first song I heard since it was the first one on the tape. I do remember it sounding really heavy, raw and brutal with vocals deeper than I’d ever heard before. It was pretty damn exciting to hear and after that, I collected the other demos as they came out.
Terry Butler (ex-DEATH, ex-MASSACRE, OBITUARY): I was aware of Mantas from the time they recorded the demo. Bill Andrews told me he heard a demo from a band called Mantas and it was crushing. So I was very interested. I was at a Nasty Savage concert at Ruby’s in 1983 and saw chuck walking around with Mantas demos. I bought one from him. Yes, it was an impact; it was heavy and raw. I was very much into Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory at the time so Mantas was right there with them in my book.
Jeff Becerra (POSSESSED): I heard Death for the very first time by actually watching Chuck shred his new riffs right in front of me out at the Possessed fan-club President’s (Krystal Mahoney) house out in Antioch California one night. He was actually living there back in the days whenever he was first starting out and I had no idea who this new kid from Florida was or what he would become in the future. He was wearing a Possessed shirt and telling me how much he was into Possessed; and at the very same time *totally* amazing me and blowing me away with his constant guitar riffs. We ended up partying all night and showing off for each other on his guitar (with no amp) and instantly became very good friend. Back then we were both very young and very ambitious and really found a kindred soul in one another. Because I had never met Chuck or even heard of Mantas back then I couldn’t tell you which riffs he was showing me or if they were ever even put into one of his songs. But I do remember him being a fucking kick-ass shredding machine. And I remember that we partied *very* hard that first night when we met up.
Brian Werking (EXMORTIS): The first time I heard Death was when I was in high school. It was 1986 when I finally heard the INFERNAL DEATH demo (which was released in 1985 I think) and wow, it blew me away. Even though it was a rehearsal demo it was the song “Infernal Death” that I heard first. In 1986 I had only heard bands like Slayer and Possessed. From then I heard nothing more from Death until the SCREAM BLOODY GORE album was released.
Tony Portaro (ex-CALIGULA, WHIPLASH): I went to see Death at CBGB’s in NYC. I believe it was in the late eighties. After the show, I went back to the parking plaza where my car was parked. The garage doors were closed and no lights were left on. Unknowingly, the parking plaza was not open 24 hours a day and my car was locked in overnight. Chuck and the guys from Death were driving a station wagon and pulling a UHaul with all of their equipment. They were driving back down south and just happened to be taking a highway that ran directly past my street. Chuck told me they would give me a ride. So, I got in the car. When we got to the point closest to my home, I told them to pull over on the highway. I jumped out and only had a very short walk to my house. Thanks Chuck.
Mem von Stein (EXUMER, SUN DESCENDS): I heard the first Death stuff around ’84/’85. We used to listen to their demo tapes and moreover to 120 min. cassete tapes with multiple versions of songs like “Evil Dead”. The rawness of the material and the energy of the playing was very inspiring to me. We ended up writing to Death a lot, this was done mostly via Oliver Klemm, who used to work for Metal Hammer at the time. Oliver and I both worked for MH, me doing interviews with English speaking bands mostly and Oliver writing the interviews. I remember Death sending us copies of their first shirts they had ever pressed with the logo and I was wearing my Death shirt to a lot of shows, attracting some curious looks at the time.
Jim Nickles (ex-MALEVOLENT CREATION, ex-HELLWITCH, VILE VINDICTION): My only memory of Chuck really, was ’91 when we played with Death and Carcass on the Hellwitch tour. I do believe Chuck and I shared a joint if my memory serves me correctly… (*LOL*)
Dave Rotten (AVULSED, XTREEM MUSIC): First thing I heard was the SCREAM BLOODY GORE album in ‘87. Here in Spain it was nearly impossible to get import stuff at that time. Then the same year I was heavily into tape-trading and got quite a few demos & live stuff. The first impact I got was that they were just the Possessed clones, because I had already heard SEVEN CHURCHES before and it was basically the only possible comparison. After more listenings my opinion was more concrete and they didn’t look so similar although the influence was abvious.
Michael Dorrian (ANATOMY OF I): The first Death song I heard was “Secret Face” in 1992, on an obscure Death Metal compilation CD called MASTERS OF BRUTALITY. Back then, I was mostly into Thrash Metal but Death really allowed me to get into heavier bands. The same compilation series also offered a VHS tape, which included “Lack of Comprehension” so I heard that one around the same time. Basically Death opened up a whole new world for me, not only through their own music, but it introduced me to Sadus, Cynic, King Diamond and many other bands that influenced me in my teens.
Ted Ringo (THE CRYPT RECORDS): “Zombie Ritual” which is heard back in 1987 and I thought it was the heaviest and most brutal song I had head to date!
Laurent Ramadier (SNAKEPIT MAGAZINE): Oh man…. It’s been so long but I recall it well. There’s certain pieces of music you never forget when you’ve heard them because there were so strong that they are full parts of your existence… Riot’s FIRE DOWN UNDER, Accept’s BREAKER, Slayer’s SHOW NO MERCY, Genocide’s VIOLENT DEATH demo 10/21/85, Archenemy’s rehearsal March 1986 belongs to that category and so does the Mantas’ Brandon, Florida September 1st 1984 live tape… I recall getting a copy of that show around late ’84, sent by former Hardos Mag / Decibel Of Death editor, Ludovic Gluozko… he was raving about them just like he was doing for Vermin, Possessed, C.O.C. and so on. Remember it was like October 1984, so I get the tape and play it without really knowing what to expect… and I was crushed right from the first minute. “Demon’s Flight”, “Zombie”, “Beyond the Unholy Grave”… It was all insane material, I could hear right away how talented were those young guys to come up with super heavy yet totally memorable material; not noise for the sake of playing noise! I did play this recording during a couple of weeks non stop until I got the truly amazing the REIGN OF TERROR demo – AND the fuckin’ Ruby’s Pub 12/30/84 recording, which crushed everything Mantas/Death had done to that point. It was a point of no return… such speed, heaviness and natural growling! Yeah, this is when I got to hear Chuck’s material for the first time.
Laurent Merle (LISTENABLE RECORDS): I had some really shitty super downtuned copies of the reh / demo tapes that I got through tape trading, I was convinced they were monsters or completely crazy guys back in the day for doing this music. I remember listening to Mantas and an early Death rehearsal featuring their new song “Baptized in Blood” (probably around in 1985) and I was really fast and evil; I was blown away. It wasn’t the first time I listened to Death / Mantas but this song really struck me. “Evil Dead” and “Zombie Ritual” were classics too.
Bob Bagchus (ASPHYX): I heard Death for the first time in 198 when I got the DEATH BY METAL demo (Mantas) by tape trading – and the whole tape blew me away for sure. “Legions of Doom” is still a favourite. But this was for sure pure Death Metal. Also the vocals of Kam Lee were very extreme back then, and still are now. I also liked the way he was drumming: simple and effective. Also Chuck’s riffing was brutal and he had those catchy ‘easy-to-remember’ brutal riffs that I still adore to date.
Frank Van Kwartel (SARGON): The first time I heard Death, I was 13 years old and in 6th grade. It was thanks to my older brother who is one of the people responsible for me getting into Metal in the first place; He gave me a copy of SPIRITUAL HEALING, and after I first heard the guitar solos in “Altering The Future” I was hooked for good. Death made a huge impact in my life; not only in my guitar playing, but Chuck’s lyrics and philosophy molded me as a person.
John McEntee (INCANTATION, FUNERUS): The first time I heard that was when I was hanging out with Henry Veggian and Jim Plotkin and we are probably making our weekly visits to all record stores. Every time we would hang out it seemed like those guys had another demo of a new band for me to check out. I remember them telling me that I have to check this and Death out so I popped it in. It was a cassette tape with the INFERNAL DEATH demo, DEATH BY METAL demo THE REIGN OF TERROR demo. One of the first things I realized was just how wrong and aggressive it was there were many things I heard at that time that had such a underground wall sickness to it. The songs were very untight but you could hear that there was a feeling in their that was some of the sickest stuff out there at the time. I was instantly a fan. A few years later I remember getting a copy from Chris of the MUTILATION demo and I was totally blown away. Once SCREAM BLOODY GORE came out it was all over. Especially for the time that was one of the greatest Death Metal releases. It had a great production but also was able keep the raw edge. That is one helpful that will always mean a lot to me and I credit as changing my life and the way I look at Extreme Metal.
Mark Jansen (EPICA, MAYAN): The first things of Death I heard from the INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS album blew me away. Majestic riffs.
Luis Lara (DIOSDEIRA): The first album and song that I heard from Death, was SCREAM BLOODY GORE. What a damn great album it is! In fact, I gotta tell you that I’ve got the entire Death discography in my Ipod, from which I listen to every single week at least one my favorite Death albums, SCREAM BLOODY GORE and INDIVDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS. He will always be a big influence on me. He proved that music can evolve without selling your soul to the music biz. I think he had a lot more to give as a musician always will be missed LONG LIVE CHUCK SHULDINER!!!!
Mike IX Williams (EYEHATEGOD, ARSON ANTHEM): In the early to mid 80’s from tape and fanzine trading I had gotten the 1st Mantas demo that I ordered directly from Chuck down in Florida ‘cos I had a xerox ‘zine called Broken Promises / Broken Heads and I wanted to review it. My ‘zine was the most low fucking budget thing ever, but I was dedicated totally to the underground and coming from the Hardcore / Punk scene, this new, fast & evil driven music was obsessing me… I continued to trade tapes and get new live & demo tapes from Chuck and with the name change to Death; I followed right along…
Pest (GORGOROTH): I first heard Death as a young teenager (13-14 years old). It was the “Leprsoy” song, and it deffinately made an impression. I was unaware of SCREAM BLOODY GORE at the time, but it didn’t take me long to find that one too.
Mike Browning (ex-MORBID ANGEL, ex-NOCTURNUS, AFTER DEATH): For me it was quite early with the Mantas stuff because we did a few shows with the first Massacre lineup back when I was in Morbid Angel. I really liked all the old Mantas and Massacre stuff and it was cool to start networking with other Florida bands back in the 80’s.
Esa Lindén (DEMIGOD): I think it was 1987 when I first time heard the classic SCREAM BLOODY GORE album. I listened to it with my cousin Tero (Laitinen) and thought what the hell is this? At that point Kreator, Possessed and Destruction were bands I enjoyed listening to but Death was something different; brutal and heavier than anything that I had heard before. I was looking for more extreme bands and Death fitted perfectly into that category. The first Death song that I heard from Death, must have been “Infernal Death”. I immediately lost my soul for them.
Danny Lilker (NUCLEAR ASSAULT, BRUTAL TRUTH): I guess that would’ve been when I heard the INFERNAL DEATH demo, so I guess the title track would’ve been the first song I ever heard from them. I enjoyed it immediately, I liked the primitive nature of the early stuff they did, it was almost like the US answer to Hellhammer in a way. I remember the other guys in Nuclear Assault saying “What is this crap?”.
Daniel Rego (DEMONIC RESURRECTION): My first Death song was “Trapped in a Corner”, off INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERS, when I was around 13 years old. The first impact it made on me was the compositional depth of the music, especially Schuldiner’s instantly recognisable use of parallel harmonies and the progressive tendencies of the music that still managed to retain the edge of intensity. I was also struck by how impressive the musicianship was, especially Steve DiGiorgio’s unique fretless bass playing.
Toni Weidlich (CRYSTALIC): It was 1995 after releasing SYMBOLIC. My school friend played the CD for me, and when I heard song called “Crystal Mountain” at first time I was immediately blown away. Couldn’t believe that some band could make this progressive music and still sound so catchy. And when I listened to that song again and again, I found every time new elements and dimensions from the song… couldn’t get bored to it at all. Chuck’s voice was also something I had never heard before.
Lasse Pyykkö (HOODED MENACE, PHLEGETHON): It was one of those “Speed Kills” compilation LP´s back in the day where I discovered Death for the first time. Must have been ´87 or ´88. The track was “Beyond the Unholy Grave” and it just blew me away! Brutal, aggressive yet well played and well structured stuff with the best growled vocals I had ever heard. Yeah, they definitely got a new fan!
Patrick Evil (SATAN’S HOST): The first time I heard Death was a bootleg recording from a party they played doing “Baptized in Blood”. Back then we would trade tapes a lot and a friend of mine sent me that tape and it was great!
Jed Simon (TENET, ZIMMERS HOLE, ex-SYL): I heard Death/Mantas way back in the tape tradin’ days…a friend of mine was a dj at the college radio station in Victoria, BC… my hometown. He got everything in advance and was also responsible for getting me into the tape trading scene. I remember hearing all those early demos and just being blown away. There are no specific songs that jump to mind because at that time, it was all so fresh, and evil, ha-ha! Naturally when the albums started dropping, I was there for every one. Death to me was one of those bands that just kept getting better with each release.
Marko Tarvonen (MOONSORROW, BARREN EARTH): I think it was in 1990 when I first heard “Infernal Death” from the debut album. I was 12 years old then and I had never before heard so brutal stuff. So I was totally blown away and copied the whole album on a cassette from my friend because I didn’t have any money to buy any albums then. And my parents hated the music I was playing, ha-ha!!
Steve Rice (KILL RITUAL, ex-IMAGIKA): The first time I ever heard Death was live when the came thru the Bay Area on tour and played at a now defunct club called Berkley Square. I went to see Nevermore who were opening because I was a big Sanctuary fan. It was Nevermore’s first ever tour of the US. I chatted with Jim from Nevermore a bit and he asked me if I was going to stick around to see Death and not being familiar with them and having to go to work early the next day I almost left, but decided to hang and check them out. Good call because they blew the place up and I was impressed by the bands musicianship and technical songwriting.
Tuomas Karhunen (FORGOTTEN HORROR, DEATHCHAIN): It was somewhere in the mid 90’s, I think it was the album SCREAM BLOODY GORE. Then later I heard THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE which had a big, big impact on me. I mean, I still like basically all Death material but T.S.O.P. is one of the most important Metal albums for me.