Grief, Eric & Belacazar, Felipe, Death By Metal (DVD Review)

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Title: Death By Metal
Producers: Eric Grief & Felipe Belacazar
Year: 2018
Label:  MVD Visual
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

As time marches on, I’m pleased to see more and more documentation in books and on film of the career of extreme Metal musicians and bands. It was only a matter of time before someone, somewhere did a book and or film on the original Death Metal band, Death and that time is here!

The film DEATH BY METAL, first screened back in 2016, is finally out on DVD!  The DVD comes in a standard case with a nice little booklet with additional comments and thoughts from various ex-Death alumni.  It is inexpensive and easily available for purchase on-line.

This a well-produced and good looking film.  It follows a logical, chronological path of the life of Chuck Schuldiner and the ever-rotating line-up of the iconic band Death.  It runs for about an hour and 45 minutes.    Fortunately the film had the rights to use Death music. Have you ever seen one of those cheaper documentaries where the film does NOT have the rights to use the music?  That is annoying, but the soundtrack to this is heavy as hell!

Visually this amazing; it has tons of old photos and VHS recordings, old clips from MTV and more, and it very appealing to look at.  There are many, many interviews with people with the world of Death, producers, journalists, members of the Schudiner family, ex-members of the band (and there a lot of them) and a really good chunk of time spent with their ex-Manager Eric Grief who now helps oversee the Schuldiner musical legacy and estate.

As mentioned, many former members of Death were interviewed giving this a real sense of authority and legitimacy. There were a few notable exceptions, maybe Kam Lee, James Murphy and Andy LaRoque, but maybe they weren’t asked, or could not or would not participate. There were enough perspectives and interviews that it felt very comprehensive.

One aspect of this film that I appreciated, is that it was not a complete love-in and 90 minute love-letter to Chuck.  There were many alternate perspectives and it comes out that, at times, Chuck was difficult to work with.   It seems that he was very quiet, a homebody, even shy to an extent and that made it difficult for him to communicate at times.  It came across that he was passive-aggressive, being non-communicative, and then lashing out and firing band members, not even by firing them face-to-face but letting someone else do the dirty work, so to speak.   Let’s face it, there were over 30 members in Death (including touring musicians) over the years so it was his way or the highway!  It was revealed at one point even his own Manager was suing Death!  The whole sad episode of Schuldiner leaving his own band briefly and missing a European tour was well documented.  However, overall this is a fine tribute to man and the band and the vision.

There are a generous number of bonus features, nine to be exact, running for over two hours and these really dig into the history of the band for the die-hard.  Probably the centre-piece is a complete concert, when Death performed at the Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee on November 30th, 1991 on the HUMAN tour.   It is a pretty rough presentation, a two-camera shoot, both handheld and with pretty raw sound but overall it a real gem from the Death vaults!   There are several other historically themed bonus feature interviews talking about the early Tampa scene, Sadus, Obituary etc…

The legacy of Death has really been assured.  For several years Relapse has been doing the Death catalogue reissue campaign and now the crown jewel is DEATH BY METAL.  Cliché as it is, this is mandatory viewing for all Death fans and beyond, all fans of extreme Metal to help us get a sense of how one man, became an iconic flash-point for a form of music that continues to this very day.