Death’s Leprosy changed the game of death metal. Despite its fiscal intentions, the album’s reissue emits a balanced and polished re-imagining of Schuldiner’s groundbreaking early career.
That last review left a bad taste in my mouth. There’s only so much mediocre popular music I can take before I want to bash my head into a wall. Just thinking out loud here, man. I’m a hipster, metal elitist, remember? To combat music withdrawals, I decided to shake some things up by putting my iPod on shuffle — I mean, whose iPod ever failed them? — and reviewing the first result. “Pull the Plug,” it told me. Nah, let’s go!
Reissues, for the most part, are usually low on my scale of “Holy shit, I need to buy this.” For one, they’re an obvious cash grab, and in the case of Death, it’s not hard to profit off of one of metal’s legendary songwriters, Chuck Schuldiner. It’s a difficult truth, but come on! I mean, throw in some bonus tracks, muddy live recordings, turn up the volume, slap on a remastered label and…money! I get it. Honor, love, nostalgia, they’re all buzzwords to open wallets. Leprosy and all of Death’s reissues are simple milk jobs designed to tap the metal market. Metalheads will probably burn me at the stake for damaging such a brand, but at Reviews From the Other Side, we analyze the entire aspect of the music industry. So, here’s to you, Relapse Records.
Fuck, I must just be in a bad mood. Let’s talk about the goddamn music. Leprosy is, by and by, as brutal as they come. From the get go, Chuck belts out one of his most demented screams, and that alone is a highlight and point producing moment. I hate to open every album review with the first track, but the album’s opener — and title track — is Schuldiner’s traditional death metal peak, where everything, from the solo, to the simple, driving riffs, even the boom-hiss drum pattern, melds together. If you don’t thrash after hearing that opening scream, then…this music isn’t for you. Ha, thought I was going to say something witty, didn’t you? Yeah, “Leprosy.” Fucking death metal, man! The album then rides “Leprosy[‘s]” wake with “Born Dead,” a never-ending onslaught of ascending guitar patterns and Chuck’s evil vocals.
There’s something unique in Chuck’s voice. It’s not quite a growl, and it certainly isn’t by-the-books singing. Hell, it isn’t even a Hetfield “shyeah!” Where Michael Akerfeldt overwhelms, Chuck Schuldiner strikes the soul, even thrashes in Death’s debut, Scream Bloody Gore. What’d you expect, with a title like that? But here, Leprosy, brings out the best of his screams, growls, shouts, and groans, throwing down one hell of an atmospheric performance. “Pull the Plug,” one of Death’s more recognizable tunes, utilizes this excruciating experience in its simple chorus — which, you guessed it, just repeats the title — with chilling precision. For 1988, Chuck’s voice was a horror show and influenced an entire, extreme metal genre. Kind of funny that the “godfather of death metal” donned cat shirts while his contemporaries spawned camo and dreadlocks.
The drums, although muddled — something I didn’t expect in a “remaster” — work well for what they are, not too complex, but not simple, either. As previously stated, the only issue is I can’t hear Bill Andrew’s performance! Behind thrashing guitars, the drum performance is as follows: rumbles followed by a snare/high hat alternation. What’s with that snare sound, anyways? Gene Hoglan comes in later, so that piece of the puzzle gets fixed. Meanwhile, the guitars are exactly what you’d expect from a Death record. Outstanding. “Pull the Plug,” “Born Dead,” “Leprosy,” and “Choke on It,” have their moments of slayer-esque nonsensical noodling, but as the riffs progress, Schuldiner adds some foreshadowing prog into the mix. The guitars never stop, and every lick, riff, solo, and interlude are thought out with the mind of a thrasher-gone-death-head. Don’t believe me when I say Chuck is one of music’s greatest guitarists? Check out “Leprosy.” If the riffs don’t get you, then the solo most certainly will.
I won’t go into the album’s mix. It’s a louder version of the original recording. That’s it.
Summary: Brutal, brutal and brutal. Death’s 1988 LP, Leprosy, is the definition of death metal.
RIP Chuck Schuldiner.
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