Chuck Shuldiner: The hero of Death Metal

Written by: mullet
Published: 06.10.2004
Heavy metal and its almost forgotten founder, hard rock, are today tainted with a menagerie of "bands", or more to the point, "acts", who suck dry the originality of the styles founders.
Whenever I happen to mention Chuck Shuldiner in everyday conversation, most people ask questions. I'm not sure if its because of the name or because of some invisible aura that goes along unseen with it, but he always manages to attract attention.

Chuck Shuldiner was and is, to me and thousands of people around the world, the greatest death metal guitarist and vocalist ever to set foot on this earth. My love for this mans playing is not just some one-week fad; it is not just a name that I throw around to gain the respect of other metal-heads, no. I have far too much respect for him than that.

Unlike the many and varied "acts" of today, Chuck Shuldiner, at the tender age of 15, had a purer concept of music than most middle aged musicians and producers. He recorded his first trend free recording for $80 at age 16 with two mates from his Florida high school and was immediately making waves in the growing metal scene of the time. Entitled Mantas; Death by Metal, the 5 track tape was circulated around the East Coast of America and overseas for years purely because of the quality of the music, not because of huge add campaigns, not because of excellent sound quality (it was recorded in Chucks dads garage) but solely on the quality of the playing. It is this type of mentality the kept Chucks music constantly ahead of the pack, he was never afraid to try something different in order to better himself and his band.

Chuck Shuldiner always took to writing and playing his music with the same passion and attitude he had to life, one of love, truth, and hard work. Things that were put into all of Chuck's musical pursuits.
Chuck Shuldiner, most prolifically, played guitar and sang for his Florida based death-metal band, simply entitled Death. With Death, Chuck's first "proper" band, the music constantly evolved with every album. This was due primarily to Chuck, the mainstay of the band and his wish for Death to be the fastest, loudest, brutal, most technical and melodic band all at once.

This was also the reason behind the constant hiring and firing of musicians throughout Deaths history, with 17 odd members gracing the ranks. Chuck never let others influence his bands direction or intent. It was always "his" band. He wrote lyrics, he sang the lyrics. He wrote music, he played the music. It was quoted of an ex-Death member that "Chuck didn't do things different just because he could, no, he was simply incapable of being told what to do." Apart from contributions that no doubt shaped the Death sound, members of death were simply expected to play their instruments to perfection and not become fixated on money image or aesthetic pleasures. They were there for support, for ideas and friendship. Chuck fired guitarist Rick Rozz simply because he loved his hair too much, constantly getting it changed and coloured.

Chuck Shuldiner never had a drug problem. Chuck Shuldiner never brought lavish gifts for high-profile girlfriends. Chuck Shuldiner wasn't a greedy man. He lived his life with his family in Florida and was happy to play with his pets, Heidi the dog, (whom he rescued from a dumpster and certain death) and his cat. He loved quiet walks and having a beer with a mate. At the same time he wrote some of the most powerful, technical, brutal and memorable music. Ever.

One thing that set Death apart from rivals in the 80's and 90's [Sepultura, Cynic, Venom, Slayer] was the lyrically approach Chuck stamped his song with. It was brutal and raw meshing seamlessly with the harmonic guitar sounds. There is a lot of musical evidence on each Death album to suggest there was a lot of learning done by Chuck through the years to get his standard of playing up to the startling peaks of "The Sound Of Perseverance" album.

Chuck himself admitted that in the beginning, around the "Mantas: Death by Metal" and "Death: Scream Bloody Gore" period, he had virtually no soloing skills other than some basic blues licks that didn't fit with the brutal style of the time. Also, the drumming on Death albums gets progressively more and more insane until it plateaus on "Individual Thought Patterns" simply because virtually every timing and roll combination has been tried before. Listening to Gene Holgan (Symbolic and Individual Thought Patterns period) is a treat to the ears.

Hey, and while I'm at it, why not mention Steve DiGeorjio, whom on two of Deaths finest recordings unleashes with the humbling blast and groove of fretless base just to mix things up a bit.

There are no two ways about it, I am a die-hard metal head and eternal Chuck fan. It is incredibly hard for someone in my position to argue against the Shuldiner legend, but for the purpose of getting a good mark: Deaths style does show sings of weakening and growing distant from its gore filled roots on later albums such as The Sound of Perseverance and Spiritual Healing. This is generally accredited to Chuck growing up and the general public interest in more mature (some would say, real-life) issues. These dramatic changes of style alienated thousands of Death fans.

Also, It could be said that Chuck was a very hard person to get along with. It has been said that Chuck was subject to dramatic changes in mood, often detrimental to the music and to his career. These fluctuating moods and goals are also said by some to be to blame for the constant rearranging of the Death line up.

The first of these arguments can be immediately discredited simply by saying that the style changes surrounding the Death albums in question was for the best. Yes, they did alienate a proportion of the Death fan base, but they also helped Death get the worldwide recognition they deserved. Recognition as innovators in a style. As for the second argument, Chuck Shuldiner was pure and simply a perfectionist. When something was not right, he made his feelings clear straight away. He new what he wanted and he sought out the best way to get exactly that, what he wanted. As well as success himself, almost all of the ex-Death members have gone on to have worldwide fame with other bands. Many owe there success to Chuck, none have hard feelings towards him.

Chuck was diagnosed with brain stem cancer in 1999, just after the recording of the last Death album and right in the middle of the new Control Denied album. (A side project and a life long dream)
The metal community the world over got behind the many benefits organised to pay for the musician's expensive treatment. It is this sort of effort that underlines the devotion most metal heads had to this kind and gentle god. However all the best treatment, well wishes and prayers in the world could not save this mortal legend from his gruesome killer. He died at home in his Altamonte Springs home in the late afternoon, with his mother at his bedside, in the afternoon of Friday the 13th 2001. He was 34.

Chuck once wrote, at the age of 18, for his 1988 album Leprosy,

The Long Road
Lies Ahead
Death is oh so strange
The past no one can change
What you can't predict
Is how long you'll exist
-C.S., "Open Casket."

This proved all to true for Chuck.

While people still argue that Death Metal, even the melodic and breathtakingly technical style of Death, is boring, un-listenable and unmusical, they are obviously set in their trendy "fad" music ways and will forever remain oblivious to a purer style of music, untainted by corporate America. Yes, some biased, uneducated individuals may argue that the style of music purveyed by Death and Control Denied is "old", over-rated and under-educated.

What, however, these poor misguided individuals don't realise is that Chuck Shuldiner and Death are undoubtedly one of the greatest, most talented and most important and influential death metal entities to have ever purveyed this style. He wrote some of the most powerful, technical, brutal and memorable music.

Ever.

R.I.P Chuck Shuldiner 13/12/01


 
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Ascendant187 - 25.11.2008 at 15:16  
Written by K†ulu on 25.11.2008 at 14:33

Written by Ascendant187 on 25.11.2008 at 11:51

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 24.11.2008 at 19:14

Written by Ascendant187 on 24.11.2008 at 17:03

Weren't his parents Jewish?



What does that have to do with anything?

People were talking about whether or not Chuck had sought out religion (Christianity in particular, it seems) in his latter years. Hence the whole changing of the Death logo and such. I recall reading somewhere that his parents were Jewish but very open minded, to both religions and his eventual choice in music. I could be very wrong however. It is the internet after all and not everything you read is true.

Well, his mother, Jane Schuldiner, said that he:
  • talked about God frequently
  • he was spiritual

    But that's all she wanna say about the matter. http://www.emptywords.org/perennial.htm

  • Nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

    We're sidetracking in a big way though. Chuck should be honoured and remembered for his contributions. People who downright disrespect him come off as ignorant. Of course perhaps the same can be said for those who do tend to play the role of fanboy and promote him as the Godfather of Death Metal (and so on...). He's not the creator of death metal, no, but that doesn't mean he deserves to have his name tarnished.
    K†ulu - 25.11.2008 at 21:05  
    Written by Ascendant187 on 25.11.2008 at 15:16

    Written by K†ulu on 25.11.2008 at 14:33

    Written by Ascendant187 on 25.11.2008 at 11:51

    Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 24.11.2008 at 19:14

    Written by Ascendant187 on 24.11.2008 at 17:03

    Weren't his parents Jewish?



    What does that have to do with anything?

    People were talking about whether or not Chuck had sought out religion (Christianity in particular, it seems) in his latter years. Hence the whole changing of the Death logo and such. I recall reading somewhere that his parents were Jewish but very open minded, to both religions and his eventual choice in music. I could be very wrong however. It is the internet after all and not everything you read is true.

    Well, his mother, Jane Schuldiner, said that he:
  • talked about God frequently
  • he was spiritual

    But that's all she wanna say about the matter. http://www.emptywords.org/perennial.htm

  • Nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

    We're sidetracking in a big way though. Chuck should be honoured and remembered for his contributions. People who downright disrespect him come off as ignorant. Of course perhaps the same can be said for those who do tend to play the role of fanboy and promote him as the Godfather of Death Metal (and so on...). He's not the creator of death metal, no, but that doesn't mean he deserves to have his name tarnished.

    Why do you address me with that? I just answered you question regarding his religious views. I love Death, they are one of my favorite bands, and Chuck of course was a great songwriter and musician; I don't deny that.
    Ascendant187 - 26.11.2008 at 10:57  
    Written by K†ulu on 25.11.2008 at 21:05

    Written by Ascendant187 on 25.11.2008 at 15:16

    Written by K†ulu on 25.11.2008 at 14:33

    Written by Ascendant187 on 25.11.2008 at 11:51

    Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 24.11.2008 at 19:14

    Written by Ascendant187 on 24.11.2008 at 17:03

    Weren't his parents Jewish?



    What does that have to do with anything?

    People were talking about whether or not Chuck had sought out religion (Christianity in particular, it seems) in his latter years. Hence the whole changing of the Death logo and such. I recall reading somewhere that his parents were Jewish but very open minded, to both religions and his eventual choice in music. I could be very wrong however. It is the internet after all and not everything you read is true.

    Well, his mother, Jane Schuldiner, said that he:
  • talked about God frequently
  • he was spiritual

    But that's all she wanna say about the matter. http://www.emptywords.org/perennial.htm

  • Nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

    We're sidetracking in a big way though. Chuck should be honoured and remembered for his contributions. People who downright disrespect him come off as ignorant. Of course perhaps the same can be said for those who do tend to play the role of fanboy and promote him as the Godfather of Death Metal (and so on...). He's not the creator of death metal, no, but that doesn't mean he deserves to have his name tarnished.

    Why do you address me with that? I just answered you question regarding his religious views. I love Death, they are one of my favorite bands, and Chuck of course was a great songwriter and musician; I don't deny that.

    I apologise. The stuff about tarnished names and the like is aimed at previous posters who've reacted overly negative toward this article. It wasn't aimed at you in any way. I found the link you posted to be very helpful.

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