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Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from the North American continent, Florida's DEATH came together in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitarist RickRozz (real name: Frederick De Lillo) got together with drummer/vocalist Barney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawing musical inspiration from Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yet entered the picture!) went about composing original tunes and making very rough, crude rehearsal recordings to send out to various tape. traders around the world. Out of the se ses more

Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from the North American continent, Florida's DEATH came together in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitarist RickRozz (real name: Frederick De Lillo) got together with drummer/vocalist Barney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawing musical inspiration from Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yet entered the picture!) went about composing original tunes and making very rough, crude rehearsal recordings to send out to various tape. traders around the world. Out of the se sessions came a completely unproduced five-song "demo" entitled Death By Metal (mid-1984), which -. inspite of its primitive nature--ended up establishing the group as one of the most promising contenders for the American death metal throne,astatus that at the time was being firmly held bySan Francisco's Possessed. The recognition they received, however, was note nough to help Mantas along in their hometown of Orlando, where the group were still not being taken seriously by any of the clubs or fellow musicians.

"The local situation was fuckin' nearly impossible," Schuldiner later recalled. "A lot of people looked down upon us. We gotalotof shit from the local bandscene; all the bands from around (Orlando) thought we were pure shit. We were noisy back then,but we were putting out brutal deathmetal, and it was too much for people to comprehend." This complete lack of locals upport for the band's music was at least partly to blame for the constant internal turmoil within the group and Mantas'eventual break-up in late 1984.

Vowing to carry on making music that was "faster and heavier" than anything he'd done before,Schuldiner immediately announced his plans to form a new band simply called DEATH- and relocate to either Tampa or California after his 18th birthday (which was to occur in May of 1985), a move that he felt could improve his chances of securing a stable line-up for the group. Within weeks, however, Chuck reconciled with Rozz and Lee and commenced the writing sessions for what would become the legendary Reign Of Terror demo.

We have gotten so much heavier (since reforming), it's almost beyond comprehension," Schuldiner stated on the eve of the demo's recording.Laid downover a five-hour period during October 1984 "in the back room of a music store where they keep recording equipment", Reign Of Terror cost a grand total of $80 and was never properly mixed down due to a lackof timein aproper recording studio. In spite of this, the six. song tape was circulated worldwidethrough the vast tape-tradingnetworkand put DEATH on the map as one of the genre's most extreme andbrutal groups.

On December 30th, 1984, DEATH performed with local Tampa heroes Nasty Savage at Ruby's Pub and made an audio recording of the show that they would later release as an "official" live tape. "We're going to trash the (Reign OfTerror)demo, because it sucks compared to our live tape," Chuck was quoted as saying at the time.

Three months later, on March 9th, 1985, Chuck, Rick and Kam finally got the opportunity to record a "proper" studio demo,a three-song recording made specifically for the purpose of finding a record deal. Not an "official"demo release,the Infernal Death tape (as it would later become known) was to be thelast recording made with this line-up, as Chuckslowlygrew apartfrom the other members and began to set hiseyes on a Michigan bassist by the name ofScott Carlson (thenofGenocide,and later of Repulsion).

"Scott sent us a tape of himself jamming, and he absolutely kills," Chuck enthused. By the time Scott relocatedtoOrlando(replacing Rozz), hebroughtalong with him Genocide guitarist Matt Olivo, and the two joined Kam and Chuck inashort-livedincarnation of DEATH that ended whenLee finally exited,leaving the remaining three members drummer-less.Severalfrustrating months followed during which Chuck, Matt and Scottattempted to find areplacement for Kam, butthetaskproved impossible, ultimately causing Scott and Matt to return to Michigan and leavingChuck the daunting taskoffindinganentirely new line-up.

In September of 1985, Chuck relocated to San Francisco at the urging of ex-D.R.I. drummer Eric Brecht, and thepairsoonhooked up in yetanotherversion of the band, this time with the intent of their band "being thefastestever".Ultimately,however, Chuck realized that a full. speedassault did notallow for the different musical shades andcolorswhichmade DEATH such an import musical entity, and in December of thatsame year, he returned toFlorida, bandlessonceagain.It was around that time that he got a phone call from Toronto death metal upstartsSlaughter, who just a fewshortweekspriorto entering the studio to begin recording their debut album, Strappado, asked him to move up toCanadaand jointheirranks. Frustrated with his localenvironment.

Chuck accepted their offer and in January of 1986 moved to Toronto to start rehearsing with the group. Althoughinitiallyenthusiastic about theprospectof being in an actual "band", Schuldiner quickly realized the need to pursuehis ownvisionand not follow somebody else's lead, andpromptly left Canadato return to Florida, where he started plotting hisnextattack. Within weeks he was back in San Francisco where hehooked up with a promising youngdrummer by the nameofChrisReifert,and in April of that same year, the pair entered a California studio torecord the infamous three-songMutilationdemo.By fart he best-recorded tape Chuck had laid down up until that point, Mutilation rapidly madethe rounds inmetalcircles,and thedemo soon found its way in the hands of Combat Records, who proceeded to snap up the group to amulti. albumdeal.

In July of 1986, Chuck and Chris entered a Florida recording studio to start work on their debut album for the label, butduetovarious technicalproblems,the sessions didn't go past the initial basic tracks and the whole project was movedovertoHollywood's Music Grinder Studios. Pairedup with producerRandy Burns, DEATH spent only a few days recordingtheLPbefore Chuck and Chris returned home, leaving Randy to mix thealbum. While waiting for thealbum to bemixedandmastered,Schuldiner and Reifert came in contact with a young Californian guitarist by thename of John Hand,whomtheywelcomedin the band, even going so far as to have his photo included on the back cover of the upcomingrecord.It wasadecision that would later haunt the group,as Hand would leave the group prior to the recording of their secondalbumandthusnever recorded so much as a single note with DEATH.

Released in May of 1987, DEATH's debut record Scream Bloody Gore was immediately met with praise andaccolades,withmagazines and fanshailing it asone of the most important death metal releases of all time. However, withChuck onceagainhaving returned to Florida and Reifertbasing himself in SanFrancisco, Schuldiner, in yet another surprisingmove,decided tojoin forces with three-fourths of Florida's Massacre(including Rick Rozz). This marked thefirst touringincarnationof DEATH,which made its first major live appearance at that year's MilwaukeeMetalfest. During the successful clubtourthatfollowed,DEATH aired three brand-new numbers ("Born Dead", "Open Casket" and "Pull The Plug")that Chuck hadwritten forthegroup's sophomoreouting, which showcased a more mature, focused direction for the band while retainingthebrutalitythathad become the group's trademark.

By April of 1988, DEATH had returned to the recording studio (Tampa's Morrisound facility) and, under the guidanceofDanJohnson, laid downtheir much-anticipated second album. A polished, yet savagely heavy effort, Leprosy, likeitspredecessor,had its roots firmly in theSlayer/Venom/Hellhammer schoolof song writing, but with an increased emphasisonthe kind ofmelodic passages that would later becomecentral to the group's sound. Not surprisingly,this powerfulcombinationwas aninstant "hit" in the metal underground and became a majorinfluence on hundreds of bands thatemergedduringdeathmetal's"resurgence" in the late '80's, including groups such as Entombed and NapalmDeath (who ended uprecordingtheirHarmonyCorruption album at Morrisound Studios in an attempt to recapture Leprosy's distinctiveproduction).

Although the DEATH line-up would change once again, the band had made an indelible impression with their first tworeleases.Indeed, it wasalbums suchas Leprosy that help to forge a path for the hundreds of death metal bands which wouldsoonrisein subsequent years, althoughnone of them would beable to erase the importance nor savagery of tracks such as"PullThePlug". The fact that some of these songs remainfan favorites even to this day speaksof their time-testedcraftsmanshipandthe importance of the band, not only in the American metal scenebut with an impact whose influencewouldsoonbewitnessed throughout the world.

An appearance at the Ultimate Revenge II video shoot (a live video/CD which also included Dark Angel andForbidden,amongothers) tookplace inOctober, 1988, followed by more touring through much of 1989. By the end of thatyear, thevolatilerelatiosnship between Chuck andRick had gottenvirtually intolerable for Schuldiner and a parting of thewaysbecameinevitable. "Rick was basically kicked out of the band dueto the fact that we were allinto progressing as a groupandgettingbetter as musicians, and he simply was not," Chuck was quoted as saying afew months later. "He wasstoppingmefromwriting the kind of material I wanted to write due to his inability to play the songs, and we allknew it was time forachange..

In Rick's place, DEATH enlisted James Murphy, a Florida resident who'd previously spent time in Agent Steel andHallowsEve,and began workon the all-important third album, entitled "Spiritual Healing". Produced by Scott Burns,Spiritual...representedyet another step forward inChuck's quest towardsincorporating an increased level of musicality intothegroup'ssongwriting,while at the same time shying away from theSatanic and low-budget goremovie-type lyrics thatwerebecomingcommonplace in the genre. "I think that Spiritual Healing is very muchrepresentative of what death metalcansoundlikewhen it's done with strong emphasis on musicality and less so on hyper-speed and stupidSatanic lyrics," Chuck saidafterthealbum's release."We believe that we can turn a few more people into death metal with this record andchange alotofpeople's minds about what death metal is supposedto sound like..

In spite of some of the early criticism from the die-hard death metal fans who viewed the musical progressiononSpiritualHealing as anegative one, thealbum went on to be a highly successful one for the group, with DEATH doingmoretouring andin front of larger crowds thanever before. Unfortunately, italso marked the last time the group would recordwiththis line-up, as pressure in Chuck's personal life andinternal band disagreements caused Murphy tobe dejected fromthegroup first,followed by drummer Bill Andrews and bassist Terry Butler afew months later.

In the decade that followed, DEATH issued several more critically-acclaimed releases while gradually gravitatingtowardsamuch moretechnical musicalapproach, one that would inevitably alienate some of the group's longtime fans.Alongtheway,Chuck came to be rightfullyregarded as one of the pioneersof the death metal genre, while Spiritual Healingcametoearn its place in the annals of death metal history asone the finest albums ever released underthe banner.

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