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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'sDEATHcame together in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitarist RickRozz (real name: Frederick De Lillo) got togetherwithdrummer/vocalist Barney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawing musical inspiration from Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yetentered thepicture!) 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 ca more

Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from the North American continent, Florida'sDEATHcame together in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitarist RickRozz (real name: Frederick De Lillo) got togetherwithdrummer/vocalist Barney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawing musical inspiration from Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yetentered thepicture!) 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 metalthrone,astatus that at the time was being firmlyheld bySan Francisco's Possessed. The recognition they received, however, was note nough tohelp Mantas along in their hometown of Orlando, where thegroup 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 thelocalbandscene; all the bands from around (Orlando) thought we were pure shit. We were noisy back then,but we were putting out brutaldeathmetal, and itwas too much for people to comprehend." This complete lack of locals upport for the band's music was at least partly toblame for the constant internalturmoil 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 toform anew band simply called DEATH- and relocate to either Tampa or California after his 18th birthday (which was to occur in May of 1985), amove that he feltcould improve his chances of securing a stable line-up for the group. Within weeks, however, Chuck reconciled with Rozz andLee and commenced thewriting 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'srecording.Laiddownover a five-hour period during October 1984 "in the back room of a music store where they keep recording equipment", ReignOf Terror cost a grandtotal 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 circulatedworldwidethrough the vast tape-tradingnetworkand put DEATH on the map as one of the genre's most extremeandbrutal 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 thattheywould 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 wasquoted 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 recordingmadespecifically 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 bethelast recording made with this line-up, as Chuckslowlygrew apartfrom the other members and began to set hiseyes on a Michiganbassist by the nameofScott 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),hebroughtalongwith him Genocide guitarist Matt Olivo, and the two joined Kam and Chuck inashort-livedincarnation of DEATH that endedwhenLee finally exited,leavingthe remaining three members drummer-less.Severalfrustrating months followed during which Chuck, Matt andScottattempted to find areplacement forKam, butthetaskproved impossible, ultimately causing Scott and Matt to return to Michigan andleavingChuck the daunting taskoffindinganentirely newline-up.

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

Chuck accepted their offer and in January of 1986 moved to Toronto to start rehearsing with the group. Althoughinitiallyenthusiastic abouttheprospectofbeing in an actual "band", Schuldiner quickly realized the need to pursuehis ownvisionand not follow somebody else's lead,andpromptly left Canadatoreturn to Florida, where he started plotting hisnextattack. Within weeks he was back in San Francisco wherehehooked up with a promisingyoungdrummer by the nameofChrisReifert,and in April of that same year, the pair entered a California studiotorecord the infamous three-songMutilationdemo.By fart he best-recorded tape Chuck had laid down up until that point, Mutilation rapidlymadethe rounds inmetalcircles,and thedemosoon 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,butduetovarioustechnicalproblems,the sessions didn't go past the initial basic tracks and the whole project was movedovertoHollywood's Music GrinderStudios.Pairedup with producerRandy Burns, DEATH spent only a few days recordingtheLPbefore Chuck and Chris returned home, leaving Randy tomixthealbum. While waiting for thealbum to bemixedandmastered,Schuldiner and Reifert came in contact with a young Californian guitarist bythename ofJohn Hand,whomtheywelcomedin the band, even going so far as to have his photo included on the back cover of theupcomingrecord.It wasadecision thatwould later haunt the group,as Hand would leave the group prior to the recording of theirsecondalbumandthusnever recorded so much as a single notewith DEATH.

Released in May of 1987, DEATH's debut record Scream Bloody Gore was immediately met with praise andaccolades,withmagazines andfanshailing itasone of the most important death metal releases of all time. However, withChuck onceagainhaving returned to Florida andReifertbasing himself inSanFrancisco, Schuldiner, in yet another surprisingmove,decided tojoin forces with three-fourths of Florida'sMassacre(including Rick Rozz). This markedthefirst touringincarnationof DEATH,which made its first major live appearance at that year'sMilwaukeeMetalfest. During the successfulclubtourthatfollowed,DEATH aired three brand-new numbers ("Born Dead", "Open Casket" and "PullThe Plug")that Chuck hadwritten forthegroup'ssophomoreouting, which showcased a more mature, focused direction for the band whileretainingthebrutalitythathad 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 downtheirmuch-anticipated second album. A polished, yet savagely heavy effort, Leprosy, likeitspredecessor,had its roots firmly intheSlayer/Venom/Hellhammer schoolofsong writing, but with an increased emphasisonthe kind ofmelodic passages that would laterbecomecentral to the group's sound. Not surprisingly,thispowerfulcombinationwas aninstant "hit" in the metal underground and became amajorinfluence on hundreds of bandsthatemergedduringdeathmetal's"resurgence" in the late '80's, including groups such as Entombed andNapalmDeath (who endeduprecordingtheirHarmonyCorruption album at Morrisound Studios in an attempt to recapture Leprosy'sdistinctiveproduction).

Although the DEATH line-up would change once again, the band had made an indelible impression with their first tworeleases.Indeed, itwasalbumssuchas Leprosy that help to forge a path for the hundreds of death metal bands which wouldsoonrisein subsequent years,althoughnone of them wouldbeable to erase the importance nor savagery of tracks such as"PullThePlug". The fact that some of these songsremainfan favorites even to this dayspeaksof their time. testedcraftsmanshipandthe importance of the band, not only in the American metalscenebut with an impact whoseinfluencewouldsoonbewitnessed throughout the world.

An appearance at the Ultimate Revenge II video shoot (a live video/CD which also included Dark Angel andForbidden,amongothers) tookplaceinOctober,1988, followed by more touring through much of 1989. By the end of thatyear, thevolatilerelatiosnship between Chuck andRick hadgottenvirtuallyintolerable for Schuldiner and a parting of thewaysbecameinevitable. "Rick was basically kicked out of the band dueto the factthat we were allintoprogressing as a groupandgettingbetter as musicians, and he simply was not," Chuck was quoted as saying afew monthslater. "Hewasstoppingmefromwriting the kind of material I wanted to write due to his inability to play the songs, and we allknew it was timeforachange..

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

In spite of some of the early criticism from the die-hard death metal fans who viewed the musical progressiononSpiritualHealing as anegativeone,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 banddisagreements caused Murphytobe 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 gravitatingtowardsamuchmoretechnicalmusicalapproach, one that would inevitably alienate some of the group's longtime fans.Alongtheway,Chuck came to be rightfullyregardedas oneof the pioneersof the death metal genre, while Spiritual Healingcametoearn its place in the annals of death metal history asone the finestalbumsever released underthe banner.

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