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Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from theNorthAmericancontinent, Florida's DEATH cametogether in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitaristRickRozz (realname: Frederick De Lillo) got together with drummer/vocalistBarney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawingmusicalinspirationfrom Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yet entered the picture!) went aboutcomposing originaltunes andmakingvery rough, crude rehearsal recordings to send out to various tape. traders around the world. Out ofthesesessionscame acomple more

Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from theNorthAmericancontinent, Florida's DEATH cametogether in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitaristRickRozz (realname: Frederick De Lillo) got together with drummer/vocalistBarney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawingmusicalinspirationfrom Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yet entered the picture!) went aboutcomposing originaltunes andmakingvery rough, crude rehearsal recordings to send out to various tape. traders around the world. Out ofthesesessionscame acompletely unproduced five-song "demo" entitled Death By Metal (mid-1984), which --in spite of its primitivenature--endedupestablishing the group as one of the most promising contenders for the American death metal throne, astatus thatat thetime was being firmly held bySan Francisco's Possessed. The recognition they received,however, was notenough tohelpMantas along in their hometown of Orlando, where the groupwere still not being taken seriously by any of theclubs orfellowmusicians.

"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 werenoisybackthen,but we were putting out brutal death metal, and it wastoo much for people to comprehend." This completelack oflocalsupport for the band's music was at least partly to blame for the constant internal turmoilwithin the groupandMantas'eventual break-up in late 1984.

Vowing to carry on making music that was "faster and heavier" than anything he'd done before,Schuldinerimmediatelyannounced his plans to form a newband simply called DEATH- and relocate to either Tampa orCalifornia after his18thbirthday (which was to occur in May of 1985), a move that he felt couldimprove his chances ofsecuring a stable line-upforthe group. Within weeks, however, Chuck reconciled with Rozz and Lee and commenced thewritingsessions for whatwouldbecome the legendary Reign Of Terror demo.

We have gotten so much heavier (since reforming), it's almost beyond comprehension," Schuldiner stated on the eveofthedemo's recording. Laid downover a five-hour period during October 1984 "in the back room of a music store wheretheykeeprecording equipment", Reign Of Terror cost a grand totalof $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 and brutal groups.

On December 30th, 1984, DEATH performed with local Tampa heroes Nasty Savage at Ruby's Pub and made anaudiorecordingof the show that theywould later release as an "official" live tape. "We're going to trash the (Reign OfTerror)demo, becauseit 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" studiodemo,athree-song recording madespecifically for the purpose of finding a record deal. Not an "official"demo release,theInfernalDeath 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 his eyes 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), he broughtalong with him Genocide guitarist Matt Olivo, and the two joined Kam and Chuck inashort-livedincarnation of DEATH that ended when Lee finally exited,leaving the remaining three members drummer-less.Severalfrustrating months followed during which Chuck, Matt and Scott attempted to find areplacement for Kam, butthetaskproved impossible, ultimately causing Scott and Matt to return to Michigan and leaving Chuck 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 yet anotherversion of the band, this time with the intent of their band "being thefastestever".Ultimately,however, Chuck realized that a full-speed assault did notallow for the different musical shades andcolorswhichmade DEATH such an import musical entity, and in December of that same year, he returned toFlorida, bandlessonceagain.It was around that time that he got a phone call from Toronto death metal upstarts Slaughter, who just a fewshortweekspriorto entering the studio to begin recording their debut album, Strappado, asked him to move up to Canadaand 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 the prospectof being in an actual "band", Schuldiner quickly realized the need to pursuehis ownvisionand not follow somebody else's lead, and promptly left Canadato return to Florida, where he started plotting hisnextattack. Within weeks he was back in San Francisco where he hooked up with a promising youngdrummer by the nameofChrisReifert,and in April of that same year, the pair entered a California studio to record the infamous three-songMutilationdemo.By fart he best-recorded tape Chuck had laid down up until that point, Mutilation rapidly made the 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 technical problems,the sessions didn't go past the initial basic tracks and the whole project was movedovertoHollywood's Music Grinder Studios. Paired up with producerRandy Burns, DEATH spent only a few days recordingtheLPbefore Chuck and Chris returned home, leaving Randy to mix the album. While waiting for thealbum to bemixedandmastered,Schuldiner and Reifert came in contact with a young Californian guitarist by the name of John Hand,whomtheywelcomedin the band, even going so far as to have his photo included on the back cover of the upcoming record.It wasadecision that would later haunt the group,as Hand would leave the group prior to the recording of their secondalbumandthus never 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 fans hailing it asone of the most important death metal releases of all time. However, withChuck onceagainhaving returned to Florida and Reifert basing 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 Milwaukee Metalfest. 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 retaining thebrutalitythathad 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 down their much-anticipated second album. A polished, yet savagely heavy effort, Leprosy, likeitspredecessor,had its roots firmly in the Slayer/Venom/Hellhammer schoolof song writing, but with an increased emphasisonthe kind ofmelodic passages that would later become central to the group's sound. Not surprisingly,this powerfulcombinationwas aninstant "hit" in the metal underground and became a major influence on hundreds of bands thatemergedduringdeathmetal's"resurgence" in the late '80's, including groups such as Entombed and Napalm Death (who ended uprecordingtheirHarmonyCorruption album at Morrisound Studios in an attempt to recapture Leprosy's distinctive production).

Although the DEATH line-up would change once again, the band had made an indelible impression with their first tworeleases.Indeed, it was albums suchas Leprosy that help to forge a path for the hundreds of death metal bands which wouldsoonrisein subsequent years, although none of them would beable to erase the importance nor savagery of tracks such as"PullThePlug". The fact that some of these songs remain fan favorites even to this day speaksof their time-testedcraftsmanshipandthe importance of the band, not only in the American metal scene but 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) took place inOctober, 1988, followed by more touring through much of 1989. By the end of thatyear, thevolatilerelatiosnship between Chuck and Rick had gottenvirtually intolerable for Schuldiner and a parting of thewaysbecameinevitable. "Rick was basically kicked out of the band due to the fact that we were allinto progressing as a groupandgettingbetter as musicians, and he simply was not," Chuck was quoted as saying a few months later. "He wasstoppingmefromwriting the kind of material I wanted to write due to his inability to play the songs, and we all knew 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 work on the all-important third album, entitled "Spiritual Healing". Produced by Scott Burns,Spiritual...representedyet another step forward in Chuck's quest towardsincorporating an increased level of musicality intothegroup'ssongwriting,while at the same time shying away from the Satanic and low-budget goremovie-type lyrics thatwerebecomingcommonplace in the genre. "I think that Spiritual Healing is very much representative of what death metalcansoundlikewhen it's done with strong emphasis on musicality and less so on hyper-speed and stupid Satanic lyrics," Chuck saidafterthealbum's release."We believe that we can turn a few more people into death metal with this record and change 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 a negative one, thealbum went on to be a highly successful one for the group, with DEATH doingmoretouring andin front of larger crowds than ever before. Unfortunately, italso marked the last time the group would recordwiththis line-up, as pressure in Chuck's personal life and internal band disagreements caused Murphy tobe dejected fromthegroup first,followed by drummer Bill Andrews and bassist Terry Butler a few months later.

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

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