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

Unquestionably one of the most important and influential death metal acts to have ever emerged from the NorthAmericancontinent, Florida's DEATH came together in late 1983 when guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and guitarist RickRozz (realname: Frederick De Lillo) got together with drummer/vocalist Barney"Kam" Lee to form Mantas. Drawing musicalinspirationfrom Venom and Slayer, the trio (no bassist had yet entered the picture!) went about composing original tunes andmakingvery rough, crude rehearsal recordings to send out to various tape-traders around the world. Out of these sessionscame acompletely unproduced five-song "demo" entitled Death By Metal (mid-1984), which --in spite of its primitive nature--endedup establishing the group as one of the most promising contenders for the American death metal throne, a status thatat thetime was being firmly held by San Francisco's Possessed. The recognition they received,however, was not enough tohelpMantas along in their hometown of Orlando, where the group were still not being taken seriously by any of the clubs orfellowmusicians.

"The local situation was fuckin' nearly impossible," Schuldiner later recalled. "A lot of people looked down upon us. We got alotof shit from the local band scene; all the bands from around (Orlando) thought we were pure shit. We were noisybackthen,but we were putting out brutal death metal, and it was too much for people to comprehend." This complete lack oflocalsupport for the band's music was at least partly to blame for the constant internal turmoil within the group andMantas'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 new band simply called DEATH- and relocate to either Tampa or California after his18thbirthday (which was to occur in May of 1985), a move that he felt could improve his chances of securing a stable line-upforthe group. Within weeks, however, Chuck reconciled with Rozz and Lee and commenced the writing sessions 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 eve ofthedemo's recording. Laid down over a five-hour period during October 1984 "in the back room of a music store where theykeeprecording equipment", Reign Of Terror cost a grand total of $80 and was never properly mixed down due to a lack of timein aproper recording studio. In spite of this, the six-song tape was circulated worldwide through 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 an audiorecordingof the show that they would later release as an "official" live tape. "We're going to trash the (Reign Of Terror)demo, becauseit 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,athree-song recording made specifically for the purpose of finding a record deal. Not an "official"demo release, theInfernalDeath tape (as it would later become known) was to be the last recording made with this line-up, as Chuck slowlygrew apartfrom the other members and began to set his eyes on a Michigan bassist by the name of Scott Carlson (then ofGenocide,and later of Repulsion).

"Scott sent us a tape of himself jamming, and he absolutely kills," Chuck enthused. By the time Scott relocated toOrlando(replacing Rozz), he brought along with him Genocide guitarist Matt Olivo, and the two joined Kam and Chuck in ashort-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 a replacement for Kam, but thetaskproved impossible, ultimately causing Scott and Matt to return to Michigan and leaving Chuck the daunting task of findinganentirely new line-up.

In September of 1985, Chuck relocated to San Francisco at the urging of ex-D.R.I. drummer Eric Brecht, and the pairsoonhooked up in yet another version of the band, this time with the intent of their band "being the fastestever".Ultimately,however, Chuck realized that a full-speed assault did not allow for the different musical shades and colorswhichmade DEATH such an import musical entity, and in December of that same year, he returned to Florida, bandless onceagain.It was around that time that he got a phone call from Toronto death metal upstarts Slaughter, who just a few shortweeksprior to entering the studio to begin recording their debut album, Strappado, asked him to move up to Canada and jointheirranks. Frustrated with his local environment.

Chuck accepted their offer and in January of 1986 moved to Toronto to start rehearsing with the group. Althoughinitiallyenthusiastic about the prospect of being in an actual "band", Schuldiner quickly realized the need to pursue his ownvisionand not follow somebody else's lead, and promptly left Canada to return to Florida, where he started plotting his nextattack. Within weeks he was back in San Francisco where he hooked up with a promising young drummer by the name ofChrisReifert,and in April of that same year, the pair entered a California studio to record the infamous three-song Mutilationdemo.By fart he best-recorded tape Chuck had laid down up until that point, Mutilation rapidly made the rounds in metalcircles,and the demo soon found its way in the hands of Combat Records, who proceeded to snap up the group to a multi-albumdeal.

In July of 1986, Chuck and Chris entered a Florida recording studio to start work on their debut album for the label, but duetovarious technical problems, the sessions didn't go past the initial basic tracks and the whole project was moved overtoHollywood's Music Grinder Studios. Paired up with producer Randy Burns, DEATH spent only a few days recording theLPbefore Chuck and Chris returned home, leaving Randy to mix the album. While waiting for the album to be mixedandmastered,Schuldiner and Reifert came in contact with a young Californian guitarist by the name of John Hand, whomtheywelcomed in 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 second albumandthus 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 and accolades,withmagazines and fans hailing it as one of the most important death metal releases of all time. However, with Chuck onceagainhaving returned to Florida and Reifert basing himself in San Francisco, Schuldiner, in yet another surprising move,decided tojoin forces with three-fourths of Florida's Massacre (including Rick Rozz). This marked the first touring incarnationof DEATH,which made its first major live appearance at that year's Milwaukee Metalfest. During the successful club tour thatfollowed,DEATH aired three brand-new numbers ("Born Dead", "Open Casket" and "Pull The Plug") that Chuck had written forthegroup's sophomore outing, which showcased a more mature, focused direction for the band while retaining the brutalitythathad become the group's trademark.

By April of 1988, DEATH had returned to the recording studio (Tampa's Morrisound facility) and, under the guidance ofDanJohnson, laid down their much-anticipated second album. A polished, yet savagely heavy effort, Leprosy, like itspredecessor,had its roots firmly in the Slayer/Venom/Hellhammer school of song writing, but with an increased emphasis onthe kind ofmelodic passages that would later become central to the group's sound. Not surprisingly, this powerful combinationwas aninstant "hit" in the metal underground and became a major influence on hundreds of bands that emerged duringdeathmetal's"resurgence" in the late '80's, including groups such as Entombed and Napalm Death (who ended up recordingtheirHarmony Corruption 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 two releases.Indeed, it was albums such as Leprosy that help to forge a path for the hundreds of death metal bands which would soonrisein subsequent years, although none of them would be able 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 speaks of their time-tested craftsmanshipandthe importance of the band, not only in the American metal scene but with an impact whose influence would soonbewitnessed throughout the world.

An appearance at the Ultimate Revenge II video shoot (a live video/CD which also included Dark Angel and Forbidden,amongothers) took place in October, 1988, followed by more touring through much of 1989. By the end of that year, thevolatilerelatiosnship between Chuck and Rick had gotten virtually intolerable for Schuldiner and a parting of the waysbecameinevitable. "Rick was basically kicked out of the band due to the fact that we were all into progressing as a group andgettingbetter as musicians, and he simply was not," Chuck was quoted as saying a few months later. "He was stopping mefromwriting the kind of material I wanted to write due to his inability to play the songs, and we all knew it was time for achange..

In Rick's place, DEATH enlisted James Murphy, a Florida resident who'd previously spent time in Agent Steel and HallowsEve,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 towards incorporating an increased level of musicality into thegroup'ssongwriting,while at the same time shying away from the Satanic and low-budget gore movie-type lyrics that werebecomingcommonplace in the genre. "I think that Spiritual Healing is very much representative of what death metal can soundlikewhen it's done with strong emphasis on musicality and less so on hyper-speed and stupid Satanic lyrics," Chuck said afterthealbum's release. "We believe that we can turn a few more people into death metal with this record and change a lotofpeople's minds about what death metal is supposed to sound like..

In spite of some of the early criticism from the die-hard death metal fans who viewed the musical progression onSpiritualHealing as a negative one, the album went on to be a highly successful one for the group, with DEATH doing moretouring andin front of larger crowds than ever before. Unfortunately, it also marked the last time the group would record withthis line-up, as pressure in Chuck's personal life and internal band disagreements caused Murphy to be dejected from thegroup 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 gravitating towardsamuch more technical musical approach, one that would inevitably alienate some of the group's longtime fans. Alongtheway,Chuck came to be rightfully regarded as one of the pioneers of the death metal genre, while Spiritual Healing cametoearn its place in the annals of death metal history as one the finest albums ever released under the banner. « hide

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