Review Summary: Progressive, technical death metal from the most important band in death metal. The Sound Of Perseverance was not only ahead of its time then, it still is now. Filled with emotion and fantastic songwriting this album is a must own. “Look down at the body. You may see no trace of wounds. But in the eye, the eye of the beholder. One cannot assume. Not a drop of blood is drawn, but you know how it bleeds. Beware of the sharp edged weapon, called human being.” –Chuck Schuldiner
Chuck Schuldiner, arguably the most important name in death metal. He was Death’s creator, lead guitarist, vocalist, sole songwriter and lyricist. A spiritual philosopher and perfectionist, he dedicated his life to his music. He became so dedicated that he worked to write all the music, lyrics and recorded all of the guitars for the unreleased (due to legal problems), second Control Denied album as he died of brain cancer. Back in 1987 Death released Scream Bloody Gore and debatably created Death Metal. In 1998 Death released The Sound of Perseverance they’re most technical and progressive album yet. An album so ahead of it’s time no other band has ever created something else like it. Even the albums theme of staying true to yourself and beliefs and fighting off the negative influences out side of your own life, without letting it change you, was way out there for death metal. But for Death, the pioneers that they were, this was simply the next logical step.
What is it that makes Death’s music so fascinating? Sure it’s technical and often brutal but half the metal bands nowadays are. So obviously that’s not enough to make a good band. For Death it’s the stellar songwriting and pure emotion that makes this quite possibly the greatest death metal album ever released. Ever since Death’s Human, Schuldiner has been crafting songs by perfectly combining multiple technical and progressive segments with finesse in a coherent fashion. Some songs even feature semi-catchy choruses. These songs were about important often spiritual and philosophical issues and conveyed huge amounts of emotion. The best examples of this are Bite The Pain
and Spirit Crusher
, both feature vastly different segments that never stray from the death metal genre. I’m going to describe these in a track by track way just to give an impression of how these songs are structured. Bite The Pain
begins with an epic opening and Chuck emotionally screaming before the song explodes into a blast beat driven speed fest. It slows down for the pre chorus, shortly speeds back up into the chorus where it slows down into a semi catchy chorus. The song moves and you’re treated to two amazing solos from Shannon Hamm and Chuck Schuldiner. Schuldiner’s solo is especially of note as the term “bad ass” is simply the best way to describe it. After the solos the song basically repeats itself minus the opening and with the exception of some changed lead lines for varieties sake.
opens with a drum and bass intro before crushing you with the songs first odd time technical riff. Which turns into a chugging section and when I say chugging I mean it in the best way possible. (Think Unearth and Between The Buried And Me not Trivium.) From there it goes to the songs thrashy pre-chorus before slowing down into the immense chorus. It’s here Chuck lets out some of his most aggressive screams on the album and the first time you hear this chorus it will blow you away. What makes it even better is that it’s semi catchy. You’ll never hear this on a major radio station but you may find yourself singing it to yourself from time to time. “No guilt it feeds in plain sight, spirit crusher! Stay strong and hold on tight, spirit crusher!”
After the chorus there is an odd time drum and bass breakdown and guitar soon join in. Following this, comes an epic, melodic riff which leads into the solos. Schuldiner’s solo is first and its signature Schuldiner but it sounds really evil. It leads into Hamm’s solo which sounds f*cking heroic. This is actually a reoccurring theme throughout the album. Scavenger Of Human Sorrow
, Spirit Crusher
and A Moment Of Clarity
all feature evil sounding solos first that are “conquered” by the following heroic solo. These good and evil solos really fit into the theme of the album. Persevering with what’s important to you while keeping out the bad that can hold you back.
While I’m talking about solos I’d like to talk about the musicians who really make The Sound Of Perseverance work. Chuck Schuldiner needs no introduction. In fact the first thing that really blew my mind on this album was Chuck Schuldiner’s guitar playing. In one fell swoop he had easily replaced John Petrucci as my favorite guitarist. Superb technical riffs, complex lead lines and jazz inspired, emotionally aching solos are all conveyed in such an original way by Schuldiner. Just see his solo in To Forgive Is To Suffer.
One other thing that stands out about Schuldiner is his new vocal style on this album. (His old style was more of a brutish shout.) The best way to describe it is what it would sound like if Rob Halford was mixed with a stereotypical, shrieking, black metal vocalist. While he may not ever get much credit as a singer his vocals on this album are the best they ever were. Guitarist Shannon Hamm obviously has to know what he’s doing to play with Chuck and he does a great job of keeping up. Albeit he isn’t as good as previous Death guitarists like Paul Masvidal and Andy LaRoque. Scott Clendenin, while he may be no Steve DiGiorgio, is none the less a fantastic bassist and you can actually hear his bass playing! However the one man who is truly an improvement from previous Death line-ups is Richard Christy. While he may wear his Sean Reinhart and Gene Hoglan influences on his sleeve, his playing on this album features the most complex drum patterns ever to be featured on a Death album. Though he may be unoriginal, in execution he’s flawless. The bands technical proficiency allows them to play through the time changing, technical beasts Scavenger of Human Sorrow
and Flesh And The Power It Holds.
The latter features an indulgent solo by Schuldiner that sounds a lot like free jazz. It kind of comes across as wankery, but it’s interesting and emotional enough for that to be forgiven.
I had touched on the raw, aching emotion Schuldiner pours into his music before and while all the songs on this album feature this, Story To Tell
, A Moment Of Clarity
and Voice Of The Soul
portray such epic emotions you’d never thought you could hear from death metal. Story To Tell
and A Moment Of Clarity
are powerful mid-paced epics with soaring lead guitars, great solos and emotional screams that are filled with Schuldiner’s always meaningful lyrics. Voice Of The Soul
is not only quite a surprise it’s one of the best instrumentals ever made. Fantastic acoustic rhythm guitar coupled with the most emotional electric guitar performance you’ve ever heard. Schuldiner really blows my mind on this track. It’s technical, emotional and flawlessly written. Words do not do this track justice, it must be heard to be believed. This leads me to my one complaint about the album and that is I feel Voice Of The Soul
should have ended the album although where it actually is placed works as an effective breather. Even A Moment Of Clarity
would have worked as an epic closing track to this album. However instead of either of these the album ends with a cover of Judas Priests’ Painkiller.
In all actuality it’s an amazing cover, the core song is done perfectly but the solos are Death original and hearing Schuldiner do his impersonation of Rob Halford is pretty sweet. In fact I enjoy the cover more than the original. Unfortunately it’s a completely inappropriate song for Death not only to end this album with but to end Death as a band too. It would have been much better placed somewhere in the middle of the album or specified as a bonus track. It is pretty funny though that my only major complaint about the album is the inclusion of a fantastic cover, truly a testament to how amazing this album is.
So who needs to check out this album? Anyone who has or ever had any interest in metal needs to hear this even if you’re just a guitar buff this album is a must-listen., it’s really that damn good.
What’s Good About This Album?
-Fantastic, progressive songwriting
-Every instrument is played with extreme skill, flawlessly
-Chuck Schuldiner’s solos
-The emotion and meaningful lyrics behind each of these tracks.
What’s Bad About This Album?
-Most tracks feauture some repetion in the song structure. It keeps the songs from wandering but it also can lead to a sense of deja vu.
-Track placement, especially of Painkiller, may be a bit awkward
-May be a bit to technical for some peoples tastes
-Bite The Pain
-Story To Tell
-Voice Of The Soul