Review Summary: The second finest Death release
Death's second outing, Leprosy, marked their transition from the blasting, full throttle style found on their crude debut, Scream Bloody Gore, to a much more honed and refined form of aggression. Many of the songs found on this record are far longer than those on the debut, and much slower in pace, for the most part. However, this also created one of the band's finest albums as a whole, and 3 of their best compositions.
This change in style was nothing dramatic for Death, however. The band had not gone soft on their listeners, just refined the anger behind each of the songs. The title alone spells the continuation of the gore ridden lyrics found on Scream Bloody Gore. Leprosy is one of the deadliest diseases to strike a human being, causing very slow death as the body deteriorates, and this fits a band named Death perfectly.
Leprosy, the title track, kicks things off in a far more progressive nature than that found in many of Scream Bloody Gore's cuts. It contains many sudden tempo changes, a killer solo, some gorey lyrics that fit the brutal atmosphere of the song, and many memorable riffs that stay with the listener for a long time after the experience. This is also, in a sense, very catchy, in that the chorus will insantly make the listener want to shout along at the top of their lungs. This was a first for Death, and it worked.
Born Dead proves that Death have not abandoned their full on ear assaults they started with on Scream Bloody Gore. However, this is also the weakest track on the album, which may not really be saying much, but this songs quality dips dramatically compared to the rest of the album. Whilst Chuck gives his most energetic vocal performance hear, growling as if possessed by a demon, the constant speed ups and slow downs, to a more crushing mid tempo style, really do get irritating, as it happens every few seconds. However, this is still a nicely composed track, made up for by Chuck's vocals on this song.
Pull the Plug and Open Casket are the best cuts here, being a back to back, one-two punch like no other. Pull The Plug needs no introduction, as it remains one of THE definitive Death songs, with its brooding atmosphere and dark lyrics. Open Casket is widely considered to be the finest song from this album, and it really does not take a genius to see why. The riff work from Chuck Schuldiner for this song is, quite simply, amazing, with some top-notch drumming to accompany it, and Chuck's vocals, once again, on absolutely top notch. The slower sections to this song will work their way into your head and never go away, which is a very good thing, as they are all fantastic.
The guitar work for this album is utterly stellar. Chuck Schuldiner lays down riff after riff that are consistently incredible, and utterly groundbreaking for the time this was released. They are varied in pace, from the slow chords that open up Pull The Plug, to the mid paced section found 3 minutes into Open Casket, to the absolute frenzy that opens up Primitive Ways. There is never a dull riff to be found on this album.
Rick Rozz's lead work is nothing short of top notch. He plays some fantastic solos across this album, never once detracting from the songs themselves, and all of them being perfectly written. They neither occupy too much time, nor do they come across sounding forced such as the solos layed down by guitarists like Kerry King. The intro to Left To Die stands out as being the crowning achievement of Rick Rozz on this album, however. It is as short lead intro, but manages to set up the rest of the song in incredible fashion. This is one of the most underrated lead players to have lived, in my opinion.
The drumming is often criticised from this album, and I honestly fail to see why. It gets slightly repetetive, but it lays down the base for the guitars to build around, and therefore it succeeds in its primary function. The highlight of the drumming would be found on the title track, either blasting away, or setting into a mid paced style, Bill Andrews gets unjustly criticised on this album.
Terry Butler's bass is actually perfect on this album. The production on it is fine, being fairly low in the mix, but still audible to add to the songs. My favourite bass work from this album comes on the song Born Dead, where Butler really is on top of his game, with some intricate and exciting bass work, that commands as much presence as the guitar work from Chuck and Rick.
Production-wise, this album really flops. The drums are far too loud in the mix, and they often dominate the guitars. I thought the lead was far too low, and the drum volume starts to get incredibly annoying about three songs in. The guitar should always be at the front of a Death song. However, Chuck's vocals and Terry's bass are all mixed exactly as they should be, and come off with a nice quality to them.
This album is Death's second finest achievement, in my opinion, behind only Human. When compared to their later releases, this often gets overlooked, and, in some regards, it is not hard to see why. The musicianship on all later Death releases is far tighter, the lyrics better written, the transitions smoother, the riffs even more varied, the drumming tighter. However, this album is so perfectly paced, with such stellar musicianship, it manages to transcend albums such as Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance, and takes the spot as the second finest Death release. 4.5/5