Death
Spiritual Healing


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (179 Reviews)
February 10th, 2013 | 551 replies


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A fantastic stepping stone.

There seems to be a growing number of people who consider the 1990 album Spiritual Healing to be Death's worst record, even deeming it clunky and unfocused. Personally, I still stand by my opinion that Scream Bloody Gore was the most lackluster offering by the band; it sounded more like a foreshadowing of future greatness than a great album itself. While follow-up Leprosy did its best to raise the stakes, Spiritual Healing still seems to improve things much further and hit almost all of the right notes. While it may not be the very best album of the Death canon, it is often overlooked and definitely deserves more praise than it gets.

So what do we get? Between eight tracks and forty-two minutes of non-stop death metal, the record flies by pretty quickly. Chuck Schuldiner's songwriting is still the main focus here, but plenty of new elements after predecessor Leprosy help this album succeed the way it does. First things first, the music is way more technical and intricate; many of the speed metal sections of Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore, while still present, are toned down and usually replaced with rapid tempo shifts and frequent time signature changes. That, and the rhythms are usually quite unorthodox; the riff during the verse of the title track still throws me off now and again. More specifically, though, everything has tightened. The production sounds cleaner, the songwriting is actually more focused than people give it credit for, and Schuldiner was finally starting to ditch the gory lyrics in favor of more social and philosophical issues.

With that said, how are the songs? They follow the typical Death "verse/pre-chorus/chorus/solo/verse/pre-chorus/chorus/sudden stop" formula fans have come to expect by this point, but with the sort of forward-thinking attitude that makes this a great predecessor to Human. Schuldiner and co. were interested in progressing the band's sound, and it shows. It's probably best to start with the opening number "Living Monstrosity" because it's the first impression. As the mid-tempo riff starts up, you may realize the aforementioned tightness in the sound compared to Leprosy. One other thing to note is that Chuck's vocals are a touch odd, and are my main issue with the album. While they're not bad, there's an unsettling echo effect used on his voice that sounds pretty off-kilter compared to how organic the rest of the music is. However, going back to the song, it's an exceptionally strong opener, combining thrashy riffs, an emotional chorus that repeats the beginning motif to great effect, and an emotionally poignant solo that leads to Schuldiner's climactic lyric, "Some say she's naive; she's a stupid bitch." Blunt, but effective.

The other tracks are of a similar nature to "Living Monstrosity," but all have certain moments that set them apart from each other. For instance, after a rather complex riff pattern in "Low Life," a solo battle between Schuldiner and other guitarist James Murphy comes out of the blue. They both let their playing styles clash as a galloping thrash riff illustrates the background behind the two leads. Also worthy of noting is the doom-laden intro to "Altering the Future"; while the rest of the song is Death doing business as usual, the beginning sets a completely different tone, one of despair and a loss of hope. Even when the mid-tempo riff for the verse appears, the atmosphere set by the first thirty seconds continues to loom over the music long after it has concluded. Finally, there's the title track. Good God, the song is great. After a very Halloween-esque (seriously, it sounds eerily close to something out of the main theme from the Halloween movies) intro, the rest of the song is absolutely jam-packed with those "certain moments" I mentioned, the ones that set it apart from other songs on the album. How about the unorthodox riff that manages to be in 4/4 time, and yet has some of the most off-kilter drum work in Death's discography? How about the constant tempo-switches during the speed metal portions? How about the chilling chorus with rapid guitar runs and Schuldiner screaming the song's title? Great moments are littered throughout the song, making the whole thing an absolute highlight.

There's not much else more to say, really. Spiritual Healing is a delightful slice of death metal, as well as a great illustration of how Death were progressing as a group and an entity. While later albums like The Sound of Perseverance and Individual Thought Patterns would come to surpass it, the album has aged very well and remains an early technical death metal classic even after twenty-three years.

P.S.: What the hell is up with that silly album cover?



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user ratings (1051)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
February 9th 2013


9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just 15 reviews left until the big 100 :]

demigod!
February 9th 2013


44557 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice review
i picked this album up the other day and it rules hard

Digging: Fugazi - Repeater

CaptainDooRight
February 9th 2013


29421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I couldn't control my hand it literally jus auto posd

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

GiaNXGX
February 9th 2013


4867 Comments


the title track riffs so hard, lots of metalheads complain about chuck's vox vocoder here but it gives the album an slightly different feel from tha others, cool feature.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2013


19790 Comments


nice review.

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

pissbore
February 9th 2013


9935 Comments


can't forget about killing spree with arguably the best solo trade-off in the entire death catalogue

bowlofsoup
February 9th 2013


1073 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Auto-pos. Death m/

evilford
February 9th 2013


22660 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Pos'd sure album rules. 2nd least fav death but of course it rules. "Worst death" album hardly ever even means anything comparatively cuz shitloads of bands wished they had ever released something as great as death's worst record

Digging: Cadaver - ...In Pains

bowlofsoup
February 9th 2013


1073 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ Agreed hard

Geadom
February 9th 2013


2812 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pos. I like this more than SBG and Leprosy.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013


4435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I almost bought this at a record store but got caught up in another purchase


It's good album, but the one after it, Human and on are the one's that deserve to be owned. I bought this at a record store too back in middle school. I liked the cover so I took it home, jammed it, I've been into Death ever since. One of my better decision.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013


4435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also, good review Brendan. POS'd.

FiveLeavesLeft
February 9th 2013


9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the pos's!

@Paperback: Yeah, I could see that. Plus, Human's an awesome gateway to Death's stuff. Oh, by the way, I'm gonna hopefully submit those Alt Review reviews tonight, I know I'm really behind on that

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013


4435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Symbolic and Human are the main albums everyone goes for since they're the most well-known (and rightfully so), but their early stuff like this one deserve recognition as well.

And no worries. Also take your time with it because I can't do any publishings on weekends anyway, even though I got promoted to editor I still have to follow Dylan's schedule/rules. Message me when you're done and I'll have it up by Monday morning.

oltnabrick
February 9th 2013


30904 Comments


ye Spiritual Healing rules hard

Digging: Suicideyear - FACT mix 462

dannyboy89
February 9th 2013


11975 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Good review. I've only listened to the last 4 Death albums. TSOP is my personal fave.

FiveLeavesLeft
February 9th 2013


9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, TSOP's always been my fave. That's the first metal album I ever listened to, so it holds a lot of nostalgia for me

YoYoMancuso
February 10th 2013


11106 Comments


nice review, disturbing avatar

FiveLeavesLeft
February 10th 2013


9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, your Patrick avatar is just about the right reaction :P

oltnabrick
February 10th 2013


30904 Comments


sweet review




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