Review Summary: Death get just about everything right on their highly influential and fantastically written debut.
If there was ever a piece of album art that accurately sums up the contents of the album within, it would be the hideous looking zombie-like figures on the cover of Death's 1987 debut "Scream Bloody Gore". There is something evil and sinister about the image of the four creatures holding a glass of wine in what could almost be taken as a menacing re-creation of the Last Supper that just speaks volumes about the release itself. This debut is a violent, aggressive assault on the ears with evil lyrics, demonic vocals and a chaotic instrumental performance that set the bar extremely high for the albums that were to follow it.
The band itself was formed in 1983 by the inspirational Chuck Schuldiner, a self-professed lover of life. They released a handful of demo tapes and eventually chose ten tracks from a pool of thirty to be featured on their debut full-length and then went on to release six more albums before the tragic demise of Schuldiner. Each of their albums is held in the highest regard and they are generally seen as a band that never put a foot wrong, although the quality of their albums is considered to have slightly dipped with "Spiritual Healing". Toward the end of their career; the band shifted into much more of a progressive metal style which reached its pinnacle on "Symbolic". Their debut is often seen as being the first death metal ever, and the album that layed down the template for bands such as Morbid Angel to come and add to with their own works.
"Scream Bloody Gore" is an all-out, gung-ho assault on the ears with some of the fastest songs that Death ever put out. This was recorded when they were all in their youth and all were fired up and ready to change the direction that extreme music was heading and push the boundaries of creativity with an album unlike anything anyone had heard at the time. Influenced heavily by Kreator, Slayer and other fast-paced thrash bands, it stands to reason that Death's first album is very thrashy, but feels a lot more aggressive and has the trademark growled vocals of death metal music. This is an energetic and brutal album that really will astound those unfamiliar with the genre and is a great place to start with death metal as well. It uses a mixture of fast tremolo picked riffs and some slower chord-based ones to great effect, keeping the album feeling varied whilst still steam rolling everything in sight with its raw and angry nature. The drumming primarily uses thrash beats, with the occasional slower section that breaks the flow up a little and makes this album easier to digest in one sitting. "Zombie Ritual" is probably the strongest track for having a feeling of variety, and even that song thunders ahead as fast as possible at times, despite its really creative and slow-introduction that builds up a sense of dread.
The other songs on "Scream Bloody Gore" are fantastically well crafted in their own right, with some bludgeoningly brutal riffing and vocals that are absolutely incredible. "Beyond The Unholy Grave" is probably the catchiest number here, with some cool vocal patterns that you will be chanting along to and riffs that will be hooked in your head for days to come. In actual fact, many of these songs are among the catchiest death metal songs in living memory. The vocals contribute to this in a large way. This was during a period in time when Chuck was still a young man and could shriek his lungs out with as much conviction as humanly possible, leading to one of the most unhinged-sounding of performances but also one that is memorable. It was on here that Chuck capitalized on his chance to show the band off as the most unique out there, and he characterized this with his death growls that would influence generations of death metal bands, of whom many would attempt to take things to a much more brutal level with varying results. Chuck's vocals on here are masteful and really show off the sound of a man who loved making music regardless of what would happen - there was no guarantee that the metal crowd would bite.
"Scream Bloody Gore" is a stellar piece of early death metal with a heavy thrash-influence and a little variety that keeps it from feeling boring. Even when only taken from a purely historical standpoint, this is an essential release.