Death
Leprosy


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (196 Reviews)
March 26th, 2017 | 119 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One big step up for both Death and death metal, though some flaws still carry over from Scream Bloody Gore.

No matter what one may think of Scream Bloody Gore's quality, there's no denying that it was incredibly important. While Seven Churches by Possessed came out first in 1985, many believe that Death's classic debut was the first true death metal album because it eliminated many of the thrash influences that dominated other genre precursors. That, and it was fucking vicious. Sinister guitar riffing, hard-hitting drumming courtesy of Chris Reifert, and vocals that sounded like they came straight from hell... this new sound must have shocked underground metal listeners when it came out. It was primitive, sure, but that was actually part of the album's charm. It wasn't bogged down by excessive technicality, relying instead on an evil atmosphere and solid songwriting to carry things through. Regardless, I can't quite claim it to be the band's best release as far as their pre-progressive metal albums go, as the follow-up Leprosy would refine this sound and bring it closer to perfection.

Leprosy was the next step in Death's evolution, sandwiched between the raw brutality of Scream Bloody Gore and the intricate motifs of their more sophisticated future. It really is a nice mix we get here, too. One moment you'll be hearing the straightforward and thrashy riff of "Born Dead," but then the song will suddenly break into a gloriously tapped guitar solo out of nowhere. Such is the nature of this album, abrupt and choppy at times but often adventurous for its era in a developing genre. Give frontman Chuck Schuldiner credit: he certainly began his band's musical progression early on. The record's opener and closer, "Leprosy" and "Choke On It" showcase the group trying longer compositions and more labyrinthine twists and turns, while the fan favorite "Pull the Plug" explores frequent tempo changes and fantastic trade-off soloing to amazing results. I should also mention that these songs are driven by what I believe to be some of the best production values Death have ever had. Dan Johnson's production work and Scott Burns' engineering generate a sound that's both refined and still utterly vile in tone. The guitars cut through the speakers like razors during the tremolo picking of the guitars, and yet the bass and drums sound incredibly full and thick. Just listen to the intros to "Born Dead" and "Open Casket" and you'll hear this combination played out wonderfully. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Kreator's classic 1986 album Pleasure to Kill, which also benefited from a merging of rawness and refinement.

But what of Leprosy's lyrics? Well, the opening title track should explain this one for you:

"Bodies deformed way beyond belief
Cast out from their concerned society
Flesh contorting day after day
Freak of the dark world is what the people say"


Yeah, they hadn't fully gone past the blood and gore by this point, and it's one thing that was carried over from their debut. So what makes it different here? The framing of the music surrounding it. I mentioned before that Scream Bloody Gore sounds quite evil, but this album quite frankly makes it sound like a walk in the park. This is one record that benefits a lot from the listener reading the lyric booklet along with the music; for instance, "Pull the Plug" has a thrash-influenced bridge where Chuck screams out, "I now behold, a machine decides my fate; End it now, it's all too late" which leads into a gleefully demented Rick Rozz solo soon after. In fact, many of Rick Rozz's solos are extremely twisted, his short segment on "Born Dead" being another great example of this. But one of Death's best strengths was that Chuck often recruited guitarists who were talented enough to rival him while having completely different guitar styles. We heard this on Human with Paul Masvidal's jazz fusion influence clashing with Chuck's neo-classical-inspired scale runs, and we definitely hear it here as well. Rick Rozz is a perfect musical foil for Chuck, both guitarists stirring up battles of rawness vs. refinement and contrasting each other for some unforgettable riffs and solos. So what exactly is wrong with Leprosy? Well, the lyrics are a minor issue for being a bit generic and primitive, but a few songs simply fall short of the greatness that tracks like "Leprosy," "Born Dead," and "Pull the Plug" bring. "Primitive Ways," despite having some decent lyrics, is a bit boring musically and doesn't quite have an interesting enough opening. It starts with a fast thrash-based riff, but the songwriting is pretty bland and it all starts to blend together after a while, even with some different tempos here and there. "Forgotten Past" also suffers from similar issues, and appears to be slightly aimless during the speedier sections in the middle.

However, this was around the time that Death were still finding their footing. And for being a sophomore album from an evolving group, Leprosy is seriously impressive. It melds many of Death's best features into one cohesive sound, but the deliciously evil production work and the increasingly sophisticated songwriting are what really push it into "excellent" territory. It's just an extremely solid death metal album, and that's a perfectly good reason to strongly recommend it. And the crazy part is that Death would eventually top it multiple times, showing just how consistent Chuck's music was and how crucial it was to the evolution of extreme metal.



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user ratings (2315)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2017


12998 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I just realized that SBG is the last Death review I still have to do :]

evilford
March 26th 2017


54212 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good rev pos'd



this is a classic tho imo

Digging: Pillars of Cacophony - Parerga

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2017


8812 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

third favorite death album for me. had it at a 4 for ages tho so i see what the review is getting at for sure. well written btw pos'd

Digging: Ferrara Ensemble and Crawford Young - Figures Of Harmony: Songs Of Codex Chantilly c1390

RLWFormula
March 26th 2017


287 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Incredible album, nice review

CaptainDooRight
March 26th 2017


5151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I support

Digging: Thanatos - Emerging from the Netherworlds

Tunaboy45
March 26th 2017


17768 Comments


gimme them tasty riffs

Digging: Richard Dawson - 2020

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
March 27th 2017


12998 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys :] them riffs are certainly tasty

StrikeOfTheBeast
March 27th 2017


8382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Good review to a fantastic album.

Korpcun
March 27th 2017


41 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. Not only is it a killer record, but the snare is one of my favorites in all of metal.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
March 27th 2017


12998 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks :] yeah, this album rules. I used to only have it at a 3.5/5, so I'm glad it eventually grew on me

Gyromania
March 27th 2017


33443 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

best death album

luci
March 27th 2017


12685 Comments


remember when you constantly bashed this band as overrated

LepreCon
March 27th 2017


5479 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's a step above SBG but much, much better was to come. A good album in its own right though.

Great review too, pos'd

RunOfTheMill
March 27th 2017


4237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. Not only is it a killer record, but the snare is one of my favorites in all of metal.




yesssssssssssss the drum sound on this is fucking awesome as is the guitar and bass tone

RunOfTheMill
March 27th 2017


4237 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hey Brendan, I wouldn't necessarily agree that SBG trimmed the thrash influences. You're definitely right about it being a huge shift in atmosphere (when gauging why it was such a landmark for DM), but these first three Death albums are super thrashy imo.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
March 27th 2017


12998 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Hey Brendan, I wouldn't necessarily agree that SBG trimmed the thrash influences. You're definitely right about it being a huge shift in atmosphere (when gauging why it was such a landmark for DM), but these first three Death albums are super thrashy imo."



That'a actually why I put "many believed" instead of saying it as my personal opinion, because I do agree with you. For me personally, if we're talking about the time death metal broke away from thrash and came into its own, I'd say Altars of Madness was the first full-on death metal album

jtswope
March 27th 2017


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah definitely better than SBG.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2017


12998 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Indeed, although SBG's certainly good too

evilford
March 12th 2018


54212 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

rules

evilford
March 12th 2018


54212 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

why has it been a fucking year since anyone commented on this



jamming now cuz it deserves it wtf mad now



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