Review Summary: While a bit underdeveloped in spots, Scream Bloody Gore is an excellent blueprint for Death's future masterpieces while also being great on its own merits.
The evolution of Death has been a truly fascinating one, hasn't it" The great thing about their frontman Chuck Schuldiner is the way he took extreme metal and always managed to bring it one step further than others might have thought possible. Instead of just becoming a showcase for brutality, technicality, or intricacy (although those certainly helped his case), the magic of his band was in how
they used their musical tool kit. With Symbolic
, it was all about giving listeners an aural adventure, one of subtly-shifting dynamics and sweeping arrangements. With Individual Thought Patterns
, it was all about merging densely-packed blasts of death metal fury with tasteful and sophisticated jazz fusion experiments. But with Scream Bloody Gore
, it was all about using the band's limitations to unleash as much raw intensity as they could muster.
As Death's music essentially took on a gradual progression in terms of complexity, you'd be correct in assuming Scream Bloody Gore
is the band's most primitive release. There really isn't anything in the way of progressive metal elements found here, but the straightforward death metal we have here has a lot of merit and charm to it. Of course, the age-old debate naturally rears its head: did Death invent death metal with this album"
While I do believe Seven Churches
by Possessed was the first death metal studio album (not including demos, EPs, etc.) Scream Bloody Gore
still did a great job of capturing the spirit and atmosphere that future death metal acts would ultimately adopt. This is some savage stuff, right from that doom-laden riff that kicks off opener "Infernal Death." A good chunk of the record is Chuck and drummer Chris Reifert (the only two bandmembers playing on this album) hammering away relentlessly at their instruments as Chuck bellows into the mic in a suitably possessed fashion. In other words, it definitely helped lay death metal's groundwork nicely. But even in this early stage, the band weren't afraid to add some strong melodic segments; just listen to that harmonized guitar intro to "Zombie Ritual" which offers a nice quick respite before the thrashing begins. But perhaps the most notable intro is the one to "Evil Dead," which starts the track with a dark and melancholic lead guitar line to set the tone for the piece. Sure, the rest of the song is mostly fast and brutal, but that melodic framework was an early showing of where Death would eventually end up in their musical evolution.
But what really anchors everything together is the "feel" of the record, if that makes sense. Basically, whatever the band lacked in precision and technical proficiency at this point, they made up for it with an evil atmosphere and raw emotional power. Scream Bloody Gore
may be a more simplistic album, but it can be potent as hell because of how vicious its presentation is. Listen to "Baptized in Blood," for instance; the slow intro sets the dark mood perfectly, until one of the fastest riffs on the album comes into play. But the best part of the song is that the tempo actually increases until it almost sounds like you're listening to an early form of blastbeat drumming. It sounds a lot like mid-80s Kreator in terms of speed and relentlessness, and it's devastating when paired with the unrefined guitar playing. But I still can't forget to mention where else the presentation is important. Going back to "Evil Dead," is it any coincidence that the song bears the same title as two of the most influential horror films of its day" Hell no! It's just like how "Zombie Ritual" was apparently inspired by the Lucio Fulci classic Zombie
; Chuck knew where to draw lyrical inspiration from, that's for sure.
Is the album flawless, however" Certainly not. For one thing, the experience does become a bit one-note after a while. It doesn't come as a big surprise, considering that this album lacks in variety compared to future Death releases, but it would be nice to have a few more moments akin to the intros of "Zombie Ritual" and "Evil Dead." In fact, it would lend even more to the atmosphere if those were added. Also, while the production is solid, hearing the constant hammering of Chris Reifert's drumming does get a bit tiresome after a while, especially when the tempos can get repetitive and samey from time to time. Reifert's pretty prominent in the mix, too, so it can be a little distracting when you want to hear what cool riff is going on alongside the fast drumwork but can't quite make it out.
Regardless, Scream Bloody Gore
is great for what it is: a brutal and well-performed blueprint of what was to come. Death may not have sounded refined or progressive here, but the intensity and emotion they managed to capture were more than enough to make up for the occasional lack of variety. Besides, this is definitely the kind of album made to pummel and crush the listener, and when it comes to that, they succeeded wildly. Scream Bloody Gore
may not be up there with the band's best (in my humble opinion), but when one of their lesser albums can still get a 4/5, that's really saying something about the quality of this band.