Chuck Schuldiner: Lust for Life
He called his band Death, but Chuck Schuldiner loved life, family and the most brutal metal imaginable. On the tenth anniversary of his passing, Guitar World celebrates death metal’s pioneer and spiritual guide.
It was early 2001 when Chuck Schuldiner’s headaches returned. Over the past year, he had begun to feel like his old self again—remarkable, considering that, just one year before, the death metal guitarist had nearly died. In early January 2000, doctors in New York City had managed to remove more than half of a cancerous tumor dangerously nestled at the base of his brain. Months of physical therapy followed while he recovered at home, in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
Chuck had never liked being far from home, away from his family and the Orlando suburb where he’d grown up with his sister Beth and brother Frank. This was where he thrived, where he drew inspiration for the melodies that tempered the jagged shards of music he had crafted for Death, the band with which he pioneered the ferociously manic sounds of the death metal genre in the mid Eighties. And indeed, back home following surgery, Chuck had begun to craft a fresh batch of songs for his new group, Control Denied.
“We spent the summer of 2000 rehearsing and recording demos of the new songs,” recalls Richard Christy. “It was fun, and Chuck was doing really well.” Though familiar to many as a cast member of the Howard Stern Show since 2004, Christy is also a professional drummer who is best known for his work with Iced Earth, Death and Control Denied. At the time of the 2000 recording sessions, Christy had known Chuck for only a few years, but the two men were as close as brothers. “We were both passionate about metal, and we loved to go to the same bars in Orlando and hang out,” he explains.
“But basically what it came down to was that we made each other laugh. We would do prank calls together in the middle of practice. He had this dog that used to make this weird face when it was happy, and it would snort like a pig. So when me and Chuck were happy, we’d snort like pigs.”
As the end of 2000 approached, there was much to be happy about. Chuck was strong and back at work on his music. His new songs sounded great and continued to build upon the technical and progressive metal of Control Denied’s 1999 debut, The Fragile Art of Existence.
“And then we went into the studio,” recalls Christy. “And his health problems started coming back.”