Chuck Schuldiner: Lust for Life
He called his band Death, but Chuck Schuldiner loved life, family and of course, metal.
Shedding the gory trappings of his past lyrics, Chuck now wrote in a manner that seemed wholly introspective and personal. It’s not hard to imagine him addressing Butler in “Secret Face,” where he sings of “a mask / That covers up one’s true intentions,” or in the opening lines of “Lack of Comprehension”: “A condemning fear strikes down / Things they cannot understand / An excuse to cover up weaknesses that lie within / Lies.”
Certainly, the intricacy and nuance of Chuck’s songwriting make it clear he had not spent the past year lying around. He had been striving to give Death a more technical sound, and on Human he succeeded, in part due to his choice of musicians. Guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert were recruited from Florida technical hardcore band Cynic, while bassist Steve DiGiorgio came from California’s highly technical thrash band Sadus.
Chuck’s musical growth continued with Death’s next two albums, Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic. But by 1997, he was beginning to tire of his role as guitarist and frontman. As early as 1993, he had told Guitar School, “In the future I plan to do a more melodic, straightforward metal side project with a singer in the Rob Halford style.” Now he planned to set Death aside to develop just that sort of group with Control Denied.
“Chuck wanted to have a band in which he did no singing, that was the main reason,” says Jane. “Singing was really hard on his voice.” Adds Richard Christy, “He just wanted to try something with a more traditional metal singer, because he was a huge fan of bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar and bands like that. I don’t think he ever wanted to stop doing Death full time, because he knew how much that band meant to people. But he was ready for a break.”
Christy was among the first people Chuck selected for Control Denied. The two had met by chance in 1996. Christy had just moved to Orlando with his band, Burning Inside, and was shopping at Altamonte Mall with his guitarist when they spotted Chuck at a B. Dalton bookstore. “We walked in to check out some metal magazines, and there’s Chuck reading a magazine! And we were like, Oh, should we say hi? So we said hi, and he was super nice. We told him we were huge fans, and—I’ll never forget this—he took the time to talk to us. We talked to him for like 15, 20 minutes about metal. And it was just so cool. We couldn’t believe that in a mall in Orlando, Florida, we were meeting Chuck Schuldiner.”
Soon after, Christy and Chuck began bumping into one another. “Pretty much everybody in the metal scene in Orlando would hang out at the same places,” says Christy, “the same shows, the same parties.” By coincidence, when Chuck was in need of a drummer for Control Denied, a mutual friend suggested Christy. “They got me in contact with Chuck,” the drummer recalls, “and I was so nervous just calling him to set up an audition. I remember taking my drums to Chuck’s rehearsal space and playing four of the most complicated Death songs right in a row, without stopping or any mistakes. Right then, it just clicked. It just felt awesome, because I had been playing along to those songs on CD for years. And to be there playing them with Chuck was mind blowing.”
Christy got the job and, with it, a little surprise: though Chuck was ready to move ahead with Control Denied, he decided to accommodate his new label, Nuclear Blast, with one more Death album. “I was super excited about that because I was a huge Death fan,” says Christy. With Scott Clendenin on bass and Shannon Hamm on guitar, Chuck quickly began recording The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s most aggressive, progressive and technically challenging album. Opening with the savage blast of “Scavenger of Human Sorrow,” the album was relentless in its fury and musical virtuosity, culminating in a blistering cover of Judas Priest’s “Painkiller.” Released in 1998, The Sound of Perseverance was Death’s seventh album and, in the opinion of many fans, their best.
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