Chuck Schuldiner: Lust for Life
For the next 11 months, Chuck battled against his deteriorating health, trying to win time to work on his music. On good days, and often on bad ones, he could be found writing new songs, or entrenched in the studio, still at work on the album.
“He drove himself unmercifully that last year,” says his mother, Jane Schuldiner. “We worried so much about him and begged him to rest. As the perfectionist he is, he said it was just okay and that wasn’t good enough for him or his fans. He would go on until he couldn’t anymore.”
“Music was Chuck’s focus. It was the thing that gave him strength,” says Christy. “It was inspiring to see somebody going through something so hard and still playing guitar and writing music. Chuck was just so committed. He gave it everything he had.”
Naming your band Death is either tongue-in-cheek insolence or a proclamation of utter sincerity, and Chuck Schuldiner was not given to flippancy where his music was concerned. Next to his family, music was most important to him, and this clarity drove him. To call his band Death was to equate his life’s purpose with the most unimaginable end to which we all will go: it was predestined and non-negotiable. With Death, Chuck affirmed his life.
That he found his way there at all seems prophetic. When Chuck began making music, death metal didn’t exist as a genre but as a virile, yet negligible, strain of heavy metal practiced most evidently by Britain’s Venom. Low tunings, guttural vocals and extreme speed were the musical ingredients, topped off by lyrical praises of the devil, hell and inglorious black deeds. By the time Chuck appeared with his first group, Mantas, in 1983, scattered pockets of growling dark lords were plying their brand of metal in parts of the U.S., chiefly in Tampa and Orlando, the Bay area and Chicago. Chuck came to this music with a goal “to bash out the most brutal riffs ever, with the most brutal guitar sound ever,” he told Guitar School, but almost immediately, he set his sights higher. “Though things were very crude back then, I still had a vision of becoming a very musical death metal band.”