“Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” A universally familiar quote, uttered by one Dr. Robert Oppenheimer – “father of the Atomic bomb” – as he witnessed the historic first detonation of a nuclear weapon. A quote, which, in the context of modern culture, not least heavy metal, has been infinitely appropriated to suitably melodramatic effect and almost inappropriately detached from the event that inspired its musings. The origins of the line are rooted in the Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad-Gita, a text, which details an exchange between a conflicted warrior prince and an incarnation of Vishnu – one that results, at its most fundamental core, in Vishnu as a force of inevitability. Ironic, then, that an observation that has since come to posthumously define Oppenheimer, has connotations that far exceed the excerpt’s overt immediacy. Vishnu, ineffable by nature, is an ultimately cyclical deity – one whose concept is equal parts creator and destroyer; an incarnation of extremes. As he creates, so he destroys. So did Chuck.

Death‘s importance in developing my musical tastes are not to be underestimated, in fact, they are downright pivotal. As metal fans, we more than most, have a tendency to look for the next great spectacle. Often, this pseudo-manifests in displays of proficiency, but complexity doesn’t equal innovation; a willingness to take the logical next step does – a capacity to stay just one frame ahead, unbound by the status quo. Chuck Schuldiner is one of our culture’s most lauded innovators and the undisputed “father of death metal.” Scream Bloody Gore, a labour of unwavering vision and unrelenting drive, stands atop that hill of bones as the very first death metal record 1, still glistening from the sanguine amniotic fluid that so grimly nurtured the audible ugliness that would soon evangelise a school of brutal expression2.

It’s important to consider just how young Schuldiner was when he assembled the living monstrosity that would eventually become Death. Although the lyrical content would perhaps belie the author’s age, the musical compound found within the iconic debut spoke of a much higher quality. While hardly refined in its nascence, there was always a virtuosity to the structure of the band that seeped into that moribund core – efficacious in its simplicity, yet deceptively adept. The throat-shredding vocals that rampaged over “Infernal Death” somehow gelled with the potent thrash-suffused structures that dominated the verses, and coupled with a guitar tone that may well have been cartilage on garrote wire, exemplary riff after riff swarmed, baleful and bold. Schuldiner’s forward thinking approach to the guitar allowed cult classics like “Evil Dead” and the timeless “Zombie Ritual” a frenetic barbarism that remains as effective today is it was thirty years ago.

Although for all intents and purposes a solo album, as Schuldiner balanced all guitar and vocal duties, the infamous Chris Reifert would provide his indicative cro magnon approach to the skins. If you’ve absorbed even a few fleeting seconds of his own legendary vehicle, Autopsy, it should be clear what his drum work offers the record. Primal, if not primitive percussion drives everything from the abject savagery of “Mutilation” to the deliberate riffing that presides over “Sacrificial” and “Regurgitated Guts.” Even now, his loose belligerence allows “Beyond the Unholy Grave” a frantic presence often overlooked in today’s race for hyper-technicality, cementing the song as one of death metal’s first and finest. The duo’s feral fascinations, both musically and conceptually, would instruct an entire generation on the limits of aggression only hinted at in the decade’s Bay Area boom.

In creating Scream Bloody Gore, Schuldiner introduced a genre not content to tell the audient void with a whisper, but with an undead howl. Consistently evolving, the Floridian, New York and Scandinavian scenes that quantify death metal as we know it today, would scarcely exist, not having sipped from the goblet of gore. As the source of some of extreme music’s most depraved and vilified content, the genre and album are, by definition, indicative of death in all of its more mortal implications, but it is also a bold genesis whose mottled dead skin mask can still be glimpsed behind the shroud of every new act carrying that corpse-light torch.

Few records serve to canonize their makers, and although Schuldiner’s legacy, for fans like me, would sadly be discovered posthumously, a more fitting Momento Mori can rarely be recalled. Though arguably not his masterwork, no album since can truly claim to have “become death” with such legitimacy as Scream Bloody Gore – a shaper of aural worlds, and a breaker of boundaries – creating and destroying in equal measure; a zombie’s drug for the ages.


Show 2 footnotes

  1. I don’t care if you think it’s Seven Churches – fight me.
  2. It could be argued Nightmare Theater by Exorcist was the first death metal album as it predates this by a year. – Steel
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  • Wes Allen

    Having just listened to this album the other week, I’m having a hard time reconciling the stellar guitar work with the young lad pictured above. I think it’s safe to say that Chuck was the true definition of a musical prodigy.

  • One of the all time greats and THE album that got me into Death.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I enjoy this record, but from the ’87-fathers-of-Death-Metal I still prefer Necrophagia’s debut. Still a pretty good album and Chuck was indeed a great guitar player and music creator altogether.

  • Dr. Scorpion

    Soumds fresh. Don’t know why i never checked them out, ’cause its not like they have a genre named after them or do they?

  • Planex

    DRINK FROM THE GOBLET

    GOBLET OF GOOOOORRRREEEE

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    Oh man, they look like little kids in that photo.

    I’ve got a lot of affection for this one too – not the best Death record, but possibly still my favorite.

    Anybody care to weigh in on how that remaster sounds?

    • Excentric_13073

      I can’t speak to what the DR score is on the Vinyl I bought somewhat recently, but it sounds pretty good to my ears. I bought the 2016 Relapse issue, but I don’t know how to identify it any better than that.

  • Drew Music

    Angry Metal Guy: covering more important history than your school books, because knowledge is power!

  • Kill The King

    Chuckkkkkkkk!!!

    Also, are we getting the new Execration album review?

  • Dagoth_RAC

    Dat bass at start of “Zombie Ritual”. It is never as prominent in rest of song, but still a clearly audible presence and key part of sound. This is how it is done, extreme metal bands. Stop burying the bass like it is an inconsequential filler instrument between drums and guitars. Proper bass guitar adds a gurgling, unsettling vibe that can be an invaluable part of a great album.

  • I’m probably one of the few that liked the early Death stuff better. As they got more and more proggy they lost a lot of what made them so entertaining.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      By the time I can across Death when I was 17, there was already a metric tonne of stuff that sounded like their early output. I think I just latched on to the innate quality of it, which included their entire discography. And Control Denied.

      • I was around 17 when this came out so I got to watch them grow and evolve, even if I didn’t always agree with the direction.

        • andym

          I remember buying the CD of ‘Symbolic’ upon release, played it loads, great guitar parts and Gene Hoglan on drums (I think). Good days. RIP Chuck. Legend.

          • Name’s Dalton

            I was 14 and a half when it came out and I didn’t listen to this album until four years ago. I arrived late to the metal party after spending my years listening to all sorts of indie rock, free jazz and odd ’70s bands like This Heat, Can, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.

            So now I have dived headlong down the metal rabbit hole with no end in sight. Been an amazing ride.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    As further testament of Chuck’s genius, Death is one of the few bands where each and every one of their albums could be argued for as being their best.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    Bought this on cassette the year it was released. A Camelot Records store I believe. I am olde.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    No dis to Chuck, this band is beyond legendary, but I would lobby that Thomas Fischer earns the father of death metal tag just as much. One tune, “Triumph of Death” sure changed things for me (circa 1983). An argument could be made for Cronos as well.

    • Unwanted Guest

      Venom, early Sodom, Hellhammer, and Celtic Frost may have influenced early Death Metal bands.

      I’ve read two interviews, with Mike Browning of Morbid Angel and with John McEntee of Incantation. Mike admitted that he and Trey listened to those bands when they were high school kids. John didn’t hesitate to show much love to those bands (adding Morbid Angel and early Sepultura). They’ve influenced those blasphemic death metal bands strongly.

      However, I don’t think they are the fathers of Death Metal itself. The reason is what made the Death Metal. Doom like heavy, low tone of guitars, more brutal and tight drums than thrash, gore themed lyrics and growl. Death has mixed them perfectly, and became the template. Becoming the template is the most important factor to make them the father of death metal. Early death metal bands in US followed the manners of Death. And it made Death Metal as genre. Thomas and Cronos can be said uncle or grandpa, but not the father, I think.

  • Bas

    Great album. Great review.
    Nb. Exorcist – nightmare theater?? Never heard of it… I have to check it out!!! Any more proto-death advice?

    • That’s an extremely obscure record put out in 86 by members of Virgin Steele. It has both black and death metal elements before either genre actually existed and it’s pretty ahead of its time. Do a search on here for it. I did a piece on it a few years ago.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    One of the best metal bands there ever was. Each one of Death’s records deserves a Yer Metal is Olde. I sometimes wonder what Death would be like now if they wee still around. Or what Control Denied would be like.

    • welyyt

      I’d kill for that unreleased Control Denied album.

      • Shrümpelstiltskin

        Dude same….

  • Kronos

    Great write-up for a great album!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      A litle bird told me you recently bought some new music on Bandcamp — Weeping Sores, Bufihimat, and Artificer. Any wins there IYHO? I see Weeping Sores has members of Pyrrhon (not to mention Hell), which reminds me that the new Pyrrhon should be coming out soon, shouldn’t it?

      DISCLAIMER: I don’t actually stalk AMG staff members. I just set Bandcamp to tell me when certain people I follow buy new music. I deny having anything to do with those hidden cameras at the main office. And I don’t have tapes.

      • Kronos

        All wins. Bhufihimat is getting a TYMHM for sure and has a serious contender for riff of the year right in the first two minutes, weeping sores is growing fast on me, and artificer is a cool pick for prog /post rock fans. There are also a few brutal releases which I have reviews for coming up.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Thanks. Sounds great. Looking forward to the reviews.

          • Nathan McCain

            Hard second on Weeping Sores. Unbelievably good stuff.

            And I found it through following Kronos. No ragrets

        • Jukka Alanen

          Oh man dat bass on “Five to Six” by Artificer. Thanks a bunch, his made my day.

      • Kronos

        Also, my bandcamp find out the year so far is a band called Phrenelith. If you have a single death metal loving bone in your body, you will go apeshit for it.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Got that one. Great stuff.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          new phrenelith is better undergang than new undergang

        • GWW

          Great. Check out Moonloop! And Epoch.

          • Drew Music

            Epoch is epic.
            Had to.

        • Drew Music

          My dude, Seismic fucking Breech. They have the riffs, and every other thing that makes death metal glorious. That one ties with Fellwarden for RotM for me (honorable mentions to Blaze of Sorrow and Mavradoxa.)

          • Kronos

            I’ll check that out.

        • Drew Music

          Also, while I’m shamelessly opining/plugging metal goodness: Crusty Old Toad, Turn People Into Food. I recommend starting with “Frozen Inside” and not looking at the lyrics until after the fact, then I recommend recommending my recommendation as that shit is fuckin cool.

      • Drew Music

        I stalk any of you people that I can find on Bandcamp, shamelessly yet (relatively) harmlessly. I wanna know what everyone else finds, once I get a gauge of someone’s interests I tend to take who buys what into serious consideration in accordance with whatever genres I’m in the mood to peruse. Plus, I love recommending anything I find to anyone who’ll listen, when I see peeps peepin sweet beats that remind of other tasty jams I do what I can to help further them along on their adventure.
        I’m always watching.
        Always.

  • SoLeftISeeRight

    This was my gym cassette when I was sports training in grade 9, and I still love it. I’m of the opinion that a band needs 5 unimpeachable albums to be considered one of the all-time greats, and Death is the only band in metal that achieves that distinction for me. So many others have 4, and then a disputable 5th.

    • Iron Maiden? Sabbath?

      • SoLeftISeeRight

        They each have four greats, but the fifth is debatable in my opinion.

      • welyyt

        Manowar?

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Drop the question mark, that shouldn’t be a question but an affirmation.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Barry Manilow? Oh, no… Wait.

  • Drew Music

    As much as I love getting to reap the benefits of hearing modern bands who’ve exponentially expounded upon the framework established circa this album, I would give my left nut to be able to experience something equivalent to being able to witness the envelope being throat-punched into obscurity in the same manner as Death was doing. It sounded primitive because it was, and that’s such a cool thing to be able to experience as it’s beginning. I envy OG Death fans.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If you really want to get your mind blown, look for Death’s cover of Kiss’ “God Of Thunder”.

      • Drew Music

        I see your mind-blowing Kiss cover and raise you one “Frozen Inside” by Crusty Old Toad, with one small but crucial caveat: Under no circumstances are you to read the lyrics until after you have listened to the entire song (shouldn’t be tough, it’s not long and it’s awesome,) after which you must read the lyrics.
        You’re welcome.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I flollowed your instructions to the letter and all I have to say is:
          AWESOME! AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!
          “The most beautiful tune, simple and profound ”
          That’s what Black Metal is all about!

          • Drew Music

            Right?! Jumped straight to the top five of the year for me, total random find for a buck but sooo worth it. The whole album is a fucking blast, just awesome music with all the seriousness of your neighborhood middle school class clown. Spread the word!

  • Name’s Dalton

    Here, here!

  • Marcel Wertheimer

    Great review, did justice to this classic album.

  • Me

    I still think Seven Churches was more influential and has stood the test of time better. Nothing against Death, Leprosy and Spiritual are classics.

    • Blackened Tech Sludge Death

      Perhaps the best way of looking at it is that Seven Churches is the album that conceived death metal and this is the album that gave birth to it. I love both albums and wouldn’t want to have to choose between them.

      • Me

        I love both. I’d give anything if Chuck were still with us. That said I’m REALLY excited to hear the new Possessed album.

  • dblbass

    That first paragraph above…..I mean…..WHAT THE HELL?

  • miradautasvras

    The Geeta reference was out of the park!

  • Dead1

    That first paragraph’s a fucking waste of time. Whole thing is pretentious too UNLIKE Scream Bloody Gore which is simple in intent and brutal in execution.

    • Thanks for the feedback.

      • Dead1

        Pleasure is all mine.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      I’ll be sure to remain simple in intent and brutal in my execution next time. I’m thinking a low syllable count and caps lock? Constructive stuff.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    We’ve been talking Death recently over in the forum, interesting how people often seem to skew either early or late Death. Personally I tend to almost always got to Symbolic and The Sound of… but there is no denying the charm f this album. Loved the write up.

  • Strapping Old Fart

    Does any of you oldetime metal sages know why the title is in quotation marks? Weirdly timid, no?