Death: A History

What is Death Metal? Is it louder, faster, harder than normal metal? Is it metal with double bass drums, and a third guitar? Do people worship satan? Why would anyone listen to such noise? These are just some of the few questions I get when people hear I like heavy metal music. Death metal evolved onto the scene in 1980’s. It evolved from the sounds of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. A metalhead named Chuck Schuldiner, from Florida, started a metal band called Mantis, that served as the base, for what would eventually become DEATH.

Death holds a special place in my heart. My best friend growing up introduced me to the band in the 2000’s. One day he played Pull the Plug, I thought it was decent. Eventually he played Bite the Pain. Slowly, but surely, I was being reeled in to the heaviness of it. Death represents a shift from 80’s thrash to death metal. Death brought heavier intros, faster riffs, double bass drums, aggressive sounds, and deeper vocals. During the 80’s when Chuck and his death metal first entered the scene, they were far from popular! People just weren’t ready for their heaviness quite yet! Chuck worked hard to share his love of the music, he often described how society looked at heavy metal as a monster. A monster that it could blame for all its failures. Schuldiner was aware of societal woes and wrote music to address these issues in society. His music was deeper than just heavy growling.

In 2013, DTA, or Death to All toured the U.S. I was a senior in college, and wanted to attend a show. Whilst looking into Death to All, I found out it was a benefit show for musicians and bought a ticket for Death to All, at the House of Blues in Anaheim. I worked at the radio station at UCSB, and had a heavy metal radio show, “Symphony of Destruction.” I got this wild hair and emailed DTA, and asked to execute an interview with the Death to All line up, Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert, Steve Di Giorgio, and Max Phelps. Eric Grief, the driving force behind DTA, approved of the interview. The opportunity to interview the Human line up for Death, was beyond comprehension. Steve was super friendly, as were Paul, and Sean. They were nice enough to record a station ID for KCSB. Two weeks later I played the live interview on 91.9 KCSB FM.

Witnessing the Human album line up live, was unbelievable, just knowing that these individuals helped write and record Human feels special. Being amidst the mosh pit in a Death concert was beyond rough. They opened up with the classics like Scream Bloody Gore, Pull the Plug, Crystal Mountain, and Suicide Machine. This show at the House of Blues was insane, just unbelievable, and brutal. There were images of Chuck Schuldiner on the stage, projecting happy memories, of him and friends. This show was one for the books.

I see Death-shirts everywhere I travel, on the east coast, and the west coast. The impact that Death made on metal is unequivocal. The trajectory it shaped for Death metal in the 80’s opened up new possibilities for other bands to push the limits on what’s considered heavy. Even to this day, whether I’m at a Slayer concert, or a Havok one, people are still representing Symbolic, and Spiritual Healing on their bodies.

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