Death were the first true Death Metal band. While Possessed may have been the first to release an album in the death metal idiom, Death were the first to play the "classic" style of death metal, separating it from Thrash Metal altogether, and their debut album Scream Bloody Gore has been described as death metal's first definitive article.
Initially, Chuck Schuldiner formed the band Mantas at the age of 16; after about a year, he dissolved the band and formed Death. After a lot of members were fired and hired by Schuldiner, the band's first album, Scream Bloody Gore (1987) was released. It is considered a landmark album of the genre, pretty much starting the trend for gory lyrics and brutality. Eventually, though, more "brutal" bands such as Deicide and Morbid Angel came along and out-brutalised Death. So, rather than up the heaviness, Schuldiner continued to grow musically, eventually heading in a more progressive direction starting with the album Human. Their transformation into a progressive/technical death metal band was one of the things that kickstarted that subgenre, along with the bands Atheist and Cynic.
The group, with its ever-changing lineup of members, disbanded in 2001 when Schuldiner died of complications from brain cancer at 34. The band remains one of the most influential death metal bands of all time, and Schuldiner is recognised as the "father of death metal", though he often downplayed the name "death metal" later in his career and regarded Death as a straightforward metal band towards the end of the band's lifetime.
Schuldiner was also one of two guitarists for Control Denied, a progressive metal band, which is considered the continuation of Death. In fact, many of the tracks on Death's final album The Sound of Perseverance were originally intended to be Control Denied songs, but Schuldiner caved to studio pressure and used them for a final Death album instead. He intended to disband Death, at least temporarily, to focus on Control Denied, but his death ended that plan.
Their albums are:
- Scream Bloody Gore, 1987
- Leprosy, 1988
- Spiritual Healing, 1990
- Human, 1991
- Individual Thought Patterns, 1993
- Symbolic, 1995
- The Sound of Perseverance, 1998
Control Denied's albums are:
- The Fragile Art of Existence, 1999
- When Man and Machine Collide, cancelled (has been stuck in Development Hell ever since Chuck's death and has more or less been confirmed to be a dead project)
Not to be confused with Death, the '70s punk band, or Death.
Tropes of Comprehension:
- An Aesop:
- "Crystal Mountain": forcing your religion onto others is wrong.
- Spiritual Healing's title track is directed against televangelists, criticizing the idea of closed-mindedness.
- "Misanthrope" is directed towards, well, guess. The essential message is that yes, some people are assholes, but despising all of humanity just because there are some horrible people out there is short-sighted, childish, and ignorant.
- "Without Judgement": most issues have multiple sides and demand a more discerning view, and taking the easy road and taking a knee-jerk reductivist approach to complex problems and situations is lazy and intellectually dangerous.
- "The Philosopher": Don't claim to be enlightened when you're just a naive rich kid who listened to too much Mahavishnu Orchestra, especially when seemingly everyone except you knows that you're gay because you're in complete denial, or Paul Masvidal needs to figure his life out.
- Body Horror: Common in the band's early lyrics, and sometimes appears on later albums. "Living Monstrosity" is a good example:"Born without eyes or hands
And half a brain
Be born addicted
- Call-Back: Control Denied's "Believe" contains a Title Drop of Death's "Voice of the Soul".
- Careful with That Axe: The Sound of Perseverance has Chuck doing insanely inhuman screams throughout the whole album.
- Contrived Coincidence: A tragic example, as Schuldiner was the only constant member and leader of a band that constituted a bonafide multitude of people; of those members of Death, only Schuldiner has died (though guitarist James Murphy also had a cancer-related scare himself).
- In March 2015, Death's last bassist Scott Clendenin passed away at age 47. Human drummer Sean Reinert passed away in January 2020 at age 48.
- Cover Version: "Painkiller", the final track on The Sound of Perseverance, and a version of KISS's "God of Thunder" on the Japanese version of Human before getting a worldwide release on the 2011 reissue of the same album.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Chuck Schuldiner gets this treatment somewhat. While Death's music has always been well-respected, the bad reputation he had (see Insufferable Genius below) for a long period in his career is rarely brought up anymore.
- Death Metal: The Trope Makers and, alongside Possessed's demo Death Metal, the Trope Namers.
- Dystopia: "Genetic Reconstruction"; "1,000 Eyes"
- Epic Rocking: A couple of songs in their early career (the title tracks of Leprosy and Spiritual Healing), as well as several songs off Symbolic and especially The Sound of Perseverance (with "Perennial Quest", at 8:20, and "Flesh and the Power It Holds", at 8:26, being the longest). This continued with Control Denied; half the songs on The Fragile Art of Existence are over six minutes long, with the longest (the Title Track) being 9:38.
- The Fundamentalist:
- "Crystal Mountain" was based off of Chuck's fundamentalist neighbors.
- "The Philosopher" is about someone who acts like a fundamentalist. At least that's what people thought it was about until a rumour about the song's actual meaning was proven right...
- The whole album Spiritual Healing deals with this trope, with its title track dealing with Christian faith healers that con gullible parishioners out of their money.
- Genre Shift: From death metal to tech-death to progressive death metal.
- The Sound of Perseverance also has some heavy hints of Power Metal, as some of its tracks were (according to one telling; Chuck flip-flopped on this subject between interviews, though Tim Ayman also backs up this account) originally intended to be Control Denied material, but the label wanted another Death album, so Chuck included them on the album after changing them only slightly (mostly by changing the vocals from clean singing to some of the most extreme examples of Careful with That Axe on record). subverted this when he formed Control Denied, however, as he wanted to focus more on prog metal / power metal fusion with no traces of death metal, but also wanted to avoid a They Changed It, Now It Sucks! reaction from fans of Death, so he formed what was technically a new band, even if said band shared many members with the old one.
- Gorn: The lyrical content on Scream Bloody Gore and, to a lesser degree, Leprosy. However, they moved away from gory lyrics with Spiritual Healing, and never looked back.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Chuck was probably one (at least in his younger days). In "Mutilation," he "celebrate[s] a faggot's death." However, he later grew to regret these lyrics. (Two of Death's members from the early '90s, Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, are/were gay.)
- I Am the Band: Chuck Schuldiner. Most notable on Scream Bloody Gore, where he played bass and the only thing not done by him for the album was Chris Reifert's drumming. Chuck also played bass on Leprosy.
- Instrumentals: Two of them: "Cosmic Sea" off Human, and "Voice of the Soul" off The Sound of Perseverance.
- Insufferable Genius: Depending on who you ask, Chuck had a bit of a problem with this, stemming mostly from his desire to keep things as professional as possible and a complete lack of tolerance for infighting. When someone wasn't working out, Chuck seldom gave them a second chance and usually just threw them out and burned all associated bridges; as logic would dictate, this didn't exactly give him the best of reputations. This was more than likely due to the incredibly dysfunctional nature of the band around the time of Spiritual Healing, which left such a bad taste in Chuck's mouth that he vowed to never allow himself to be placed in that position again.
- Irony: Gene Hoglan was blown away by Sean Reinert's drumming on Human and remembered expressing relief that he would never be tasked with having to learn such difficult parts. That relief obviously didn't last.
- Lead Bassist: Starting with Steve DiGiorgio, all of their bassists were Type A examples, though DiGiorgio doubled as a Type C due to his immensely influential nature among metal bassists and prolific session appearances.
- Lead Drummer: Kam Lee shared vocal duties with Chuck Schuldiner during his time in the band. His vocal contributions on the early demos are frequently cited as the Ur-Example of the "death growl" as we know it.
- Lesser Star: Pretty much everyone in the band aside from Chuck Schuldiner. Though he wasn't the only well-known member — Gene Hoglan, Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert, Chris Reifert, and Andy LaRocque all played with the band.
- Longest Song Goes Last:
- "Perennial Quest", at 8:20, is the longest song on Symbolic, and also the last. Chuck originally intended it to be the last Death song, period, but the record company wanted one more album, so he made The Sound of Perseverance.
- Scream Bloody Gore is a case of "Tie for Longest Song Goes Last" in its original release, as the Title Track, at 4:35, is the last song on the album, and it is the same length as "Zombie Ritual"; they each exceed the third-longest song on the album, "Baptized in Blood", by some four seconds. Later releases add bonus tracks; the live version of "Choke on It", at 5:56, closes out the 1999 version and well outstrips any other songs on that particular release. This is, however, an Averted Trope on other reissues, unless one simply disregards bonus material.
- The Title Track of The Fragile Art of Existence closes out the album and, at 9:38, is the longest song on the album (and, in fact, in Chuck's entire discography).
- Metal Scream: Kam Lee was an early example of Type 2. Chuck Schuldiner started out as a hybrid of Type 1 and Type 2, but shifted towards Type 3 in the band's later years.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Originally at 10, later moved down to 9 as they progressed as a band.
- The mostly-acoustic song "Voice of the Soul" is about a 5 or maybe even a low 6.
- Control Denied is probably mostly in the 6-7 range, maybe occasionally reaching 8.
- Mr. Fanservice: Chuck performed shirtless on plenty of occasions.
- New Sound Album: Human (which began their venture into Technical Death Metal) and Symbolic (which marked a venture into a more progressive direction). Also averted, as Schuldiner started Control Denied to be more progressive (and change vocalists) without "betraying" fans of Death's Harsh Vocals.
- Nice Guy: Chuck. Despite having Insufferable Genius syndrome, he was a rather nice and open minded individual. He was pretty modest with of his musical career, feeling Death was just a 'metal band', didn't want to talk credit for the genre and even felt the title he was given, "The Father of Death Metal", was a bit too much.
- Progressive Metal: The latter four (especially the latter two) Death albums, as well as all of Control Denied's material.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Schuldiner loved this trope. His performance in "The Philosopher" and "Lack of Comprehension" turned the word lies into a metalhead in-joke.
- Religion Rant Song: "Crystal Mountain" is a Type 3, about why proselytizing is forcing yourself on other people.
- Revolving Door Band: Hand-in-hand with I Am the Band. That Other Wiki identifies twenty-five people as having been full members of Death at some point, along with three additional live members.
- Split Personality: "Defensive Personalities"
- Start My Own:
- Kam Lee joined the band Massacre after leaving, and in fact is best-known as the frontman and voice of that group. Today, Lee performs vocals for countless underground death metal bands, but prefers to stay deep under the radar to the point that very few people are aware he's still active.
- Chris Reifert formed Autopsy, following the release of Death's debut, Scream Bloody Gore.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Voice of the Soul"
- Take That: Chuck wasn't afraid to pull a few punches during his career.
- "Out of Touch" is directed at extreme metal bands who sacrificed musical quality for brutality and shock value and "Low Life" was almost certainly aimed at Kam Lee.
- "The Philosopher" is really Chuck venting about former bandmate Paul Masvidal. This was a rumour for years that Paul denied but was proven to be true after events surrounding the formation of Cynic and Sean's departure from Cynic came to light. The most damning lyric of all? "So you preach about how I'm supposed to be, yet you don't know your own sexuality." Yikes. The message of the song in a nutshell is "you think you're enlightened, but you're really just a naive rich kid who thinks that he'll turn into John McLaughlin if he wishes hard enough".
- Title-Only Chorus: "Scream Bloody Gore", "Zombie Ritual", "Evil Dead".
- Token Minority: Original vocalist Kam Lee, who is one of the few death metal musicians of Asian descent. Though he's technically of mixed race, as his mother is Caucasian (Irish).
- Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert both are/were gay, which is still relatively rare in metal music, though neither member's sexuality was public knowledge at the time (bear in mind this was 1991).
- Trope Makers: While Possessed's album Seven Churches is the first full-length death metal album, Death are considered to be co-trope makers along with Possessed, turning death metal into an actual subgenre instead of just an extreme thrash metal variant.
- Title Track: All albums minus Human and The Sound of Perseverance.
- Also applies to The Fragile Art of Existence by Control Denied.
- Uncommon Time: To be expected with Progressive/Technical Death Metal. "Perennial Quest", to name but one example, has long segments in 5/4.
- Vocal Evolution: Chuck's voice on Symbolic and especially The Sound of Perseverance was considerably higher.
- Wolverine Publicity: James Murphy, Gene Hoglan, and Steve DiGiorgio have all become well-known for this. Murphy was the go-to in the '90s if you played death metal and wanted a cool shred solo; basically, if you're listening to a song from a death metal act that isn't really known for dazzling leadwork from that time period that breaks into a blazing neoclassical lead, they probably got Murphy to do it. The other two, meanwhile, are just known for making it their life's missions to play in just about every band ever.
- Word Salad Lyrics: A good chunk of Control Denied's songs had this, with a stand out example being
- "When the link they breathe becomes missing."