sexta-feira, 24 de junho de 2011

Album Review: Death - "Human" 20th Anniversary Reissu

Charles Michael Schuldiner

By Alex Fidel

KPRi Rock Journalist Alex Fidel covers the 20th anniversary reissue of Death's 1991 iconic release, Human, which was released June 21st, 2011.

The story around Death is very moving, even for non-fans. Florida's Death started in 1983 as Mantas, the first death metal band in the history of music. Their lead member and lead guitarist/vocalist, the late Chuck Schuldiner (1967-2001), would be the only original member of the band until he died of a rare form of brain stem cancer. They eventually released their first album, Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987, which was bare-bones brutal, a definitive record for death metal. Leprosy was released in 1988, this time with a lot more mature songwriting elements, giving each song a distinct mood, something that would be even more prevalent on future albums. Leprosy had many more groove parts, instead of the constant blazing speed of Scream. Spiritual Healing was the first Death album to feature lyrics that dealt with life, politics, and social issues, as well as increased technicality and musicianship in the music, and catchier songs that set themselves apart from a scene that didn't seem to mature in the direction of Schuldiner. One of the few bands that were maturing in musicianship, lyrical quality, and unique styles was Cynic, a jazz-fusion influenced metal band that featured lyrics relating to Kriya Yoga and other Eastern philosophies. Two of Cynic's members, Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, joined Death for the lineup that would be on Human.

Human is a groundbreaking record, since it was one of the very first progressive death metal albums, featuring many complex time changes, Reinert's complex and jazz-influenced drumming, and the insane dexterity and virtuosity of bassist Steve DiGiorgio making Human one of the first death metal albums to feature many bass lines that were independent of the guitar riffs. The lyrics got a lot more personal and deep, a medium for Schuldiner to pour out the pain in his consciousness from the massive fallout of his band members in 1989, such as in the song "Secret Face", "Vulnerable through trust/Life is a twisted maze of obstacles/Presented by people with a secret face." The music is also a lot more melodic, giving the music a lot more substance and stronger songwriting qualities, but still maintained much of the visceral heaviness and speed, but in a tasteful, organic manner, as was typical for Chuck, since he always wrote from the heart, and never just for the sake of doing something a certain way to get "cred" in the death metal scene. His famous quote was "support music, not rumors," regarding all the vicious rumors that had been spreading around since '89 when the band almost fell apart. The album title is very suiting for that point in Chuck's life, describing the very fragile art of existence and the ability to persevere in the face of much dishonesty he experienced from people he dealt with. He was taken from us too soon, but his legacy lives on.

Chuck: Live with DEATH
The great people that are involved with keeping his legacy alive have done a great job at completely remixing Human for the 2011 20th anniversary reissue, as it's original version was lacking in some production aspects. Jim Morris, who would be Chuck's sole producer from 1995 until his death, was in charge of this job. Eric Greif, Death's former manager, is now in charge of Chuck's intellectual property and worked tirelessly to get this and other works a modern treatment, and I cannot thank him enough for his efforts.

Many of the issues with the original Human mix were fixed. The bass guitar being virtually inaudible was the main thing people would say about Human. On the remix, the bass is at the perfect level where you can hear Steve DiGiorgio's ripping lines quite clearly and easily, but it doesn't overpower the guitars. The muddy guitar tones were fixed also, though the guitars still retain the low-end that makes the signature heaviness of the album. The drums are a lot more powerful sounding, and a lot more noticeable. In the liner notes, Jim Morris points out that Chuck probably wanted to give the drums and bass the backseat in the mix, but when Jim worked with Chuck years later on Death's final two albums, Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance, as well as the two Control Denied albums, he had a different approach and told Jim to give the rhythm section more prominence in the mix. He took all of Chuck's musical desires in the final two Death albums to heart when he was remixing Human, and it shows. Human 2011 is the Human that Death fans had always wanted it to be.

Particular songs that stand out are "Suicide Machine", "Lack of Comprehension", and "Cosmic Sea". Suicide Machine has some cool effects, such as the lyrical line "manipulating destiny," where there are two vocal tracks of that line going on at once, except one of them has the words all mangled up. The intro to Lack of Comprehension is very different, now that the bass is audible, adding a whole new dimension to the intro. Cosmic Sea is the first instrumental by Death, and by far the most experimental song of theirs to date. It features electronic effects, such as oscillators and harmonizers, and is a lucid dream of the virtuosic guitar solos of Chuck Schuldiner and Paul Masvidal, profound melodies, technical ability, all while maintaining strong songwriting qualities. The new mix of this song is just outstanding, especially since the trade-off solos between Chuck and Paul Masvidal don't fade out as fast as in the original mix.


Those who don't consider themselves death metal fans may find a home in Death. Maybe not in Human, but in Death's later works, such as Symbolic or The Sound of Perseverance, which are much more melodic, catchy, but still maintain the organic originality of Chuck's songwriting. There is also Control Denied, the band that Chuck formed in 1996, but put on hold for the last Death album. Control Denied's first and only release (thus far), The Fragile Art of Existence, featured a traditional metal singer, much like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and other similar-styled singers. The music is absolutely beautiful. Very atmospheric, melodic, and emotional, it is truly a masterpiece.

As Fragile was being recorded, Chuck began feeling sharp pains in the back of his neck. The culprit was believed to be a pinched nerve. It was, but unfortunately due to a tumor on his brain stem. Chuck went under surgery and then received radiation therapy. His tumor was said to have necrotized and Chuck got better for a while. He soon got back to work, writing, rehearsing, and recording what was to be the final Control Denied album, When Man and Machine Collide. Chuck was able to record all of his guitar parts, in addition to Richard Christy's drums, for the record, when the tumor returned in mid-2001. He died on December 13, 2001.

For years there has been a legal battle over this recorded material, but it is finally in the hands of the Schuldiner family thanks to Eric Greif, and Jim Morris has finished placing together the parts that were recorded for the second Control Denied album, ready for the rest of the band members to record their parts. The album is slated for a late 2011 release, with many more Death reissues to come. Symbolic, The Fragile Art of Existence, and The Sound of Perseverance have also been reissued recently.

As a person, Chuck was very honest, sincere, down-to-earth, and humble. He considered himself a metal fan. In an instance where he got to meet his favorite singer King Diamond with Death/Control Denied drummer Richard Christy, Chuck was shaking like a leaf, a testament to his humble nature. We, as humans, can all learn from Chuck's integrity, perseverance, creativity, and how he dealt with adversity. From losing his older brother at the age of 10, to making it through all the negativity and dishonesty within the music industry, to his battle with cancer, Chuck was a strong individual, and changed the lives of so many people around the world with his music.


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