Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Remembering Death Metal Pioneer Chuck Schuldiner

Chuck Schuldiner, of Death, in 1995. Schuldiner died of a brain tumor on December 13, 2001.
Courtesy of the artist

19 ago this week, Schuldiner died after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Death was one of the first ever death metal bands in the United States. They started in 1983 under the name Mantas and then the name was changed to Death in 1984. Chuck was only 16 years old.

Charles Michael “Chuck” Schuldiner was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He founded the band Death in 1983 and was their lead vocalist until his death in 2001

Death is no longer a band since Chuck Schuldiner died on December 13, 2001. He was 34 years old. He had brain cancer and the medication he was on to beat the cancer made him weak. He died of pneumonia. He had another band project called Control Denied during the 3 years before he died.

The UK’s 2002 issue of Kerrang! magazine said that “Chuck Schuldiner was one of the most significant figures in the history of metal.”

Original members were Schuldiner (guitar), Rick Rozz (guitar) and Kam Lee(drums and vocals). In January 1986, Schuldiner moved to Toronto and temporarily joined the Canadian band Slaughter. However, he quickly returned to continue the formation of Death.

[Chuck Schuldiner] showed the foresight and courage to not only help create the rules of death metal, but to demonstrate how to break them. — Arthur von Nagel (Cormorant)

There’s something to be said for the visionary who dismantles the very movement he’s created or pioneered. John Coltrane left behind hard bop to scatter sheets of sound, always knowing there was something more to explore. After joining the Communist Party, composer Cornelius Cardew rejected his prominent role in the English Avant-Garde to protect populist folk music. For a humble guitarist from Florida named Chuck Schuldiner, his metal band Death (not to be confused with the proto-punk band of the same name) was a mere instrument. Along with the Bay Area’s Possessed, Death not only helped spawn an entire extreme genre around gore and technical guitar wizardry, but like horror movies sometimes do, Death also challenged our notions of life.

From the 1983 Death by Metal demo by a pre-Death band called Mantas to the hollering banshee wail of Scream Bloody Gore to the early jazz-metal fusions of Human to the glorious 1998 swansong, The Sound of Perseverance, Schuldiner lived the Leonardo da Vinci creed: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Not one Death album was the same, but they were very much all connected; the non-linear narrative continued through Schuldiner’s formation of the scream-less progressive heavy metal band Control Denied.

Psychedelic Lunch

Chuck Schuldiner never wanted to be The Godfather Of Death Metal. It was a genre tag he could never shake off during his short life, and one that’s only grown in stature in the years since he passed away.

Chuck played it very ‘by the books’ when it came to soloing. Sure, he might not have known theory, but he wasn’t ‘making up scales’, he just didn’t have a reference point for the notes he played. He pretty much used the minor/harmonic minor scales exclusively in his soloing.

[Chuck Schuldiner] showed the foresight and courage to not only help create the rules of death metal, but to demonstrate how to break them. — Arthur von Nagel (Cormorant)

There’s something to be said for the visionary who dismantles the very movement he’s created or pioneered. John Coltrane left behind hard bop to scatter sheets of sound, always knowing there was something more to explore. After joining the Communist Party, composer Cornelius Cardew rejected his prominent role in the English Avant-Garde to protect populist folk music. For a humble guitarist from Florida named Chuck Schuldiner, his metal band Death (not to be confused with the proto-punk band of the same name) was a mere instrument. Along with the Bay Area’s Possessed, Death not only helped spawn an entire extreme genre around gore and technical guitar wizardry, but like horror movies sometimes do, Death also challenged our notions of life.

From the 1983 Death by Metal demo by a pre-Death band called Mantas to the hollering banshee wail of Scream Bloody Gore to the early jazz-metal fusions of Human to the glorious 1998 swansong, The Sound of Perseverance, Schuldiner lived the Leonardo da Vinci creed: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Not one Death album was the same, but they were very much all connected; the non-linear narrative continued through Schuldiner’s formation of the scream-less progressive heavy metal band Control Denied.

Schuldiner died after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Remembering Chuck Schuldiner Of Death

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Death- Individual Thought Patterns

Today’s album pick is Individual Thought Patterns (1993) by Death. This one has caused me to do some deep thinking about what “influence” truly means. In most cases, I would consider the term to be an artist who has influenced my style of playing music, or who inspires me to play music in general. In the case of Death, I am influenced by Chuck Schuldiner, who was a pioneer in the genre of extreme music that just so happens to share the name of his band.

Chuck set out to create something in memory of a brother who passed away and to make it a positive thing. I find this to be massively inspirational.

Against astronomical odds, Schuldiner navigated his muse with an ever changing cast of musicians in pursuit of his personal mission, never compromising his integrity, and leaving behind a powerful legacy that has guided countless musicians and bands over the years.

On Individual Thought Patterns, Schuldiner shared guitar duties with Andy LaRocque from King Diamond’s band, and had the impossibly ferocious rhythm section of Steve DiGiorgio on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums.

I am embarrassed that I am just now really acquainting myself with Death, but everything I have heard is just phenomenal and I believe that is one of the beautiful things about music…the discovery.

Whether it is a new release or an old gem awaiting new sets of ears, music can always be brand new for someone searching for that ever elusive “influence.”

I salute the life of Chuck Schuldiner and thank him for his creative fearlessness and imagination. I look forward to delving deep into his catalog of treasures from this moment forward!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind