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UNITED STATES, Florida, Tampa

Date Formed 1984
Date Disbanded 13/Dec/2001

Categories: Death Metal, Progressive Death Metal, Technical Death Metal


Last Known Lineup

Past Members

Live Session Members


1984 to 1990

A genre breaking band, Florida's DEATH, centred upon frontman Chuck Schuldiner, would become one of the prime instigators of the Death Metal movement. Despite an ironclad hegemony enforced by Schuldiner, DEATH endured a bewildering succession of musicians that ultimately led to the group's downfall. Nevertheless, over six studio albums issued in the band's heyday, three are acknowledged as undisputed classics. The band leader's sense of purpose and probity forced DEATH along at a pace his players could often not keep up with as he strived towards Death Metal excellence.

Originally formed in 1984, the band's early demos were recorded with the founding teenage trio of guitarist Chuck Schuldiner, former THATCHER guitarist Rick Rozz (real name Frederick DiLillo) and drummer / vocalist Barney 'Kam Lee' under the name of MANTAS. The first fruits of their labours would be dubbed the 'Emotional' demo, issued in the Spring of 1984. By the summer a second session, recorded within the confines of the Schuldiner's garage, resulted in the 'Death By Metal' demo. MANTAS would then be dismantled but the exact same triumvirate regrouped as DEATH, re-releasing the 'Death By Metal' cassette in September complete with all new DEATH branding, artwork depicting a crude inverted crucifix and two grinning skulls plus an additional song 'Zombie'. That same month the group distributed a MANTAS show recording, thirteen tracks incorporating a rendition of VENOM's 'Poison', as 'Death Live 11/9/84'.

A third studio attempt, the five track 'Reign Of Terror' tape, would be laid down in October 1984, various versions of which sported a fluid track listing including a subsequently discarded instrumental 'Zombie Attack', upfront of an inaugural New Years Eve gig in Tampa as openers to NASTY SAVAGE. This gig would be committed to tape, dubbed 'Infernal Live', and sold to fans through Guillotine magazine.

In March 1985 Rozz made his exit. As a duo, Schuldiner and Lee came up with a further demo, the single track 'Rigor Mortis'. Later, guitarist Matt Olivio and bassist Scott Carlson from the Michigan based GENOCIDE brought DEATH, briefly, up to strength but Lee would then depart. Schuldiner would journey to San Francisco to generate a new band project with drummer Eric Brecht but this venture soon faltered, dispensing just one studio demo session 'Back From The Dead' in October and the concert set 'Live At Ruthies Inn' during December. As Schuldiner returned to Florida his former band mates Rozz and Lee were gearing up for the arrival on the scene of their new act, the influential MASSACRE.

Once again Schuldiner would relocate in an attempt to kick start his career, travelling to Toronto in January 1986 joining Canadians SLAUGHTER for a brief tenure. The SLAUGHTER collusion was fleeting, resulting in just one track 'Fuck Of Death'. Back in Florida, after resurrecting DEATH with drummer Chris Reifert, rehearsals were distributed, including a March 1986 three song tape featuring SLAUGHTER's 'Fuck Of Death'. More recording resulted in the April 'Mutilation' demo, landing the band a deal with Combat Records.

Initially DEATH convened to the Hollywood Music Grinder studios with producer Randy Burns. Also participating would be newly enrolled second guitarist John Hand. However, Hand was reportedly unable to keep pace with DEATH's material and had his services excused without recording a note. The first album 'Scream Bloody Gore', released in March of 1987 in North America by Combat and licensed to Music For Nations subsidiary Under One Flag imprint for a European issue in June, proved a somewhat pedestrian and all too predictable Death Metal outing, proving an unreliable marker for what was to come. DEATH, firmly centred on the erratic talent of Schuldiner, were to develop into a finely honed and technically proficient leader of the genre over successive releases.

Reifert departed in 1987 to form AUTOPSY releasing a four track demo in 1988 and a string of notoriously sickening albums thereafter. Schuldiner reconstituted DEATH by enlisting the bulk of MASSACRE- Rick Rozz on guitar, Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums. This line up would undertake DEATH's first North American tour, including a performance at the infamous 'Milwaukee Metalfest'.

The November 1988 'Leprosy' album, produced by Dan Johnson at Morrisound Studios in April of 1988, solidified the band's burgeoning reputation. Although Terry Butler would be accredited bass on the album jacket, it was in reality Chuck Schuldiner that performed these duties. 'Leprosy' provided a staging post, marking the first transitional steps away from the familiar gore soaked subject matter with tentative steps into more philosophical realms laid out over songs of longer duration, a pattern which would increase with each successive release. DEATH, alongside FORBIDDEN, RAVEN and FAITH OR FEAR, would also feature on the live video 'The Ultimate Revenge' recorded in October at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia.

DEATH toured Europe in 1989 alongside GANG GREEN and with support act DESPAIR prior to American dates with DARK ANGEL. However, before recording the third album Rozz returned to his act MASSACRE.

For the 'Spiritual Healing' album, committed to tape at Morrisound with Scott Burns and issued in March 1990, DEATH comprised Schuldiner, bassist Terry Butler and drummer Bill Andrews. Rehearsals were held with guitarist Mark Carter before erstwhile AGENT STEEL and HALLOWS EVE man JAMES MURPHY was drafted in. This latter figure greatly enhanced the cutting edge guitar quality of the band. 'Spiritual Healing' gave a platform for Schuldiner to expand upon his political and social observations such as human cloning, vigilantism and capitol punishment, and, although he was not yet in possession of the musicians to fully implement his ambitions at this stage, experiment with progressive leanings.

Following the album's release Murphy was unceremoniously fired, later joining OBITUARY, British thrash act CANCER, TESTAMENT and Danes KONKHRA as well as issuing solo albums. DEATH set about touring initially as a trio before adding CYNIC's Paul Masvidal on a temporary basis. This inclusion was significant as it provided the first clue towards the next stage of evolution for the band.

1990 American dates with CARCASS and PESTILENCE were completed using the services of ex-EVILDEAD guitarist Albert Gonzalez. DEATH then enlisted former ROTTING CORPSE guitarist Walter Trachsler for the remaining dates of their American tour with KREATOR.

Somewhat bizarrely DEATH toured Britain with KREATOR minus Schuldiner who reportedly was advised to stay in America for health reasons. Ex-DEVASTATION and ROTTING CORPSE drummer Louie Carrisalez filled in on vocals whilst Trachsler substituted on guitar. The fans refused to accept a touring line up minus Schuldiner- in spite of a series of bizarre allegations that he had renounced extreme music and was pursuing a Glam path (!), and the dates were far from a success. Upon their return to America both Butler and Andrews joined MASSACRE.

1991 to 2002

Schuldiner was quick to resurrect the band finally managing to attain the services of CYNIC's Paul Masvidal full time. Masvidal had in between stints with DEATH guested on the MASTER album of 1991 'On The Seventh Day God Created Master'. Alongside them were former SADUS bassist Steve DiGeorgio and CYNIC drummer Sean Reinert, this line-up recording the 'Human' album, released that October. Japanese editions hosted an uncharacteristic cover version of 'God Of Thunder', originally by KISS. 'Human', despite a less than focussed production, would go down in musical history as one of the quintessential Death Metal releases. Now having the requisite skills at his disposal, a gifted set of musicians and his own talents on the lyrical and songwriting front now realised, Schuldiner's aspirations towards technical yet intense metal had been fulfilled.

For DEATH's 1991 touring line-up Schuldiner was joined by Masvidal, Reinert and bassist Scott Carino. DEATH played a brace of concerts in Mexico during August 1991 supported by SADUS, CENOTAPH, LEPROSSY and BLACK THORN. After US and Canadian dates the band toured Europe as part of a Christmas package in alliance with NAPALM DEATH, DISMEMBER and CANNIBAL CORPSE and then Britain in February 1992 with support from VIOGRESSION. A useful promotional aid came with a video clip for the track 'Lack Of Comprehension'. Later that year Relativity Records would issue the compilation album 'Fate'.

Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert got back to their project CYNIC in 1993, releasing their debut album 'Focus'. Carino went to FESTER and in 2000 was a member of LOWBROW. The revised version of DEATH now saw the inclusion of KING DIAMOND guitarist Andy LaRocque and DARK ANGEL's Gene Hoglan on drums. For recording of the June 1993 'Individual Thought Patterns' album Steve DiGiorgio stepped in once more. The album was duly backed up by the filming of a second video, for the song 'The Philosopher'. The record was widely predicted at being unable to scale the same glorious heights of 'Human' but reviewers and fans alike agreed that if fell only slightly short. Praise in particular was bestowed upon the veritable shredfest delivered by Schuldiner, LaRocque, DiGeorgio and Hoglan.

Commitments with KING DIAMOND prevented LaRocque from involving himself in live work. DEATH soldiered on enlisting Craig Locicero of FORBIDDEN for European shows and Ralph Santolla of EYEWITNESS for American dates, supported by Dutch act GOREFEST, and subsequent European festivals. Santolla would later come to the fore in the Melodic Rock community with acts such as MILLENIUM and MONARCH.

The 'Symbolic' album, the first for new label Roadrunner emerging in March 1995, was to have been recorded with LaRocque and former WATCHTOWER and RETARDED ELF bassist Doug Keyser but the guitarist was obliged to recording of the KING DIAMOND album 'The Spider's Lullaby' and no fee could be agreed for the bassist. DiGeorgio and LaRocque departed in early 1995 to be replaced by ex-PAIN PRINCIPLE bassist Kelly Conlon and guitarist Bobby Koelble. DEATH toured America with NEVERMORE the same year. Kelly Conlon would team up with MONSTROSITY and later VITAL REMAINS.

Surrounded by this confusion, Schuldiner still somehow managed to pull off another near perfect example of the genre, 'Symbolic' universally recognised as the closing chapter of DEATH's triptych of genius. The fractious nature of the band's existence though had taken its toll.

Schuldiner changed tack completely later the same year putting DEATH on ice and generating a new project CONTROL DENIED very much in the power metal mould. Originally Schuldiner was to work with the original WINTER'S BANE vocalist but he was to be lured away for a more permanent liaison with WICKED WAYS. CONTROL DENIED was now down to Schuldiner, bassist Brian Benson and drummer Chris Williams.

Another version of the band saw Schuldiner and Williams joined by guitarist Shannon Hamm and Scott Clendenin on bass, both of TALONZFURY. Although CONTROL DENIED had recorded an album's worth of material and received offers from various labels Williams would soon depart, replaced by ex-BURNING INSIDE and ACHERON drummer Richard Christy.

The outcome was somewhat inevitable and DEATH announced their reformation in October with a line-up of Schuldiner, guitarist Shannon Hamm, drummer Richard Christy and a returning Steve DiGeorgio on bass, the latter still retaining his fulltime participation in SADUS. DiGeorgio also reunited with another ex-DEATH man guitarist JAMES MURPHY for one of his side projects DISINCARNATE.

DEATH duly returned to the scene in April 1997, back on European soil and heading up the 'Full Of Hate' Easter festivals alongside OBITUARY, ENTOMBED, SAMAEL, NEUROSIS, CROWBAR, KILLING CULTURE and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. The group signed to the aggressive Nuclear Blast label for 1998's 'Sound Of Perseverance', an album which saw a further progression towards straight heavy metal. Schuldiner was aided in this effort by Hamm, Christy and bassist Scott Clendenin. The album included a stab at JUDAS PRIEST's 'Painkiller'.

Ex-DEATH drummer Gene Hoglan would turn up on the drums for cult Norwegian outfit OLD MAN'S CHILD's 1998 album 'Ill Natured Spiritual Invasion'. Meantime touring found DEATH on the road in Europe with BENEDICTION and America sharing the bill with high profile Swedes HAMMERFALL.

Although 1999 heralded the welcome release of Schuldiner's CONTROL DENIED album, 'The Fragile Art Of Existence', fate dealt a cruel blow when it was announced that the frontman was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The frontman, who had learnt of the disease on his 31st birthday, had an operation in January and spent the bulk of the year in recuperation. The same year the Century Media label would unveil an impressive 5 album vinyl box set.

2000 found Christy back on the drum stool aiding fellow Deathsters INCANTATION for their live commitments before touring with ICED EARTH. DiGeorgio meantime was found to be part of the Metal 'All star' DRAGONLORD project of TESTAMENT guitarist Eric Peterson. Meantime ex drummer Chris Reifert created ABCESS and by 2000 THE RAVENOUS with STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH bassist Dan Lilker and NECROPHAGIA's Killjoy.

Veteran British Hardcore merchants NAPALM DEATH paid homage in their own oblique way by including a DEATH cover on their 'Leaders Not Followers' album, although the song in question was from an early demo and does not appear on any official DEATH release.

Schuldiner, now receiving the experimental drug Vincristine, was still very ill by mid 2001 and the Hammerheart America label organised an online auction to raise funds for a second operation. Among the items auctioned off was one of Chucks own guitar and a Steve DiGiorgio custom bass. The Nuclear Blast label would pitch in by releasing the 'Live In L.A. (Death & Raw)' album. Issued on both CD and double vinyl album formats the recordings were taken direct from the soundboard at the band's Whiskey A Go Go show on the 'Sound Of Perseverance' dates. Across America and Europe the extreme Metal community rallied to the cause putting on numerous benefit shows.

Chuck Schuldiner passed away on the 13th December 2001.

During 2002 DEATH veterans would be active upon the scene. Bassist Kelly Conlon joined the Boston based Progressive Metal act INFINITY MINUS ONE and Gene Hoglan, besides his work with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, would form part of the reconstituted DARK ANGEL line up. As 2003 drew in plans were announced for a DEATH tribute album involving erstwhile DEATH guitarist JAMES MURPHY, ex-MALEVOLENT CREATION vocalist Brett Hoffmann, ex-MALEVOLENT CREATION and SUFFOCATION drummer Dave Culross and CKY guitarist Deron Miller. This album, by early 2004 being dubbed 'Within The Mind - In Homage To The Musical Legacy Of Chuck Schuldiner' later added the SLIPKNOT pairing of Mick Thomson and Paul Gray, MUDVAYNE's Ryan Martinie and Chad Gray, ICED EARTH drummer Richard Christy, TESTAMENT's Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, the PAINMUSEUM and HALFORD credited Mike Chlasciak, Jean-François Dagenais of KATAKLYSM, Patrick Mameli from PESTILENCE, Luc Lemay of GORGUTS and Peter Tägtgren of HYPOCRISY. In June both guitarist Matt Bachand and drummer Jason Bittner of SHADOWS FALL also sessioned. DARKEST HOUR guitarist Kris Norris' contributions would be recorded backstage at the 'Ozzfest' Tampa Amphitheater concert.

It would be learned that erstwhile DEATH guitarist Bobby Koelble, having performed on the bands 1995 release 'Symbolic', was now the driving force behind the Latin and World Music inspired, Orlando based JUNKIE RUSH.

Karmageddon Media 2004 releases included the 'Zero Tolerance' archive sets of demo and live material. The first album comprised DEATH's 1985 'Infernal Death' and 1986 'Mutilation' demos alongside previously unreleased demo recordings from CONTROL DENIED. 'Zero Tolerance II' would be made up of the first MANTAS demo 'Death By Metal' from 1984, the 'Reign Of Terror' session from the same year and a DEATH live show recorded at the After Dark club in Texas during the 'Spiritual Healing' tour in 1990. Although as recordings these sets were welcome additions to the Schuldiner legacy, the manner of their release was unfortunately overcast with controversy, with very public legal spats between Chuck's mother and the Dutch label. This bitterness resulted in the final product being sadly sub-par in presentation and backed by almost non existent promotion.

Former band members continued to be active throughout the scene. Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert re-emerged that year in Prog Rock outfit AEON SPOKE, touting the album 'Above The Buried Cry'. March 2006 found Steve DiGeorgio involving himself in a studio collaboration with singer Björn Strid, of SOILWORK, TERROR 2000 and COLDSEED, Glen Alvelais from FORBIDDEN, TESTAMENT and LD/50 and Jeremy Colson of the STEVE VAI band, MARTY FRIEDMAN, MICHAEL SCHENKER, APARTMENT 26, DALI'S DILEMMA and LD/50 repute.

Announced in April 2006, both DEATH players vocalist Kam Lee and bassist Terry Butler were revealed to have formed retro Thrash / Death Metal combo DENIAL FIEND, co-assembled by an elite cast comprising guitarist Sam Williams, previously with DOWN BY LAW, and erstwhile NASTY SAVAGE drummer Curt Beeson.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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