10 Best Songs by the Band Death
Florida’s Death were not only pioneers of the death metal genre, but helped to redefine and revolutionize the extreme style over the course of a decade. Mastermind Chuck Schuldiner was the only consistent member of the band and casted an entirely new group of musicians nearly every time he hit the studio to record his next album. While never-ending lineup changes usually destroys bands, Schuldiner saw this as the only means to pursue his musical visions.
Each Death album has its own personality and place in the hearts of fans, which makes devising a Top 10 list like this challenging. From the band's thrashy death metal beginning to its melodic death metal end, Schuldiner dazzled fans and musicians with the quality of his work. Sadly, Schuldiner died at the way-too-young age of 34 in 2001, but his musical legacy lives on. Allow us to present our choices for the 10 Best Songs by the Band Death.
Chuck Schuldiner always had a knack for writing leads that would burrow their way into your memory forever, and this is no exception. One of the best intro leads ever laid down kicks off this highly memorable song before transitioning into a staccato rhythm. King Diamond guitarist Andy Larocque injects quite a bit of his personality into his solo as the double bass pounding behind his fast fretwork gives this song depth. Rarely does one musician’s playing outshine Evil Chuck’s.
The legendary ‘Human’ earns bragging rights as one of the finest assembly of musicians on an album. Sein Reinert and Paul Masvidal of Cynic join Steve DiGiorgio and, of course, the Death mastermind to lay down one of the finest death metal albums. ‘Together as One’ is a relentless death metal attack with an incredibly catchy chorus for music so extreme. The chorus riff stands alone for a measure before Schuldiner wretches forth his rhythmic snarl making for a brutal sing-along.
Chuck Schuldiner’s most expansive work is the masterful ‘Sound of Perseverance.’ The album strays from the traditional death metal formula in songwriting and overall sound. Progressive fusion elements are apparent in the rhythm section and collide head-on with melody and aggression. The weight of the riff in the chorus on ‘Spirit Crusher’ literally makes the listener feel like he or she is being crushed. Richard Christy's octopus-like drumming brings absolute chaos to the music, most noticeably after the first chorus that features falsetto death metal shrieks from Evil Chuck.
‘The Philosopher’ sees Evil Chuck questioning the guidance and judgment of others. Today, nearly every issue is a hot-button topic, making this quite relevant. Unfortunately, nobody is going to campaign behind a death metal song. What the metal community can keep to itself is the fretless bass playing of Steve DiGiorgio that gives Death a little more flair than fans are used to. The song has a chugging mid-tempo stampede leading into the tension relieving chorus, but the relief doesn’t last for long with Schuldiner’s vocal bite and thought-provoking words that end the album.
A downward spiral lead opens this Death classic and it isn’t long before we’re treated to one of the best mosh parts the band wrote. Evil Chuck has no problem sacrificing his vocal chords for us and sends chills through spines with the throat-ripping scream two-thirds of the way through. Death metal was still finding its legs in the late 1980s, but Schuldiner was already running with the torch. The spastic nature of ‘Left to Die’ displays an unpredictable element that would help to define the genre in the years to come.
Taking cues from other horror movies, Death summoned their own idea of a horror movie lead with the famed opener to ‘Evil Dead.’ The song is, obviously, about the 1981 cult classic movie, but Schuldiner doesn’t get caught up with the details. The vague imagery in the lyrics is enough to get the point across, especially with the signature shrieked chorus of “Eviiiiiiiiiiil!!! Dead!” These three minutes must have been three of the best at a Death show.
‘Flesh and the Power it Holds’ is the definitive song off Death’s most unique album. This song holds some of the band’s best lyrics like “Passion is a poison laced with pleasure bitter sweet / one of many faces that hides deep beneath.” The razor-like guitar tone roars from the B.C. Rich Stealth and is given the spotlight in the middle of the song for an emotional solo demonstrating Schuldiner’s chops and versatility as a guitarist.
‘Symbolic” saw a massive shift towards melody and a bit of a departure from the death metal that most bands were playing at the time. Along with Carcass and At the Gates, Death helped pave the way for infectious melodies and hooks to enter the genre. The clean-toned dissonance plays catch with the leadwork while the mystical lyrics are enforced with the Egyptian melody before the chugging beatdown and subsequent soloing. The dynamic songwriting and unforgettable melodies make ‘Crystal Mountain’ a fan favorite.
Perhaps the most familiar Death guitar lick is laid down to kick off this terribly fun song. The plodding tempo of the intro invites the listener to join in before savagely tearing into the verse. The bridge plays off the line “Kiss the rotting flesh / Now you’re in Hell” as a musical descent into the inferno. ‘Zombie Ritual’ truly excels in the songwriting department. Schuldiner crafts segment after segment to build up to the simple chorus. While pre-choruses are not exactly unique, it is something not often heard in death metal.
Schuldiner flirted with morbid topographical lyrics earlier in his career with Death. ‘Pull the Plug’ evokes haunting emotions as the frontman screams out in anguish in the first person perspective about being taken off life support. Musically, the song is just as unsettling. The overall mid-tempo pace makes you feel like you are indeed waiting around to die. ‘Pull the Plug’ boasts one of the most memorable choruses among the Death catalog, riff and vocal wise. Stellar.