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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Chuck Schuldiner

Yesterday marked the ninth year anniversary of the passing of a true legend: Charles Michael "Chuck" Schuldiner (May 13, 1967 – December 13, 2001). Chuck was the founder of one of the most renowned and influential bands in Heavy Metal: DEATH.

Schuldiner was the singer, main songwriter, rhythm and lead guitarist of Death (founded in 1983). Due to his influence and talent, he is worthily known as "The Father of Death Metal." Known for his modesty and kindness, Chuck often denounced the flattering attention he received for his accomplishments. "I don’t think I should take the credits for this Death Metal stuff. I am just a guy from a band, and I think Death is a Metal band.”

Chuck started playing guitar at the tender age of 9. After his older brother passed away, his parents figured that giving him a new hobby would help young Chuck to cope with this significant loss. When he was 16, Chuck started a band called Mantas, which eventually became Death. His initial influences include: Iron Maiden, Billy Idol, and French band Sortilège.

In 1987, Schuldiner released the first Death album, which he titled “Scream Bloody Gore”. A year later he released “Leprosy”, and in February of 1990 he released the critically acclaimed “Spiritual Healing”. One of the key moves Chuck made in order to get Death to the next level, was to recruit fellow legend and guitarist James Murphy.

The turning point for Death was when they released their breakthrough album “Human”. On this album Chuck explored more technical and progressive abilities, which eventually became Death’s signature sound. This musical progression and perfection continued on 1993's “Individual Thought Patterns”, 1995's “Symbolic”, and “The Sound of Perseverance”, which was released in 1998. Over time, Death underwent many lineup changes, which opened the doors for various musicians who are now considered Heavy Metal all-stars. A few of these all-stars who contributed to Death’s legacy include: Gene Hoglan, Richard Christy, Sean Reinert, Paul Masvidal, and Steve DiGiorgio. With these accomplishments, Death warranted their perpetual legendary status throughout the Metal world, which still stands strong today.

Throughout his career, Schuldiner was never afraid to take on controversial issues and uphold his own personal views. On the album “Spiritual Healing”, he divulged his anti-drug values through his lyrics for "Living Monstrosity" and even raged against abortion on the track "Altering the Future.” He was also known to speak openly against “satanic” themes, which have always been part of Death Metal. He disputed in opposition to stereotypes and classifications that portrayed Metal-heads to be harmful to animals and people, or to be purveyors of death and malevolence. He strongly opposed artists who were "out of control", and attracted negative attention to the Death Metal scene. Chuck was a role model to the fans, and also to the bands he had the chance to influence through his music and viewpoints.

After further evolvement of his musical endeavors and styles, Chuck decided to retire the Death name, and formed a new band called Control Denied. In 1999, they released “The Fragile Art of Existence”.

Around May of 1999, Chuck had been experiencing pain in his upper neck. After being sent for an MRI exam, he was sadly diagnosed with life threatening pontine glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer that attacks the brain stem. He was immediately sent to undergo radiation therapy. In October 1999, Chuck’s family announced that the tumor had necrotized. Then in January 2000, chuck underwent a surgical procedure in order to remove the rest of the tumor. The operation was a success, and Chuck continued his work with Control Denied.

In May 2001 (two years after his initial diagnosis), the cancer returned. This time, due to a financial debt he was not able to receive the immediate surgery that his condition required; to make matters worse his medical insurance denied the coverage of the treatment. Many influential figures of the music industry, as well as a strong alliance of dedicated fans, gathered in support of Chuck’s impact to the music world, and rallied to raise funds to benefit his demanding medical needs. Still unable to acquire the necessary surgical procedure that would possibly save his life, he underwent chemotherapy. The harsh side effects of this treatment immensely weakened Chuck, and took a severe toll on his ability to continue with his music. In late October, Chuck’s frail body fell ill to pneumonia. On December 13th, 2001, at approximately 4 PM (Eastern), Chuck tragically died at the young age of 34.

Today, 9 years after the passing of a true Heavy Metal icon, Chuck’s memory continues to thrive through the influence of his music and the admiration of his ability to always stay true to his beliefs. Chuck is truly a pioneer of Metal, and a hero for all who he has affected with his accomplishments, attitude, and morale. "I would like to live forever, if it was possible", he once said in an interview. Little did he know at the time, that with the significant and historical impact he left on the Metal community, he surely would.

Related links:
Death on Facebook
Brutal Bitches Productions

Written by: Alissa Shimansky (Brutal Bitches Productions NY).
Co-written by Frank D’Erasmo, Founder/Drummer of Legionary (NY/NJ).

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