|Key Release: Symbolic (1995)|
There may have been earlier death metal bands (Possessed is often credited with being the first), but none shaped the genre with way the aptly-named Death did. The brainchild of guitarist Chuck Schuldiner, Death released its debut Scream Bloody Gore in 1986 to the shock and awe of fans who previously had thought they knew “heavy.” Full of horror-themed lyrics and sporting gruesome cover art, Death’s first three albums (Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy, and Spiritual Healing) laid the blueprint for bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide who would take the genre to new popular heights.
In the early 90’s the band veered suddenly in new territory, bringing in guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert from Cynic. 1992’s Human traded in the blood and gore for meditation and introspection, with intricately woven songs like “The Philosopher” showcasing the progressive influence of the foursome’s new additions. Three more albums followed, each more bombastic and technical than the last, which – together with Human – would become known as the Final Four and stand as the perhaps most influential tetralogy in metal since Black Sabbath’s initial run.
Chuck’s untimely passing in 2001 after a tragic battle with brain cancer finally silenced his death metal juggernaut, but not before the “father of death metal” left a gigantic crater in the extreme metal landscape. For new fans who never got to see the band in its heyday, the Human-era lineup has recently toured worldwide under the moniker Death to All, with Exhumed’s Matt Harvey stepping up to the mic.