Scream Bloody Gore (Reissue)
Release Date: 20 May 2016
Review by Paul Southwell
Floridians Death took the youthful instrumental proficiency of bands like Possessed and melded them with the rawness of Sodom and the ferocity of Slayer. Back in the mid-eighties, death metal or the origins therein was largely an underground movement. Once thrash metal had taken hold with bands like Metallica becoming huge even without any radio play, it was just a matter of time until more extreme offshoots who also appreciated black metal pioneers such as Venom and Mercyful Fate would come to the fore.
Around that time, late guitarist Chuck Schuldiner was starting out in a band called Mantas which soon morphed into Death, who found their sound quickly enough as a seminal demo in 1985 started doing the tape trading rounds. Eventually picked up by Combat Records, Chuck left his band members behind after an initially sub-par recording in Florida necessitated a trip to The Music Grinder in Los Angeles, California for Chuck to start anew in his project.
Death’s 1987 debut album Scream Bloody Gore was the defining death metal statement that spewed forth from the tape trading demos scene, and a fervent word of mouth fan base to create professionally done death metal despite being largely in its infancy both musically and lyrically. Teaming up with drummer Chris Reifert [who went on to form Autopsy], Death took on an urgent sound that combined early black metal stylings with punk energy, horror based lyrics and fluid technical musicianship. Chuck’s instrumental proficiency and prolific nature had him doing all the guitars, bass and vocals on the album.
Now remastered by excellent mastering engineer Alan Douches [Nile, Death] at West West Side Music, this fantastic reissue of Scream Bloody Gore also comes with a wealth of bonus material. It concludes the Relapse labels reissue series for Death albums that comes in a variety of formats and in some cases, limited quantities. For the diehards, there is the three disc option that includes the remastered full album one the first disc whilst the second and third discs offer a slew of previously unreleased recordings alongside various rehearsal demos. Plus, as per usual, there are the lyrics as well as informative liner notes including relevant drummer Chris Reifert’s informative insights.
The album itself opens with Infernal Death whereby the drum sound is fairly tight despite some cavernous reverb additions whilst the beginnings of a guttural, growled vocal sound and fast bursts of incendiary guitar soloing takes the aggression of Bay Area thrash into a faster, whipping attack. The next few tracks follow a similar structural path however, there are more exotic scales used, time changes and more manic guitar solo bursts that are not surprisingly similar to early Slayer. Of these tracks, Denial of Life set a template for death metal with breakneck rhythm figures, rapid fire snare drum and barked, borderline unintelligible vocals.
The poetically titled songs Mutilation and Regurgitated Guts offer solid variety between relentless bludgeoning to a more driving heavy metal influenced death metal. Similarly, the song Evil Dead has masterfully played harmonised or doubled guitar sounds that contrast the double time whirlwind chordal slashes that soon arrive, embellished by some stellar guitar soloing. Baptized in Blood is equally brutal as it confronts the ear drums with hammering drums.
The title track has the rhythmic lock as bass and guitars playing an almost walking death metal bass figure which merge with the subtly of the proverbial musical brick. Maturity in the approach and the genesis of Death’s growth is evident though as the outro rhythm and ensuing melodic guitar solo appears before the inevitable abrupt song end. The track Land of No Return caps off the album in suitably uncompromising, aggressive style. The remastering has also provided more nuance with a better dynamic range and less noise without losing that definitive death metal EQ.
The album really is a pummeling, relentless rhythmic force with more melodicism than death metal contemporaries such as Deicide and Morbid Angel working under Scott Burns’ Tampa based Morrisound Studios. Even though Death’s debut was actually recorded in LA with Possessed‘s Seven Churches renowned producer Randy Burns, Chuck quickly returned to Florida, which soon became the death metal hotbed. Death quite probably influenced everyone from Sepultura, Carcass and Cannibal Corpse to Cynic, Obituary, Atheist and of course, Autopsy. As time progressed, more experimentation and technical wizardry unfolded as Chuck helmed a revolving door of musicians on each subsequent Death project, leaving imitators trying desperately to catch up. Sadly, Chuck succumbed to brain cancer in late 2001, a couple of years after diagnosis yet his legacy of incredible, almost genre defining music remains.