Sunday, January 30, 2011

Open Casket

The best feature in Decibel from month to month is its "Hall of Fame;" though the bands they choose are sometimes questionable (the Jesus Lizard?...really?), it's always fascinating to delve into the personalities involved in creating these classic records.

With Chuck Schuldiner gone, Death will unfortunately never get their HoF due. Though those articles would be largely redundant anyways. Which Death album is essential? That's easy: All of them, stupid.

The other unfortunate aspect of appraising the works of a dead mastermind is that you'll never get a chance to ask him what it all meant, and are forced to rely on the memories of ex-bandmates and family members. Credit to Decibel's Chris Dick for attempting to paint a nuanced portrait of such a legendary and at times controversial figure. In "Chuck Schuldiner's Death World Exclusive 12-Page Oral History" (an appropriately convoluted title considering Death's tech/prog leanings), "Evil Chuck" mostly comes off as an amicable if sometimes headstrong personality. There are brief mentions of his "personal problems," but frustratingly no attempt to illuminate what those might have been.

A facet of Chuck's personality and attitudes towards collaboration that repeatedly comes up was his tendency to ditch bandmates and start Death all over again from scratch. This hits home for a lot of reasons. Sometimes vision and collaboration come at odd ends. True leadership is knowing when to listen to suggestions and when to ignore them. And sometimes you have to leave salted earth behind you and plant somewhere else.

I guess if I learned one thing from this article, it's that even though Chuck Schuldiner was responsible for taking death metal and twisting it into its present form, he mostly wasn't a dick about it. We miss you, Evil Chuck.