Tuesday, December 14, 2010

R.I.P. Chuck

1967-2001
Yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of Chuck Schuldiner's death. Who was Chuck Schuldiner? He was the vocalist, lead guitarist and mastermind behind Death, the pioneering Florida metal band who helped create the sub-genre of Death Metal. Despite his band's simple name and the rather primitive nature of his early works, there is no doubt that Chuck Schuldiner was one of the greatest metal musicians of all time. Each new Death album saw Chuck's songwriting, vocal delivery and guitar skills progress so rapidly that by 1991's album Human, you could hardly believe this was the same band that released their 1987 debut, Scream Bloody Gore. Aside from Chuck, it wasn't the same band. Schuldiner was the only constant within Death. He always changed the group's lineup, acquiring a new roster of all star musicians for each album. It's the later, progressive era of Death that tickles my fancy. Strange jazzy interludes mixed with insane time changes, machine gun like double bass drumming, and jaw dropping guitar wizardry.

Here's an example of early Death from 1988's Leprosy album. It's plodding, heavy and eerily catchy. Note Schuldiner's almost tortuous vocal delivery. It remains one of the most distinctive in extreme metal today, the "Chuck voice."


Here's later an example of the more progressive/technical later era Death from 1993's Individual Thought Patterns.


Chuck died on December 13, 2001 from complications of brain cancer. He was 34 years old. I was still a Padawan metal head at this point so Chuck's passing wasn't that big of a deal to me then. When I eventually discovered the awesomeness that was Death, I felt great sadness regarding his premature end. It wasn't until recent years that I began to feel anger regarding Chuck's death.

Chuck Schuldiner was not a wealthy man. Like most extreme metal musicians, you might have categorized him as a "starving artist." Needless to say, he did not have health insurance. Chuck was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor in 1999 and although it nearly bankrupted his family, managed to successfully battle his cancer. Two year later his cancer returned and despite the fact that he was now insured, his HMO initially stalled on urgently needed treatment due to his preexisting condition, his original brain tumor. Chuck eventually received chemotherapy but died of pneumonia as a result of his weakened immune system from his treatment.

I know it's kind of ironic that the frontman of a band called Death would pass away at such a young age, but that makes Chuck's death no less tragic. He wasn't murdered or taken by some freak accident. He was a citizen of the wealthiest nation on Earth who slowly rotted away due to lack of medical care. Was his death the insurance companies (or anybody's) fault? No...but they sure didn't rush to help him in his time of need either. This knowledge of Chuck's final days, and the fact that there are so many others in America in similar situations nearly a decade later is what upsets me now.

This past summer Adam Darski aka: Nergal, the frontman for modern day death metal heroes Behemoth, announced he was battling leukemia and was in need of a bone marrow transplant. Luckily, Darski has apparently found a match and is receiving treatment in his native Poland...where universal healthcare is available to its citizens. Darksi will turn 34 in June. Hopefully he lives a long and fruitful life well past his 30's. Chuck wasn't so lucky.

16 comments:

  1. Not really my kind of music. but I'm allways open for new things. Thanks for the info.

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  2. he was not great.. but wazs pretty awesome

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  3. Sad that they won't make any new records.. even if they would find another front-man the band won't be the same..

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  4. fucking love DEATH! cant believe its been that long since his passing. I think the drums get me every time when i listen to this band

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  5. Yea our Health care system sucks ass all about the profits. Who knows how much he could have accomplished had he been able to get treated the second time in a more timely manner and survived. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. it's always the good ones that die too soon...

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  7. I've only listened to Death once, when a guy I often spoke to music about came into the liquor store I was working in at the time. He let me listen to them. I don't think I'll ever remember the song I listened to. Weird for me to even remember that much, but I had no idea about Chuck.

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  8. Always liked Death.

    And nice of you for mentioning about Nergal. He's getting quite popular right now in Poland (not because of the music sadly, but because of his girlfriend who is a pop star). It's unfortunate, cause he was created as satanist by the media. And now the media are like "save Nergal, he's sick" and treating him like a celebrity.

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  9. Woah I didn't hear about Nergal being sick, that sucks.
    I love death, and it really does suck that Chuck died, but with cancer even with the top care you still aren't guaranteed to survive.

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  10. not my kinda music, but r.i.p.

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  11. Thanks for posting. His music is definitely missed.

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  12. fuckin HMOs.Anything for a buck, in typical corporate fashion.

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  13. I'm not that into death metal but can appreciate his contributions

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  14. i too heard them only a couple times, it's always good to hear when musicians aren't taken over by the money

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