Like any tight-knit tribe, the metal world makes a habit of honoring its dead. Much as Metallica fans keep a candle burning for late bass beast Cliff Burton, extreme-metal devotees regularly bow/bang their heads in honor of guitarist-vocalist Chuck Schuldiner, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2001 at age 34.
At the helm of his best-known band, Death, Schuldiner conducted a career-long master class in the art of progress. Juxtapose the new Relapse reissue of Death by Metal, a bestial 1984 demo by Death’s first incarnation, Mantas, with the band’s final LP, 1998’s richly textured prog-metal opus The Sound of Perseverance (also available as a spiffy Relapse reish), and you’ll understand why Schuldiner’s reputation has only grown since his passing. At this week’s Death to All tribute gig, which benefits the Sweet Relief musicians’ charity, select players from the Perseverance lineup join with sidemen from earlier LPs Human, Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic, all of which helped foster Schuldiner’s reputation as the quintessential thinking man’s death-metalist.
This bill takes on another layer of poignancy thanks to the presence of Gorguts, a long-running Quebec band that weathered its own tragedy this past May: the premature passing of former core member Steeve Hurdle. Expect to sample the guitarist-vocalist’s deranged, gloom-filled sound world, via pieces he cowrote for Gorguts’s groundbreaking 1998 LP, Obscura. Much like Schuldiner, Hurdle exemplified the pioneer spirit in metal, determinedly widening the borders of a well-mapped territory.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing