Sunday, August 22, 2010

Random Thoughts: Death: The Sound of Perseverence

I wanted to do a brief post about this amazing album. I have always felt that this was Death's most ambitious and personal album. I also believe that it is Death's best album. Death has always been Chuck Schuldiner and whoever else he happened to have in the studio at the time. This album was clearly an intensely personal experience for Schuldiner. But I will deal with that in a minute.

Death's music on this album was incredibly progressive. Showing a technicality and melodic sensibility that was largely lacking in the initial albums by the band. That's not to say that they were bad albums, but this album has to be considered in a completely different light than their material that pioneered the death metal genre. The melodies are the key on this album, rather than the crushing monolithic riffs of their prior material. The guitar leads and solos sound amazing and Schuldiner's voice is higher-pitched and desperately emotional this time around.

What makes this truly an extraordinary album is the emotional impact. Chuck Schuldiner was dying when this was written and recorded. The album is incredibly spiritual and reflects the mortality of its writer. Songs like "Story to Tell" and "Spirit Crusher", as well as many of the other tracks deal with the personal journey of slowly succumbing to brain cancer. This album is amazing because even though Schuldiner was dying, he still managed to portray some uplifting emotions in it.

To close, I want to reprint the lyrics to "A Moment of Clarity":
I would describe it as an invisible darkness
Casting a shadow, a blinding black
Guarded by hope, my soul is kept from
The bloody claws
Look to beyond, what vision lets me see
Time after time, unneeded misery
Holding tight to my dreams
I own no price for you
I grip them tight and hope for sight
Open my eyes wide to see a moment of clarity
Confusion gone, it's in your hands
Your turn to ask why
Life is like a mystery
With many clues, but with few answers
To tell us what it is that we can do to look
For messages that keep us from the truth

Chuck Schuldiner died of brain cancer in 2001, just three years after this album was released.


  1. This album would probably be my third pick for my "stranded on a desert island" list, along with Master of Puppets and Blood Mountain. It's absolutely brilliant.

  2. The story is actually far more interesting than a guy writing it when he KNOWS he's dying. He didn't know at all; the lyrics (and the music, really) just make it seem like he did.

    "In May 1999, Schuldiner experienced pain in his upper neck, which he initially thought was a pinched nerve. He consulted with a chiropractor followed by a massage therapist/acupuncturist who recommended an MRI Exam. Upon having an MRI, it was discovered that the pinched nerve was being caused by a tumor. On his 32nd birthday, May 13, 1999, Schuldiner was diagnosed with a high-grade pontine glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer that invades the brain stem, and immediately underwent radiation therapy."

    That was 6 months after the album was released. The lyrics have been called eerily prophetic:

    "Like the wind upon your face
    You can't see it but you know it's there . . .
    It'll take you in
    And spit you out
    Behold the flesh and the power it holds"

    "It comes from the depths
    of a place unknown to the
    keeper of dreams
    if it could then it would steal
    the sun and the moon from the sky

  3. That is amazing. I had no idea he didn't have knowledge of the situation prior to writing the album. I just assumed based on the lyrics that he knew.