In June 1993, Death returned with their fifth full-length, Individual Thought Patterns. This album just further solidified the fact that Chuck Schuldiner was more interested in honing his technical skills, to the detriment of the actual songwriting. There is absolutely no Death Metal atmosphere to be found here. Between the terrible songwriting and the horrible production, the end result is a pathetic and limp album that serves more as a masturbatory endeavour than anything else. Everything about this is the opposite of the classic albums that made this band so legendary in the first place.
The inspiration to create something dark and evil had long ago faded from Chuck's being. Listening to what he had to say in interviews around the release of this abomination, he was again going on about how he wasn't "anti-life" and how Death was "just a name". The idea that anyone might associate him with anything dark truly seemed to bother him. That's rather clear from the "Life Metal" lyrics that further destroy any possibility for this collection of weak and non-threatening tracks to have any real Death Metal vibe. As with Human, he said that the lyrics were written with hopes that "people can relate to them". The musical influences that he cited included Queensryche and Watchtower and so on. Listening to this pathetic offering, it's difficult to imagine that these musicians were involved with such albums as Scream Bloody Gore, Darkness Descends and Illusions. Even the faster parts feel so contrived and disingenuous. The riffs are utterly generic and fail to create any kind of feeling at all. Hoglan's drumming is incredibly overactive, but it's not as if his performance takes away from anything since the songwriting is so uninspired. Schuldiner's ability as a guitarist has definitely developed over the years, yet he is still out-classed by King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, whose solos are probably the best parts of the whole album. Even the vocals have deteriorated from the late 80s, sounding more like a girl trying to imitate a Death Metal vocalist than the possessed ghoul from Scream Bloody Gore and the old demos.
One could lay some of the blame for this atrocity at the feet of Scott Burns, the dimwitted producer that is responsible for the incredibly sterile and plastic sound that afflicts Individual Thought Patterns (and so many other records). Even if Chuck had written a authentic Death Metal classic, the despicable Morrisound production would have rendered it dull and lifeless. The guitar tone on this album is typical of the time period, possessing no edge or heaviness. It's as smooth as can be and, coupled with Schuldiner's weak material, the guitars end up sounding quite fragile at times. The bass is too high in the mix and gives a soft and cartoonish feel to the music. The drumming is just a mess of clicky double-bass that pollutes the whole album, as much the fault of Hoglan's style as anything.
If you're simply a fan of Schuldiner as a musician, you may not find anything wrong with Individual Thought Patterns. You'll certainly get a fair dose of his typical songwriting. However, judging this as a so-called Death Metal album, it fails miserably. This 'technical / progressive' garbage is a disgrace to the band that once created such classic albums as Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. If Chuck no longer wanted anything to do with real Death Metal, he should have laid aside the name and continued to make boring Heavy Metal with a new project. Keeping a name that he didn't even like anymore, especially with completely different line-ups and a different musical style, was all about brand recognition and nothing more. Avoid this like the plague. In fact, I need to go listen to the Back from the Dead demo just to cleanse this filth from my ears...