Saturday, April 25, 2009

Death - Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

Death began in 1983, under the name Mantas, playing music that was heavily inspired by Venom, Slayer and Celtic Frost. However, a short time later, Possessed became the main inspiration for the band. Their name was then changed to Death, which was a good representation of what they were about, at the time. Tons of rehearsals and demos were released, in those early years. In July 1986, the band set out to record their debut L.P. Scream Bloody Gore was actually first recorded in Florida, though as Death was unsatisfied after hearing the initial rhythm tracks, they traveled to Hollywood to record it again with Randy Burns, which are the recordings that made the album. However, the incomplete first sessions were still locally used as a demo tape once they returned to Florida. At any rate, Scream Bloody Gore was released in May 1987, on Combat Records.

I was barely acquainted with this band when my best friend came over one day, during summer vacation. Back then, he was a prime source of music, often bringing things by for me to record. I was impressed when I heard the primitive sounds of Death's debut album. Rarely had I ever encountered a band that was so appropriately named. I found myself neglecting this tape for a while, but as summer faded into autumn, it began getting more attention. Around this time, my friend and I watched a lot of old horror movies, and this suited that atmosphere perfectly. Seven Churches, by Possessed, is often cited as the first Death Metal album, yet anyone with a brain can clearly tell that it was a Black Metal record. There may have been a song titled "Death Metal" on there, but it was dominated by Satanic themes and owed quite a bit to Venom. It is more accurate to say that that album was an influence on the Death Metal scene, with Scream Bloody Gore being one of the first pure albums of that sub-genre.

The L.P. begins with "Infernal Death", opening with a monstrous riff that is slow and filled with an aura of morbid doom. "Evil" Chuck's screams sound similar to Jeff Becerra, if he had died and then crawled out of a coffin, years later. The production is raw, and it suits the music perfectly. After the epic intro, the song bursts into high speed. Tremolo riffs alternate with power chords, joined by Chuck's decomposed vocal approach and decent solo work. All of this combines to create a great opener for this classic album.

"Zombie Ritual" begins with a dark and creepy guitar harmony, with a crushing riff backing it up. This is rather brief, as the tempo picks up for the verse, before slowing down again during the chorus. The bass is quite audible, adding to the sense of doom. The lyrics are filled with gore, perhaps from someone that has overdosed on horror movies. Every bit of it fits together, flawlessly, to create a sound that is the epitome of death. The structure seems more advanced than most will give them credit for, as well. Of course, these songs had been around for some time, being perfected over the years.

The next song is "Denial of Life", which begins with something almost reminiscent of Possessed. Much like what Bathory did with Venom's creation, Death took the influences from Possessed and improved upon the sound to a great extent. Chris Reifert's drum work is just right for this sound, keeping things simple but not boring the listener in any way. The riffs are very memorable, which can be said of the album as a whole. Unlike later so-called Death Metal bands, the focus is on the guitar riffs and the insane vocals. Lyrically, it doesn't get much more death-oriented than this.

"Created by your mind
To overtake your life
Sacrificial suicide
End it with a knife
Much too late
To change your mind
A bloody corpse
Is left behind"

"Sacrificial" begins with more slow, doom riffs. Along with the rotted corpse vocal approach of Chuck, this helps to create an aura of foggy graveyards and open tombs. For the chorus, the pace picks up, yet it returns to the previous theme for the verse. The lyrics are violent and gore-filled, possessing a very misogynistic tone. The structuring of the song displays a maturity that many might miss, as it consists of peaks and valleys, melodies that capitalize on the momentum created by the previous riffs and vocal lines, all flowing together quite well.

This is followed by "Mutilation", a fast-paced journey into a maelstrom of violence and insanity. While some may perceive it as simplistic and straight-forward, this song displays the depth of talent possessed by Chuck and his cohorts. Whereas some bands just, randomly, toss riffs together and call it a song, there is a true sense of cohesiveness when it comes to the songs presented here. The narrative flow of the central theme is accentuated by the powerful delivery of both music and vocals, making this one of the most memorable tracks on the album.

"Massacred, hacked to death, my revenge
Slicing deep, into your flesh, the pain intense
Dreams of hate, misery, fill my mind
Puke in your face in disgust, it's time to die"

While such lyrics may seem clichéd or primitive, keep in mind that this style had not yet been copied and watered-down to the point where it no longer had meaning. Furthermore, the lyrics still hint at a certain level of introspection that is lacking in those that followed suit. They indicate some manner of motivation for such violence, as an expression of inner rage rather than simply random descriptions of killing with no purpose.

Side two starts out with "Regurgitated Guts", which begins with a brief build-up, followed by a mid-paced thrash riff. Coming after such an intense song, it shows true brilliance in the positioning of the songs to place this one where it is. The song alternates between the thrash riffs and more typical Death Metal riffing. More drawn-out chords are used, near the end, underneath the brief solo. This only adds to the epic feeling of the song. The song then returns to the fast picking and blasting drums to reach its conclusion.

The next song begins with a heavy, doom-filled riff and a blood-curdling scream. "Baptized In Blood" is yet another extremely memorable song of pure Death Metal. The speed is pretty intense, slowing down only for the chorus. There are a couple riff changes that serve well to compliment each other and a killer lead solo as well. The lyrics, as on several of the tracks, tell an interesting horror-inspired tale.

"The dead they gather around
Praising the child they found
Possessed, the child shall kill
The future is now revealed"

"Torn To Pieces" slows the pace down a bit, while still maintaining the morbid feeling conveyed by the album. The riffs owe a bit more to Thrash and Speed Metal, during certain sections. The pace picks up, considerably, during the chorus. The best riffs of the song are in the last minute or so, being somewhat reminiscent of early Slayer. The lead solo goes well with this, followed by Chuck screaming, "Torn... to pieces!" a few more times.

The next song is one of the best-known from this album, being based on a classic horror film by the same title and beginning with an incredible melody that makes for one of the most memorable moments of the record. "Evil Dead" is one of the shortest songs on here, yet it makes an incredible impact. Following the brilliant intro, the song bursts from the murky shadows, at full speed. Musically, there are a lot of power chords, alternating with fast picking. The solo is a blistering aural assault, building tension for the climax of the song.

"Covered in blood, all hope is lost
Forever to rot, controlled by the powers of the...

Evil dead! Evil dead!"

The L.P. concludes with "Scream Bloody Gore". This song begins with sort of a build-up, erupting into a full-on assault. Years before so many imitators had become known for writing sick lyrics, "Evil" Chuck had already perfected this approach, leaving little for anyone else to add. The vocal delivery is genius, building in intensity as the chorus approaches and the unleashing screams of complete possessed fury. This is a good dramatic effect, adding to the sense of urgency. As the song nears its end, it slows down a great deal, resembling the opening riff of the album. The song continues, as Chuck unleashes one of the best lead solos of the record.

Scream Bloody Gore is the standard by which all other Death Metal albums are measured, and they all fail miserably to capture the essence of death, decay and morbidity that this L.P. possesses. This undeniable classic is essential for anyone claiming to be a fan of Death Metal. Buy this or end your life.