Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Death - "Forgotten Past"

I think what amazes me the most about metal is the way it constantly re-invents itself, perhaps more quickly than any other genre in rock. Entire sub-genres are developed and cast aside often within the space of, say, eighteen months. In 1987, just as Master of Puppets had, against all odds, taken thrash metal mainstream and Reign in Blood had got the critics on board, an even more extreme movement was already well underway in the metal underground. Death metal's ridiculous tempos and unintelligible vocal roars made acts like Metallica sound tame just when Middle America had barely had time to come around to them.

If you like a good scene-history-type rock book, Albert Mudrian's Choosing Death is pretty good, and certainly made me want to hear more. Two things really jumped out at me: one, this was a scene based entirely on tape-trading. For the Tampa bands, just getting a metal indie like Combat to listen to them was a major victory. Two, the lineups of these bands were ridiculously unstable. Napalm Death's classic early lineup broke up before they finished their first album; future Head of David/Godflesh/Jesu frontman Justin Broadrick only appears on side one.

Death, like most bands of their ilk, had a zillion lineups; the one constant was frontman Chuck Schuldiner, who tragically succumbed to cancer in 2001 at the age of 33. Death's 1987 debut Scream Bloody Gore is widely-considered their one essential album, but for my money I'll take the follow-up, 1988's Leprosy. The playing's tighter and the production's better (Scott Burns was always learning as he went along; later Morrisound albums all sound better than earlier ones).

By the looks of the price tag, I picked this pristine copy up at Generation for a cool $5.99. Generation was the first record store I went to regularly to have a metal section in the used vinyl bins; now even Kim's has one. I'm pretty sure this is the latest-released album I own with a Unipak sleeve (Shellac's At Action Park has one too, but I don't own it). The others I've seen are all from the late 60s. I have no idea why more bands don't use these. It seems like the perfect cost compromise between a single sleeve and a gatefold.

"Forgotten Past" sounds like most of the other cuts on the record, i.e. awesome. I picked it because it has the best guitar solo.

Buy it... on vinyl

From my deck to you: Death - "Forgotten Past"

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