Death was an influential American death metal band founded in 1983 by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner, considered a "pioneering death metal vocalist/guitarist". The band split up after Schuldiner's death in 2001.
Death is considered one of the most influential groups in death metal. The band's debut, Scream Bloody Gore, has been described as "death metal's first archetypal document". One music biographer has referred to Schuldiner as the "father of death metal while another has claimed that Schuldiner is "readily acknowledged as the true founder of the U.S. death metal scene". Music biographer Garry Sharpe-Young considers Death "a genre breaking band...centred upon frontman Chuck Schuldiner" and that the band "would become one of the prime instigators of the Death Metal movement".
However, Schuldiner dismissed such attributions by stating, in an interview with Metal-Rules.com, "I don’t think I should take the credits for this death metal stuff. I’m just a guy from a band, and I think Death is a metal band".
Together with Kam Lee (Barney Lee), and Rick Rozz (Frederick DeLillo), Schuldiner started to compose songs that were released on several rehearsal tapes in 1984. These tapes, along with the Death by Metal demo, circulated through the tape trader world, quickly establishing the band's name. In 1984, Schuldiner dissolved Mantas and quickly started a new band under the name Death. Its members included the same Rick Rozz and Kam Lee. Another demo was released, called Reign of Terror.
In 1985, after the Infernal Death tape was recorded and released, Schuldiner fired Lee and Rozz in favour of Repulsion's bassist and guitarist, Scott Carlson and Matt Olivio, respectively. However, a drummer could not be found; consequently the band dissolved again. Schuldiner moved to San Francisco and recruited DRI drummer Eric Brecht, but he was not happy with this incarnation of Death and moved back to Florida without a band. There, in 1986, Schuldiner got an invitation from early Canadian thrash band Slaughter to play on their album, which he accepted, moving to Canada. This only lasted two weeks, however, as he found the situation not to his liking. He returned to Florida, then moved quickly to San Francisco again, where he joined with Chris Reifert. They recorded the Mutilation demo, which led to a deal with Combat Records, owned by Important Distribution (later becoming Relativity), that enabled them to record the first LP.
Scream Bloody Gore was released in 1987. Schuldiner briefly had a second guitar player, John Hand, but Hand did not appear on the album (though his photo did). By this time Schuldiner moved back to Florida, leaving Chris Reifert behind. There, Schuldiner teamed up with former bandmate Rick Rozz and two members of Rozz's band Massacre, Terry Butler and Bill Andrews.
In 1990, on the eve of a European tour, Schuldiner decided against traveling, claiming at the last minute that he felt the tour was not adequately organized (and citing the group's previous disorganized European tour in 1988). Andrews and Butler continued with the tour of Europe as 'Death' regardless and recruited roadies Walter Trachsler (guitar) and Louie Carrisalez (vocals) to replace Schuldiner, much to Schuldiner's shock and disgust. Schuldiner took legal action and Butler and Andrews were fired from the band.
Schuldiner abandoned the idea of a band set-up altogether and began working with session musicians only. Schuldiner hired Steve DiGiorgio and recruited Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal from underground Florida band Cynic. In 1991, Death released Human, which is considered a more technical and progressive album than their previous works. Human was Death's best-selling album yet, receiving many accolades and some MTV play for the group's first video, directed by David Bellino, for the track "Lack of Comprehension". Due to obligations with his primary band Sadus, DiGiorgio was forced to depart after the recording of Human and new bassist Skott Carino did Death's extensive world tour, from October 1991 until March 1992, in addition to appearing in the music video for "Lack of Comprehension".
During this period of 1988-92, Death was managed by Eric Greif, a rocky relationship that culminated in at least two lawsuits between Greif and Schuldiner. However, when interviewed by Thrash 'n Burn, Schuldiner was characteristically mellow about what the writer referred to as his "gruesome collaboration" with Greif: "We just came to the conclusion that it was stupid just fighting all the time, taking each other to court and all that stupid shit. After his final break from Greif, Schuldiner managed himself for the remainder of his career.
After Symbolic, Schuldiner dissolved the band and all ties with Roadrunner and began writing songs for Control Denied. It was during this time that Schuldiner briefly worked with Florida studio guitarist James Hogan. Schuldiner was still contractually obligated to record an album under Nuclear Blast with Death, and so he used several songs that were intended to be used for Control Denied, as several song titles on The Sound of Perseverance were originally Control Denied song titles (though, this is disputed, as Chuck himself denied using Control Denied songs as "filler" on the Death album). He re-formed Death with Florida musicians Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm and Scott Clendenin to record 1998's The Sound of Perseverance with his new label Nuclear Blast.
After the album and two supporting tours, Schuldiner dissolved Death to pursue Control Denied with Christy and Hamm. Clendenin was dropped in favor of Steve DiGiorgio, who was once again available, and an underground power metal singer named Tim Aymar. As Schuldiner finished Control Denied's debut album, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, forcing the band to scrap plans for a US and Canadian tour. As he worked on the second release, Schuldiner's condition improved, but the tumor left him in a weakened, vulnerable state. He contracted pneumonia and was placed in the hospital. He was released and returned home where, one hour later, Schuldiner died on December 13, 2001.
Members of Death have dispersed all throughout the landscape of metal and popular music. Some, like Gene Hoglan from Dark Angel and Andy LaRocque from King Diamond, already had made a name for themselves. Others went on to do so, like Sean Reinert, who formed the legendary Cynic with fellow Death member Paul Masvidal. Ironically, both of these pioneering death metal musicians have ended up in a progressive, ethereal rock band named Æon Spoke, laced with delicate guitars and Masvidal's soft croon. Richard Christy went on to gigs with Acheron and Iced Earth before joining The Howard Stern Show. Ralph Santolla has also played with Iced Earth, as well as Sebastian Bach, both of which were also stations for Steve DiGiorgio (he is still playing with Bach). While Santolla is now in Obituary and before this he was in Deicide. DiGiorgio also played for Testament and is still active with his original band Sadus. Bobby Koelble founded the Orlando rock-funk-Latin fusion group JunkieRush in 2000. James Murphy was also in Testament for a while, formed numerous projects such as Disincarnate (as well as stints with death metal bands Obituary and Cancer) and has made a name for himself. Murphy also has been stricken with cancer and, along with Deron Miller of CKY, is organizing a Death tribute album to be released upon completion. Recently, Kam Lee formed the band Denial Fiend with Terry Butler.