With a band name like that, it's no surprise that they got the death metal genre up and running, through the trading of over 20 piss-quality demos in the southern states of USA. They blazed a trail and got bands like Cannibal Corpse
(meh) and Autopsy
(woot) started. For me personally, Death's 'Leprosy
' was the first straight death metal album I got into... not including melodic death metal acts like In Flames
and Arch Enemy
. I remember seeing the artwork for Leprosy
everywhere and hearing the band name mentioned with great pride.
Eventually, I looked for the album, and I got my hands on it.
Let me just say that I have immense respect for Death as a band. I haven't heard the more 'intelligent' Death albums (Symbolic
, Individual Thought Patterns
, etc) at the time of writing this review, and so I haven't heard Death's super technical riffs and metaphorical lyrics, either, and I can't testify if Death really became an intelligent band or not. But from what I can tell from Leprosy
, Death was headed in a great direction. Leprosy
is a dark, guttural piece of death metal, full of plenty of memorable riffs, lyrics, and songs. The chorus to the title song has been engrained into my mind. The atmosphere is very grim, and the variety of song lengths and tempos allow the atmosphere to deepen, unlike a lot of death metal bands around the time that just made dinky little two-minute songs that went for speed rather than depth. There are practically no faceless riffs on here, no chugging... but the guitar solos are blatant Kerry-King
worship, going for wammy-bar-streaked solos, wild and messy. There is defenitely more form and thought put into the solos than that of Slayer
, but only barely.
then there's Chuck Schuldiner, the singer. He has a great, great voice, and he complements the album so well with his guttural shout, and his screamy wails, and he sets himself right into the best extreme metal vocalists I have ever heard. It's always a treat to hear him do an extended scream, without once wavering from the power of his pipes. He has a ton of energy and strength in his voice, and best of all, it's extremely distinctive. I have yet to hear any band that has a vocalist anything like his. He's a great frontman. Extremely unfortunate that this guy died so freaking young.
The thing I really like about Leprosy
in particular is the fact that it doesn't need to resort to balls-to-the-wall speed in order to be heavy. There are plenty of fast parts to satisfy you (they're brought down by the drums, but more on that later), but the album gives you plenty of slow and mid-tempo sections that prevent boredom and make it obvious that Death is quite unique. And
don't worry, the album stays agressive and fierce for most of the time, and even the slowest parts don't get tiring. Leprosy
also moves away from the typical ghouls n' zombies theme, going for a more morbid line of lyrics that have more of a psychological effect (look at the lyrics to songs like Open Casket and Leprosy
) and the whole album comes off as more mature for these reasons.
Okay, now I've gone on for long enough about why this album is awesome. But I'm sure you're wondering why I would give this album a mere 15/20. The answer is simple: THE DRUMMER.
I loathe that guy. I know Chris Reifert of Autopsy
played drums on Death's 'Scream Bloody Gore
', and I know Chris Reifert to be a really interesting drummer from hearing Severed Survival
like I said before, I've also heard one or two songs from Scream Bloody Gore
, so I know the drumming was tight and there were a bunch of great fills. I understand that Chuck Schuldiner moved to Florida after recording the album, leaving Chris to his own devices... but I can't for the love of God
understand why Chuck would think that this... Bill Andrews guy was a good idea for Leprosy
. What was he thinking? This guy can't seem to leave his fucking snare alone. He's always producing the same redundant, boring garbage... especially on the fast parts! There are literally entire songs where this is all he does, and I think it's because he has no other way of keeping up with the rest of the band. What a joke. The only times he decides to do something different is when there's a slow section... Was it really so hard to find a drummer better than this guy? Not only that, but they're SO HIGH IN THE MIX, they're literally just as loud as Chuck Schuldiner's voice. If the drums had been any better, or if they had even been lower in the mix, I would have given Leprosy
17/20. But those drums just bother me SO much... Okay, if you want to know what I'm talking about, listen to 'Forgotten Past
'. The drums only vary in tempo, and nothing more. You just hear Bill pounding his snare to death, ('scuse the pun) and I just wish that he would leave the damned things alone for one second so I could hear everything better. There's just no excuse for this guy; he's atrocious. Not only that, but he was on Death's follow-up album Spiritual Healing
as well. I don't know if he's any better on it or not, but if he could drag one album down, I'm sure he had the capacity to do it again.
Now, since I happen to have the Century
Media digipack of Leprosy
, I have the oppurtunity to hear Death playing the big songs off the album live. Chuck's voice is great onstage, and Death really show their guitarwork off here. The solos are great, the live performances are full of energy and enthusiasm, (Pull the Plug
especially being played with a ton of entensity and a boosted tempo that sounds great) and it sounds like the band know how to do a great show. The fans are also quite prevalent; they sound extremely enthusiastic (listen to the fans when Death starts playing Left to Die
... they're going nuts!) and ready to break their necks moshing. Best of all, the drums are improved. While admittedly there's still a lot of dependence on the snare, it isn't as blatant or annoying, and best of all, it isn't as high in the mix as the studio album. I can also tell that Death must've had some state-of-the-art recording equipment set up, because the production is pretty good. There are a few times when Chuck's voice reverbs quite a bit (they must have been playing on a pretty big stage) but other than that I love the live part of the album.
So yeah, Death's Leprosy
is a great piece of death metal, but the thing that keeps me away from replaying it are the drums, and it pains me to see how much they wrecked what would have been a near-perfect death metal album. Leprosy
could have been great, but Bill Andrews had to bring it down. I just wish that someone who is good with sound editing decides to edit out the drums and fill the space with someone who is a competent drummer. If you're a death metal fan of any kind you'll probably be drawn to this album one way or another eventually, but I'm warning you now... THOSE DRUMS ARE SO ANNOYING. If you can listen to it without the drums bothering you, you'll love this album. Full of great riffs, great vocal screams, a grim yet agressive atmosphere, and enough tempo and rythm changes to keep you interested right through.
Recommended songs would be Pull the Plug
full of electricity and energy, Leprosy
being dark, Pull the Plug
being fierce and wild, bearing probably the best solo of the album, and both are highly memorable and catchy.