Blast From the Past is a weekly column on Crossfade re-examining classic releases from Florida music of yesteryear. To read previous installments, click here.
For this installment of Blast from the Past we'll be concentrating on Death's second full-length album, 1988's Leprosy. Hailing from Orlando, Death were pioneers of metal at a time when most of the work coming out of the US revolved around the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or was steeped in punk and thrash influences. This album is a little more polished than their debut, Scream Bloody Gore and it ties to us a little better since it was recorded in Tampa's legendary Morrisound studio and was mastered by Mike Fuller at Miami's Fullersound. It's also engineer Scott Burn's first touch on the metal scene.
The line-up for this recording consisted of founder Chuck Schuldiner on guitars, vocals and bass, Rick Rozz on guitar and drummer Bill Andrews. Though credited on bass, Terry Butler did not actually record on the album. The songs are typical of this period in Death, tongue-in-cheek horror gore with words like decapitation, strangulation and intestines peppered through-out for optimal effect. Though this sort of brandished them as "Satanists" (the band logo did not help either, though the sickle and Death's hood are helluva cool), this album's lyrical work contrasts heavily with the more reality-based approach Schuldiner would take on subsequent releases.
Opener "Leprosy" is perhaps one of the best tracks in the genre, hands down. It is also the longest song on the record, clocking in at a little over six minutes - another sign of the band maturing, and Schuldiner's untrained musical background gels well with the other musicians as it added a peculiar layer of intricacy in the stylistic mesh. The next pair of haymakers, "Born Dead" and "Forgotten Past" are little more on the hardcore tip with melodic elements that cauterize into the meat of the record which has good provincial touches and shows off Schuldiner's tapping techniques. Closers "Primitive Ways" and "Choke on It" do a great job of getting the energy on the upswing and leave a very satisfying taste.
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Schuldiner's untimely death in 2001 to brain cancer at the age of 34 dealt a heavy blow to the metal community. His legacy as an animal lover and as a responsible musician who spoke with frequency against musical idiocy will never be forgotten and is sorely missed. That his death was a byproduct of the rancid state of healthcare in this country (numerous times he was denied help due to lack of funds and/or issues with his insurance company) is shameful knowledge. That aside, I recommend the original, eight-track album, foregoing the added "live" tracks and suspicious "remastering." The album stands proudly alone in its full 1988 glory.