I would say that a close runner up in the number of band shirts I see at the shows I go to, behind Metallica and Slayer, would be Death. Beyond the fact that it’s a great band name and a fantastic logo, they are one of the original sinners. And a look at their list of members will show you that seemingly almost everyone in the scene was a member at one time or another.
A screen in front of the curtain showed the logo and classic stills of the band, before raising up to reveal the stage. The musicians came out, and the crowd began to stir. And then the drums that kick off the first track of Human, “Flattening of Emotions” began. And then it continued, with some guitar. And it kept going. Were we going to get an instrumental version? Something was amuck with the bass. Minutes go by. Finally someone flicked the right switch, and the song began as it was supposed to. “Chuck’s ghost is in the house tonight” someone on stage said.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about bands who continue when they lose their vocalist. Not that any key contributing member of a band is replaceable, but the vocalist is an instrument- the key one most people listen to- and when they are no longer there, people often call for a name change. However, many bands have done it, many successfully: Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Alice in Chains, Cannibal Corpse…
Death was not one of those bands.
After the untimely death of founder Chuck Schuldiner in 2001, Death was laid to rest…until last year. A tribute tour was put together featuring guest vocalists; this was more to celebrate the band’s music and raise money for charity than to re-animate it.
Once over the false start, the show hit it’s stride. Playing the best tracks off of Human, including audio from a news reel about Kevorkian before “Suicide Machine” (which reminded me that I won a debate in elementary school being pro-Kevorkian…METAL), you could feel the crowd’s excitement. “Together As One” was awesome- it’s my favorite Death track. “Cosmic Sea” was accompanied by a short documentary about Schuldiner.
They also layered in older tracks from Leprosy: the title track, “Left To Die”, and ending with “Pull the Plug”. I watched the pit become crowned with shoes held in the air, which is always the sign of a good one.
It thrilled me to hear these songs live for the first time; in my half asleep state (nothing on account of the band, I had a rough week) it was easy to pretend that I was in another time listening to ‘the real thing’.
“Where is the person that could have been
Who, what took over, when did the end begin
Should we not prepare for the uncertain
Mysteries of our life, of our destiny
See things that are not there
What went wrong to their picture perfect life
They once knew – flattening of emotions”
~”Flattening of Emotions, Death