Of Demons, Pigeons & Perceptions
Article by Alan Lisanti
"no demons, just pigeons...I see reality"
The song Leprosy is particularly interesting to me, as it was a sort of transitional piece in terms of lyrical content and subject matter. Scream Bloody Gore was of course more typical in the usual stereotypical way as far as lyrics went, but it was the album that introduced a lot of people to Death unless they were previously familiar with the Mantas demos. Leprosy retained a lot of the quintessential "Death Metal" themes and wasn't too far of a stretch from the prior effort at first glance. It seemed to me Chuck always had a way of relating things back to the real world. It's a given that both he and his various works in Death and Control Denied had a profound impact musically on fans over the years, and especially as it pertains to guitar playing and guitarists. As you can see in the video, he comes off pretty humble, and is quick to shut down the notion that Death created what came to be known as Death Metal. Fans love having this argument for some reason, and Possessed gets tossed around a lot in the same conversation. However, like Chuck mentions, there were bands that influenced him along the way like all of us. The results combined with his own vision would wind up being known to the world as Death, and the legacy is undeniable. The cool thing about Chuck is that he always seemed to want to push himself and the music that much further every time he would go back to the drawing board. In the song Leprosy, it's interesting to me that Chuck takes the stance of a sort of silent observer. Obviously, as evidenced by the title, the lyrics tackle the concept of people being infected by the horrible sickness of the same moniker, but what stands out to me is how Chuck makes sure to mention not just the disease itself, but the effect it has and people's less than favorable reactions to this knowledge. In this sense, it works as a commentary on human behavior and fear as well in pointing out to us that healthy people's initial response to another human being becoming inflicted with such a horrible and deadly disease is to shun them and cast them out of society, or in simpler terms-turn their backs or run away. This is one other quality that doesn't get mentioned as much as his guitar playing or songwriting that makes Chuck unique especially in the genre of Death Metal. Pull The Plug is another good example of this as it explores the Kevorkian concept of mercy killing if you wish to call it that. The line "Don't want to live this way" and the idea that the perspective is that of the person suffering rather than the other angle of the doctor or the person struggling with the morality of the choice to make in such a serious and potentially final situation are what makes it so powerful. Chuck would push his own limits and the limits of his audience with each release, and would only go farther in this direction lyrically with the albums that followed Leprosy. The intelligence and approach to which he would utilize in order to achieve that are the things about Chuck that influenced me the most personally. You hear the argument a lot that Death Metal is mindless and noisy garbage from people that don't understand it, or don't want to take a closer look. We don't mind. Death Metal isn't for everybody. Even among those that go against the grain, you can still go against the grain. I love the idea of challenging people's preconceived notions and misinformed assumptions. That's what Death did for me, and Chuck's lyrics proved to me that there's plenty of room for an Edgar Allan Poe kind of approach in a sea of H.P. Lovecrafts. Maybe, you can even be both. When I first started writing Death Metal lyrics, I felt like maybe I had to make things that were already dark and make them even darker. Perhaps, I need to exaggerate the extremity of it all to be taken seriously, or for it to "feel" right. The thing was, I could only see pigeons when I looked around. There weren't any demons. At least not in the literal sense, but there was plenty of evil and plenty of things wrong with the world, and plenty of inspiration stemming from frustration, anger, and reflection upon what I had been seeing. I need authenticity in order to be behind something and believe in it. I can not invest my complete self into something if I don't feel like it's legit. Dio is an amazing singer, but for me, I would feel completely and ridiculously stupid writing songs about rainbows and dragons and wizards. I guess it's the same idea. I'm not religious but I also have no interest in writing 10 songs about Satan or burning Jesus. It just wouldn't feel right to me. There's plenty of anti-religion and gore, and killing in Death Metal. There's nothing wrong with any of it in the music, but for me it's not a matter of avoiding the topics of religion, or death, but rather just a matter of approaching them in a different way. My point is, guys like Chuck proved you don't have to be all this or that in order to be considered brutal. You've just got to be yourself. I hear a lot of guys these days that sound like Chuck vocally, and you can hear the influence of Death a lot musically as well sometimes. It's a testament to the staying power and impact of the music, but that's something that has been as significant as it has due largely in part to how Chuck was just being Chuck. To me the whole point of Metal always was exactly that. Have the balls to stand on your own two feet and be yourself despite the opposition and despite whoever doesn't like it. Maybe we're too comfortable with our rebellion these days, but Metal needs us to remember to be ourselves. If we cater to preconceived notions, we're no better than the people who judge us. If we don't challenge our own motivations we're simply going through the motions. Metal doesn't need to go through the motions. It needs more people that aren't afraid to shake things up.