Embedded in this inferno is Chuck Schuldiner’s coarse, inhumanly gruff voice. Schuldiner is the guitarist, vocalist and master of puppets for Death, probably the premier band in death metal. Yet, if you set out to decipher the song lyrics you'll find that they’re not about decapitation, necromancy or even lust for blood.
No, the 10 songs are full of false prophets, corrupt leaders, the emotionally crippled, the mentally blind, the out-of-touch. Ten songs, 10 depraved characters, 10 moral lessons. What’s more surprising is how Schuldiner’s lyrics bear a striking resemblance to The Bible’s proverbs. Really! Kingpins of the most satanic of metals are just a precious stone’s throw (well, okay you might have to throw the precious stone, go find it, pick it up and throw it again) from the oldest, most respected and most heavenly of books.
Individual Thought Patterns features those same seedy characters, same elongated syntax, same pithy tone that characterized The Proverbs. When Schuldiner growls “Hiding will do you no good/Many seek revenge.” he’s not far from “The wicked man is caught in his own iniquities and held fast in the foils of his own sin.” And when he sings “You know so much about nothing at all’ in “The Philosopher” is he that far from “A false witness tells a pack of lies”?
“What comes around goes around” is perhaps a less eloquent way of saying “The wicked man is trapped by his own false-hoods.” (Come to think of it, the death metallers—scorned, ignored and ridiculed by the straight music press—might be a [very] miniature version of ancient Tribes of Israel, escaping the persecution of the Egyptians and seeking a musical homeland. The mind boggles.)
Schuldiner, who writes the music first when writing songs, adding the vocal lines later, admits he’s not super familiar with The Bible. He spend two years in a private school heavy in religion in the seventh and eighth grade. So why the similarity? A case of long term subconscious osmosis?
Hardly. While King Solomon distilled his wise proverbs from the Lord himself, King Death got his inspiration from a slightly less celestial source: the music business.
“The lyrics were inspired by the corruption in the music business, people that screwed me over royally,” he says.
“Right now I’m in the middle of a lawsuit. I’m trying to take care of a couple of issues that were inspired by the new record,” he continues. “I want to continue playing but I’ve come real close to saying, ‘Fuck it.’ Something inside me keeps me going. It’s not something you can just drop even though people are making it literally impossible to keep going.
“When you’re screwed by the powers-that-be to that degree, you either go crazy or make art,” he says. So Schuldiner performs exorcisms, casting from his soul those who have caused him torment. “I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and apply them to make something positive.”
How about some details? Schuldiner says he can’t disclose any particulars (as if Florida lawyers peruse Rox between court cases), but he notes, “At the time it was horrible, giving $20,000 to people who don’t deserve it. There are human piranhas out there. You need to be careful.”
"Who will be your next victim?/Profiting on the visions of others” -- “In Human Form”
Schuldiner is now raving like one of the Heavenly Bodies; no not angels, but rather the Wold Wrestling Federation tag-team wrestlers who compete under that name: “If there’s any bands out there reading this, there are people who are going to tell a band that they’ll do everything for them. They’ll shelf you. They’ll get the money the label owes them. But a lot of times, they’ll get all the profits.
“People do things to pacify you, make you think they’re doing you good. That sucks man. People don’t get respect by ripping people off and blaming it on other people. That’s lame,” Schuldiner says.
“I am one of many who see through your lies” - “Trapped In A Corner"
Cooling down a bit, Schuldiner talks about that other scourge of the music industry: The music press (hmph !). The album's opening track (placed first perhaps because that’s as far as most critics will get) “Overactive Imagination” spares no punches: “Directing and premeditating every move that creates the act of manipulation/ Mastering the art of deception that increases your sick addiction / It’s an overactive imagination that enslaves your empty shell.”
“I’ve had people from the press ask me if I was an alcoholic, a drug addict, in a psycho ward, if I was going to start a glam band. They asked me that seriously,” he explains. “None of it was true,” he quickly stipulates.
Singing “Overactive Imagination” must have had a cathartic affect, for now he seems calmer about the matter.
“I’ve learned to deal with it,” he shrugs.
“It used to make me extremely angry. Now it just rolls off my back,” Schuldiner says.Individual Thought Patterns was recorded over a five week period at Morrisound Studios (where else?) with (who else?) Scott Burns producing. To back his sordid visions (both musical and lyrical) Schuldiner gathered the cream of grim reapers--former King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, Sadus bassist Steve Digiorgio and Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan.
Once assembled, this band of demons practiced in Schuldiner's mom’s garage.
That’s right! In suburban Altamont Springs, Florida, amongst the washer and dryer, the lawnmower, the garden implements, new paths in death metal were forged!
“We were after this early band vibe. It was the same garage we practiced in ‘83, ‘84, our demo tapes,” Schuldiner notes. “It keeps you down to earth.”
Schuldiner is happy with the results. “I think it’s the best stuff Death has put out. It’s very fresh. It came out right at the time the metal scene is very cluttered with people trying to copy each other,” he notes.
“Individual Thought Patterns is something I’m very excited about, ‘cause I buy records and I hate no having that exciting feeling I had years ago when bands were on their own and not worrying about what everyone else was doing.”
Only in the ‘90s can someone get excited about Death.(Addendum: Chuck Schuldiner died of a brain tumor in 2001. He was 34)
--Joab Jackson, ROX magazine