RSS Feed

Death By Metal

Relapse (2012)
Rating: 8/10

Hard to believe that this stuffy, demo quality set of recordings from the 80s were spewed from the mind of one Chuck Schuldiner, the man who would go on to become a death metal legend and who sadly passed away in 2001.

Mantas were a raw and primeval force as yet to be recognised by the science of heavy metal and yet they ploughed away in Chuck’s Florida garage in the hope that their tales of zombies, gore and metal would one dark day fill the ears of the unsuspecting victims. Mantas were the type of band which made tape traders around the world happy, providing the collectors with a clutch of obscure sounding songs; one of which (‘Evil Dead’) would eventually feature on the classic 1987 debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, by some band called Death.

Sure, these guys were adorned in spooky make-up and barely into puberty, but Mantas were the first seed sown in what would become a formidable career, with Schuldiner eventually taking death metal to all manner of extremes, displaying a technical brilliance never seen previously. Mantas were merely the simmering beast, the foetid demonic baby waiting to grow into a full-blown uncontrollable monster. The three-piece consisted of Chuck, Kam Lee and Rick Rozz, who would also go on to make their name in the extreme metal genre.

Those youngsters of today expecting to hear some polished, well packaged record need not apply, because Relapse Records have somehow turned those murky old tapes into a CD and vinyl release, keeping the Chuck legend very much alive amidst those cavernous screams and bath-tub production.

The main four tracks (there are two versions of the Death By Metal demo – one featuring ‘Power Of Darkness’ and also a 1984 rehearsal featuring the track ‘Rise Of Satan’) on offer are, naturally, rough around the edges, but it’s great to hear where some of Chuck’s ideas began life; from the rancid, clanking whine of the live ‘Evil Dead’, with its eerie solo and repulsive chorus gurgles, to the basement splatter of ‘Legion Of Doom’.

Chuck had yet to find his niche, especially vocally, and much of what is on offer here is nothing more than a barbaric yelp, particularly the black metal banshee screams of the title track with its furious guitar work and tin-pot thrash drums of Lee, but one can’t fail to be moved by this underground release. There are those fans who, back in the day, may have acquired a number or most of these songs, but for those of you who’ve been seeking the tracks or are new to the death metal genre, then this is where it all started.

This stuff is almost 30 years old, and yet who’d have thought that when Chuck first assembled this trio of terror in 1983 that we’d still be talking about them today. Well done Relapse Records, long live Chuck Schuldiner and Death… and make sure you purists out there buy the double CD deluxe version for a few nice extras.

Neil Arnold

<< Back to Album & EP Reviews