Updated: May 13
"Death isn't the first name in "Death Metal" for nothing."
As an avid fan of metal music and lover of Chuck Shuldiner's band Death, I had to check out the new documentary Death by Metal. A doc that dives deep into the history of the legendary death metal band, featuring interviews with family, friends, and of course, band members.
Death by Metal, in general, is a remembrance documentary that gives fans an insight into Chuck Schuldiner's life, from his rise to metal stardom, to the brain tumor that led to his untimely death in 2001.
To this day, Chuck is regarded as the godfather of death metal, a technical shredder on guitar who wielded one of metal's most recognizable growls. It's fascinating to see Chuck's evolution from Mantas, to Death's "Scream Bloody Gore", one of the all-time greatest death metal albums, to the progressions of their later albums, "Human"and "Individual Thought Patterns", then onto Control Denied's "The Fragile Art of Existence". Chuck was a unique musician that never took himself or the genre too seriously, he pushed the envelope and never cared about what others said death metal "should be". I've always highly admired him for those reasons.
Canadian filmmaker Felipe Belalcazar has created a fantastic tribute with Death by Metal, but what I admire most about it is that the film doesn't sugar coat things pertaining to Chuck's personal and career issues. Past associates Steve DiGiorgio, Gene Hoglan, Richard Christy, Chris Reifert, Terry Butler, and others, share their stories of the good times and the bad. From the band's infamous tour feud with Dark Angel, that led to Death dropping off the bill, to Chuck's appearance on Headbanger's Ball, where he proudly displayed a shirt covered in kittens. Death by Metal is jam-packed with tons of info, even the biggest Death fans will hear stories they've never heard.
Although this documentary's main focus is on Death and Chuck Schuldiner, it also touches on the history and evolution of death metal. Various band members talk creating early demos, tape swapping, and the Florida death metal scene. This helps create a full-featured and informative package. Death by Metal is a roller-coaster of emotions in the best possible ways. You'll laugh, you'll throw up your horns, and you'll most likely shed a few tears when the documentary delves into the tragic loss of one of metal's most creative musicians.
I had very high expectations going into this film and I'm so happy to say that Death by Metal is all that I wanted it to be. Not only do you get a well-crafted and detailed documentary, the DVD release from MVD Visual is loaded with bonus features. We get a very personal interview with Chuck's mother, Jane, a featurette that gives a brief history of the Tampa death metal scene, interviews with Obituary, Autopsy, and others. The most exciting bonus feature comes in the form of a full concert, Live at Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukie, WI on November 30th, 1991. The bonus features alone make the DVD worth the price of admission. Death by Metal is an absolutely necessary addition to any metalhead's collection.