In the metal world, few bands come close to being as influential as Death. Formed in 1983, Death would go on to being one of the most influential bands in the death metal genre, a career spanning eighteen years and seven records. The band tragically ended in 2001, with the passing of frontman and mastermind of the band, Chuck Schuldiner, from cancer. In their wake, the band left behind the sonic blueprint for the death metal genre, a genre that continues to thrive and evolve to this day.
In 1988, Death released Leprosy on Combat Records. Leprosy was a massive upgrade from their debut, Scream Bloody Gore, in terms of tone and overall sonic quality. On Scream, the guitars sound thin, the drums lack any real weight, the bass is almost nonexistent. On Leprosy, the band sounds like they truly come alive. The guitar is quite heavy here, with every riff sounding like it came from a deep, dark part of Hell. The drums are loud and punchy, providing a punishing yet simple foundation. The bass, while still not a huge part of the mix, is audible and provides an excellent complement to the drumming. Spread over eight tracks, this record is quite the brutal affair musically.
Lyrically, the record does much more than the standard grotesque fare that death metal is known for. Here, we have a record that explores the darkness of life and the world we live in, as well as the human condition. On Pull The Plug, we’re presented with a harsh look at life support, with the protagonist wanting to die rather than live it’s life hooked to a machine while the person suffers in pain and agony. In Born Dead, a horrific yet tragically true picture of the struggles of living in a third world nation painted before us. The song I personally love is Open Casket, a song dedicated to the memory of Chuck’s brother. The song itself not only explores the ways in which people grieve the loss of a loved one but also the harsh realization that we all will die someday and that we have no knowledge what lies beyond.
Overall, this record is a true gem in the death metal genre, a record that continues to stand strong in the test of time. So fittingly, it’s received the remaster treatment via Relapse Records, one of the premier metal labels in the world. Remastered by Alan Douches, whom’s credits includes the likes of Mastodon and Nile to name a couple, this record sounds like a whole new experience. The clarity of this release is impressive, I listened to both the original and remastered mixes and it’s a night and day improvement. However, I did find a problem with the new mix within the low end of the sound, which I found at times to be a tad overpowering but nothing that honestly ruins the overall mix.
This is the definitive version of Leprosy in my eyes, a masterpiece improved upon thanks to the modern age of technology. It’s attack is fiercer, it’s bite is now even stronger. This is how the record was meant to be heard, this is how the record should’ve always sounded. I couldn’t recommend this release enough, a shame Chuck wasn’t alive to see it. Long live Death, now and forever.