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Schuldiner and co. were the true originators of the sub-genre, making something completely original and entirely extreme while other pioneer groups for that new sound like Kreator, Possessed and Sepultura got close, but didn’t cross the line between thrash and death. By 1990, with 2 classic iconic records in their discography, Death released Spiritual Healing with veteran guitarist James Murphy replacing Rick Rozz, another of the many line-up changes they would suffer, though Murphy’s presence was undoubtedly vital for the evolution of their sound. That fine brilliant 6-string section combo could do no wrong - results speak for themselves, so this album remains as one of the most convincing works of the band and a big step forward for their own sound consolidation.
A truly notable improvement can be found here, from the very first cut, “Living Monstrosity”, to the final “Killing Spree”, both vivid expressions of the much difficult methodology of the group, clearly guitar-based and including polished arrangements and competent progression. Riffs take control from the beginning, starting with an introducing main line that is soon modified to lead vocals and rhythm section through the numerous distinct sequences during the tunes. Simplicity and uniformity aren’t part of Death’s policy as “Altering The Future” and “Low Life” clearly demonstrate, compositions that follow as well a complicated pattern of hyperactive riff alterations, complex structures and certainly unpredictable tempo changes. On those the band alternates quieter rhythms determined by Chuck & James’ low-tuned weighty lines with dynamic tempos and loose riffing, refusing to get stagnant in the same sequence for long. So their schemes are explicitly ambitious and properly materialized by these guys’ great skills and talent instrumentally. It's also the result of a necessary preceding professional composition writing process, culminating totally on the epic title number which is the most immaculately arranged, advanced and intricate. It features the elemental characteristics of each other track (rhythm modifications, several riffs & hooks of different nature and tone, lengthy instrumental passages, expressive guttural vocals), but executed with bigger pretension and excellence. On the contrary, “Genetic Reconstruction” and “Within The Mind” might get slightly generic and predictable, showing no distinctive differences with the rest and repeating the group’s common ways, but successfully developed as usual. The presence of vocals is greater on those, also inevitably repetitive on the choruses of “Defensive Personalities”, though instrumental series soon reappear luckily.
Definitely, their sound has evolved considerably in comparison with the raw stuff of the previous 2 records, and in many aspects it’s a superior work, starting with the more precise instrumental execution, cleaner arrangements and more consistent complexity. They tried playing complicated, diverse structures before in their own way, but they never reached this level, which is the result of going through those early stages, then finally reaching maturity and experience. Now brutality and speed are still present elements on their material, though are not completely essential and exclusive to define the nature of the titles. Death got rid of ultra-fast blast beats and straight forward double bass drum rhythms mostly, making use of more traditional quieter tempos without losing vigor. Their intentions are rather focused on higher objectives like increasing the technique and difficulty of song configurations, making them versatile and improving the continuity and intensity of riffs. Before it was all primitive, scruffy and ideal for their early musical concept, but those patterns became obsolete by the end of the '80s and Chuck was perfectly aware of the need of doing something more perfectionist, elaborated and exact.
So, as I mentioned, there was a tremendous technical improvement on these musically stronger songs, which are more reasonable, meticulous and progressive than anything Death ever conceived before. Chuck's vocals are evidently determined to leave behind their grotesque growling that worked successfully to provide the preceding 2 LPs of a proper obscure essence and presence, but had become slightly incompatible with this band’s refined schemes. Lyrics became more abstract and deeper too, while pickin’ parts achieved another level of virtuosity and talent, generally rich, sophisticated and surprisingly well-designed.
So the new decade meant a new level for Death, which turned from an amusingly outrageous amateur band to an amazingly progressive sub-genre icon. This record reflected that transition between early brutal Death and '90s technical Death; still not the most memorable work of Chuck and co., showing certain tolerable weak spots, but absolutely essential for their distinctive sound achievement. The contribution of James Murphy on that process was remarkable; his ephemeral work with the group is preserved here, proving the stunning abilities and potential of that promising musician. That decent production by Scott Burns and Ed Repka’s cool cover painting also made this album unforgettable, a brilliant prelude of better things yet to come ever death metal fan should admire.
This album marked Death's transistion from raw, riff-heavy, gore filled brutality to a more cerebral and melodic/progressive sound with more socially relevant topics. With Scott Burns' trademark recording, Chuck Schuldiner's brilliant lyrics, and James Murphy's signature tone and incomparable soloing ability, this is easily one of Death's best efforts, yet it always seems to get swept under the rug when it comes to their discography.
Rather than be just another death metal band that talks about gore and violence, Chuck decides to mature and personalize his music. He sings about the philosophical consequences of ending a life. He delves into what it's like inside the criminal mind. The human condition. The hypocrisy of televangelism. And even begins dipping his toes into the more personal, introspective lyrics. Stuff that makes you think and doesn't just bombard you with gory imagery.
This album is a break away from traditional death metal in that it's not all pure speed and aggression, but rather more mid paced and ominous. It also shows off Death's beginning transition from OSDM to technical and progressive death metal. The unusual riffs and precise solos are a clear exhibition in Death's branching out from "just another death metal" band to the death metal band who is changing the face of death metal.
Spiritual Healing is an especially solo driven album. James and Chuck's trade-offs are some of the best ever recorded. Low Life is the perfect example of how to properly execute a trade-off. That's not to say the riffs are forgettable, but the solos are definitely the highlight of this album. What often goes unnoticed (as with many bands) is the rhythm section. Bill Andrews forgoes the typical blast beat face melting and instead implements a more subdued and melodic approach. That's not to say he can't roll the double bass, but he only does it when it's necessary. Terry Butler can match Chuck's intricate riffing note-for-note without being drowned out. Both Bill and Terry definitely hold their own against Chuck and James.
This is most certainly Death's most underrated album. But even in the company of a flawless discography full of death metal classics still cited to this day as "all time greatest", it holds up to the test of time. The only reason I can think as to why it's so underrated is because it was so ahead of it's time, even for Death. Whatever you do, do not sleep on this album.
The vocals, rhythms, lyrics, leads, and production are all solid on this release. It falls more on the death metal genre not progressive even though Chuck said that Death would always be a growing band. That they were, but during this era death metal was pretty much invented by the man. Death's first 3 albums are their heaviest. "Scream Bloody Gore" and "Leprosy" were more brutal, but the production quality wasn't as good. "Spiritual Healing" is definitely a vintage album way ahead of it's time.
I'd say that even though a lot of the guitar construction was really basic with chords thick featuring heavy distortion, Chuck created riffs that were tremolo picked, chords fitting the vocals as well as their content, and solos by the man plus James Murphy in the lead department also brilliantly executes his efforts. The lyrical content was more thought out than the first 2 Death albums. But "Leprosy" has some good songs with really memorable lyrics especially for the song "Pull the Plug".
Chuck was still developing on his leads while James Murphy was more melodic during his featuring tremolo picking galore, sweeps amazingly played out, and arpeggios fluent entirely. I think that it was a wise move to have this album remastered to really get the most out of it and recognizing that way back in 1990, the production quality wasn't as good obviously plus Death was still getting established with their sound just different lineups with each succeeding record.
Chuck worked with some really amazing guitar players and James Murphy here on "Spiritual Healing" is an example of a man that was wicked in the lead department. He also suffers with brain cancer like Chuck and that is why there is Sweet Relief Foundation for musicians that are without medical insurance. Back on the topic of "Spiritual Healing" as an album, Chuck had really deep throat which fit the guitar chords and progressions quite well. A lot of people feel that this is Death's best release ever. To me "Human" is, but it's still debatable.
Way ahead of his time, Chuck started focusing heavily on lyrics that make people think like say "I've never thought of this, or you know, maybe he's right about this" as being an open topic to words that are well thought out. "Scream Bloody Gore" didn't have that mentality because Chuck was still trying to develop as a musician. I think that he really hit top notch on this album. The riffs are so well constructed and Death's sound was getting more and more recognized by the death metal community.
Bands like Deicide, Obituary, et al did not have lyrics nearly as good as on "Spiritual Healing" or the next succeeding albums. Deicide of course had such nonsense with Satanic words which are not hard to write about. "Spiritual Healing" I'd say crushed Deicide's debut because the rhythms, leads, vocals, and overall musicianship was not lacking at all because of Chuck's genius. He really wanted death metal to feature music and lyrics that take time to construct and be become unforgettable.
"Living Monsrosity" is probably my favorite track on the whole album but all of the songs are noteworthy and amazingly well put together. There are many instances of melodic riffs alongside the thick chord progressions. Tempos always changing, scales/finger tapping as a part of a lot of songs with the deep throat Chuck used which fit so well with the music. Lead trade offs by Chuck and James were also a highlight. James focused on more melodic leads while Chuck initiated more faster tremolo picking whizzing through the fretboard.
If you are a death metal fan, do not leave "Spiritual Healing" out of your collection. It simply is a genius like release that features originality, great musicianship by all band members, and an overall kick ass album musically, lyrically, and technically. Such a great band that was way ahead of its time as I've said previously and Chuck explored many avenues in the songwriting plus the lyrical content. This is when Death I think was founded because it had so many variations plus totally brutal throat which I think fit the music the most.
Continuing their worthy foray into the seminal Death discography, the next re-release on the Relapse chopping block is their third LP, 1990's "Spiritual Healing". We can of course look back with hindsight and comment that this release continued where "Leprosy" left off, taking the more developed song structures, riffing patterns and let's not forget, socially aware lyrical themes, moving the band further into the progressive territories which were later enhanced on "Human" and beyond. Sandwiched in between in my opinion two of the most masterful death metal releases in history, "Spiritual Healing" has never gotten over being the ugly duckling of this period in Death's history; it does not totally master their incisiveness throughout but with this re-working is still a highly recommended feature of the Death cannon.
The re-mastered production has greatly enhanced the clarity of the record, showing how the likes of "Defensive Personalities" and "Altering the Future" revel more in the slow(er) leaden-weight heaviness of "Leprosy" material rather than the Gene Hoglan backed speed of "Human". Take the title track, "Genetic Reconstruction" or "Low Life" as examples of Chuck Schuldiner & co allowing the songs to start off in slow clinical fashion before picking up the speed later on with a catalogue of riffs building towards the hammering choruses - even at 22 years old these songs still pack in much more than the average DM band of today.
The song titles quoted so far, not to mention the thought-provoking cover, should also prick the ears of anyone tired of the stereotypical Satanic or gory lyrics of extreme metal; more than a writer of great songs, Schuldiner displayed a strong knack at this early stage of Death's career to pen thoughtful social lyrics. How about "The guilty one, innocent she now cries / A life of hell, better off to die / Born without eyes, hands, and a half a brain / Being born addicted to cocaine" from "Living Monstrosity" or "Replacing what is real by using technology / Population control, selecting those who will breed / A specific type of form chosen for the unborn" from "Genetic Reconstruction". Stuff that to anyone claiming a faux love of Satan or winging about their ex-girlfriend.
As an addition to the original release we here also have a bonus disc comprising 16 tracks of rehearsals and demo versions of the tracks that ended up on the album. Naturally these are more for the die-hard Death fan but as usual offer an interesting insight into the work that goes into writing such songs before a reliance on studio gimmickry and computerised guitar and drum sounds became the norm.
As my numero uno band of all time I would of course exhort any metal fan to investigate all seven Death full-lengths so it comes as no surprise that I would do so for "Spiritual Healing". As an exercise in intelligent death metal it is magnificent - that still it lurks in their shadows of the two releases either side is testimony to Death's unsurpassed status as the kings of death metal.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
There's this false dichotomy between innovation and vegetation that some say has to exist for any band that can survive beyond 2 or 3 albums. It presupposes that a band has to either engage in genre hopping in order to stay relevant or that there is some sin in maintaining a consistent style, as if there were no wrong way to innovate and no way at all to keep a soldier-like precision of sound and keep things fresh. Chuck Schuldiner found himself at this media inflicted crossroad after the release of what many consider the pinnacle of the Death name in "Leprosy", and decided to evolve on his own terms, something a successful band is instructed never to do.
"Spiritual Healing" could be seen as a stylistic continuation of the heavily thrash infused sound of Death's earlier days with a handful of musical reservations, but is also a near 180 in terms of lyrical subject matter. While the riff set is still very agitated and the mixture of fast mosh sections to haunting breakdowns is comparable to the even one of "Leprosy", the otherworldly realm of horrific mutilation and other nightmarish scenarios of undead carnage has been replaced by something equally if not more frightening, the real world. And surprisingly enough, the suffering of crack babies, the vile future of dictatorial eugenics and ultra-Malthusian politics, and the obvious theme of living and dying by the sword while cloaked in the veil of religious superiority suggested in the album's title and cover art prove to be equally appropriate themes for a style more readily identified with Schuldiner's prior lyrical interests.
From the start, things retain a frenetic feel, but the overall presentation is a bit more disciplined and measured. From its instigation, "Living Monstrosity" literally brings down the judgment of both God and society upon every woman who has condemned an infant to a short life of suffering through drug use, albeit from a journalistic perspective that allows the listener to render the actual sentence of scorn, and the music follows suit with a combination of dissonant guitar harmonies and a surprisingly virtuosic set of solos. "Altering The Future" comes in with a familiarly doom drenched intro like the trudging of a horse through a tar pit, then after a minute launches into a faster groove that eventually lands back in mad thrashing territory, almost like a longer and slightly more mature rendition of "Zombie Ritual".
As things continue to unfold, it's clear that the formula is leaning towards a longer, more varied approach to songwriting that hints at a coming change in stylistic direction. This is best underscored in the title song, which goes on for near 8 minutes and covers almost every creative niche in Schuldiner's arsenal up to this point. In many ways, this song is reminiscent of the progressive direction that the thrash metal scene was largely moving towards, almost as if offering the emerging death metal scene something along similar lines to Heathen's "Victims Of Deception" with a raw growl and a more aggressive answer to the question or religious hypocrisy. Naturally there are a handful of songs on here such as "Defensive Personalities" and "Killing Spree" that tow the line of "Scream Bloody Gore" and "Leprosy" and are more straight up thrashing than progressive, but the general spirit of this album is geared towards something a bit less subject specific, and ultimately broader in scope.
In the grand scheme of Death's amazing time as a force in the shaping of death metal, "Spiritual Healing" holds the stereotypical transitional album label, and in much the same way as "Blizzard Beasts" and "A Blaze In The Northern Sky", it ranks high among the band's discography though not quite at the top. It doesn't quite have the focus and charm of "Individual Thought Patterns", nor does it have the raucously chaotic nature of "Leprosy", it's sort of in between the two, offering a bit of both in a fairly even handed manner. The only flaw it suffers from is that the production comes off as a little too clean and polished for its own good, resulting in a drum sound that isn't quite as punchy as previous works, and ironically pretty close to the mechanical feel of "Human" in that one area. Sometimes even the most depressingly antisocial death metal addict needs a break from cannibalistic zombies and autopsy descriptions, and "Spiritual Healing" is a good place to go without sacrificing all the other necessary elements of the genre.
Well now that Death has successfully created the greatest death metal album ever, they put out “Spiritual Healing”. I gotta say, this album is amazing. Not as amazing as “Leprosy” but it’s still extremely good. Better than a lot of death metal at the time. Death was still in their straight forward death metal phase, sure they progressed a little from “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy”, but this album is still straight death metal. They hadn’t yet gotten into the “Individual Thought Patterns” yet or even the “Human” phase yet, so this album is very high in the Death discography.
So the production is sort of a step up from “Leprosy”. Everything sounds cleaner but that’s not necessarily a good thing. This album still sound very raw but it lacks the rawness that their second album pulled off so well. The guitars aren’t as powerful but are still pretty heavy. The drums are well-produced but Bill Andrews is still playing them so they are lacking in the playing department but they still get the job done as far as death metal goes. The bass, when you can hear it, actually sounds awesome. It’s really low but it’s just TOO QUIET! Chuck’s vocals are as usual pretty much perfect but his screams seem to have to weird effect on them and they seem to echo a lot.
The song writing has progressed to some degree. The riffs are getting more technical but still maintain the old school Death attitude. One great thing about this album is that there is no more Rick Rozz solos. I think they fit “Leprosy” pretty well but some of them are just annoying. On this album both guitarists are amazing, so amazing that I can’t the solos apart from which are Chuck’s and which are James'. This is a pretty amazing accomplishment from James considering Chuck was one of the best. Bill Andrews did the best he could I guess. The drumming is a small step up from “Leprosy”; he seems to vary it up a little more but still not a big enough difference to really notice it. His fills are a little better but he still relies too much on his snare. His double bass is used about the same. I’m glad he at least tried to do something different. Terry Butler pretty much stayed under the radar. I don’t think he has one part where he shines at all. I mean, I like death metal with the bass loud, it adds to the heaviness of the album and unfortunately for Terry, he really let me down on this one. If you ever wanna hear a shred of bass from this guy, you gotta listen REALLY closely.
This album has all the aspects you could hope from old school Death. Speed, heaviness, excellent vocals, and amazing guitar work. If you’re expecting b-horror movie lyrics, you will be disappointed. Most of the lyrics on this album are kind of all over the place. Some of them are about death (“Killing Spree”) but not really any mention of blood or guts. Some talk of the human mind come into play (“Defensive Personalities” and “Within the Mind”) which is expected if you have heard “Human”. I think this is really the album where Chuck abandoned his gore and death roots and went to the full-on spiritual and human lyrics.
If you are looking a mixture of old school Death with a tiny bit of new Death, this album is perfect. I prefer old school Death and this album delivers for me. Highly recommended if you like old Death or new Death.
Best tracks – “Defensive Personalities”, “Spiritual Healing”, and “Low Life”
Conceptually, Spiritual Healing feels as if Chuck Schuldiner had emerged from the creepy catacombs of its predecessors, grabbed himself an ice cold lemonade and taken a look around the world for once. The lyrics of this album deal less in the sheer thanatopsis of Leprosy than its present environment, or the plausible technological nightmare scenarios of our shared future. Naturally, this shortens the shadows of morbidity that previously hovered over the writing, and lengthens the band's relevancy against the backdrop of popular thrash metal, but I was quite pleasantly surprised that Chuck could still tear out a truly devious riff or two. This is also what I'd deem the 'Earth' phase for death. No longer was the listener being dragged through the rot infested sub cellars of pestilent horror (which I for one had no problem with), but Schuldiner's ambitions had yet to carry him among the clouds and beyond...
But first, they would carry him to the mercenary James Murphy, who supplants Rick Rozz here with ease. Terry Butler, while credited on the previous album as bassist, actually performs the instrument here, joining Bill Andrews' steady rock-inclined drumming. You can hear a mild difference in the guitars, armored with more muscular melodies than Leprosy, but I would not say that this is necessarily a technical superior to the sophomore; in fact I didn't often experience the same haunted exhilaration as two years prior. This is yet another Scott Burns mix job, a name that would become synonymous with not only Florida death metal but the scene at large, but as opposed to the uneven sound of Deicide or The Ten Commandments, here he seems spot fucking on. The guitars are a crisp, balanced pair of knives that deliver each surgical spike of brilliance with certainty, and the drums, bass and vocals are all stirred appropriately to carry their weight, without ever sacrificing their individual strengths.
Songs. Death still possessed them in spades, and this is the last of what I'd consider the band's classic, supra-riffing stables. "Living Monstrosity" christens the album with a joyous, pummeling curvature, Schuldiner's homage to the crack baby (remember slinging this terminology around as an insult in the late 80s?). There are no less than three incredible riffs buried in some rather comfortable surroundings, the first the rolling bridge leading up the chorus (1:15), the second the doomy breakdown before 2:00 that leads into the swerving, flanged dual melody, and the final being the groove behind the lead directly in the song's center. From there, the album gets even better with the doomed lead-in to "Altering the Future", also invested with some excellent death/thrash rhythms; and "Defensive Personalities", which ups the riffing ante even further with a concrete fervor, rubble strewn breakdowns and a predictable yet intimidating chorus sequence. Beyond its legendary intro melody, "Within the Mind" plods along at a more subdued speed, with some giant groove hooks reminiscent of "Pull the Plug", though it's not a favorite.
In the tradition of having the title track serve as its lengthiest, "Spiritual Healing" manages to one up even "Leprosy", with nearly eight minutes of content, opening with another fancy piece of tapping (Chuck should be credited with some of the best such sequences in all of extreme metal, to this day). The ensuing barrage is overall pretty solid, but I won't lie, there might be a minute or two of fat here that could be clipped in lieu of the better rhythms. "Low Life" transforms from a clinical groove to a number of variations, including a giant doom step around 1:20 that could just have well been a Candlemass riff (it probably was). I love "Genetic Reconstruction", the way its brick opening rhythm carries forward to the creepy bridge as Chuck's foul poetry fires off against the practices of cellular surgery, cloning and such. Lastly, there comes "Killing Spree", with another of the signature opening sequences that cedes to a pair of excellent mute streams and another of the legendary, propulsive breakdowns.
Spiritual Healing is just not Leprosy for me, nor even Scream Bloody Gore. It's not a pinnacle performance for its time, nor does it stride ahead of the previously established parameters aside from the lyrical content. Ironically enough, once Chuck took such broader steps with Human, I found myself losing some interest. Spiritual Healing might just be the 'safest' album in all of the Death catalog, but it's pretty damn good regardless. The riffs are still impressive and catchy, and the focus remains on accessible rock song structures as opposed to the manifold chaos of what Morbid Angel and Atheist were creating. You have to admire the guy for not caving in to such outside pressures. Schuldiner and most of his troops had no dearth of proficiency on their chosen vessels, but the songs always remained central (even those I didn't enjoy); simplistic enough that they wouldn't be entering the Guinness Book of World Records, but thoughtful and more than capable of sinking hooks into the listener. A few slackers here ("Within the Mind", title track) but it's honestly the last nipple-perking Death record before the cosmonaut conditioning.
Well this is probably my favourite Death album, so that goes to show how much of a Death fan I am. Bear in mind I haven't heard Leprosy or Human in their entirety, but I like this a bit more than Scream Bloody Gore and I definitely like it more than the proggy stuff they did later on.
This album demonstrates the only thing that was ever good about Death (not including their demo era - Infernal Death is a killer), and that's Chuck's guitarwork. Spiritual Healing is full of great riffs and leads and that was definitely Chuck's strong point. All of the negative things I normally have to say about this band are toned down on this album, it is somewhat progressive sometimes (in the leads especially) but not as wanky as The Sound of Perseverance, and it still sounds trapped in the old-school but it's not really as embryonic and thrashy as Scream Bloody Gore. Chuck's voice is at it's best here, where the plain and rather under-developed throaty yell of the first album meets head on with the annoying rasps of his later works and the two sort of cancel each other out, and he gives his least offensive performance. But the riffs really do make this album, and I'd say that's the only reason it should really be listened to.
Why the only reason? Because the song structures aren't that great and still don't inspire much, I think one thing Chuck (and the rest of the band, which seems to change on every album) lacked was compositional skill. The songs are also rather restricted, limited to a mid-pace stomp with a rather dull rhythm section. Chuck Schundler, while not as bad as he would get later, still sounds like a retarded John Tardy, and the lyrics are kinda gay too, he wines about abortion and stuff and that's really not what I want to hear on a fucking death metal album, whatever happened to Regurgitated Guts?
It's a good album anyway, despite it's flaws, and it's a good place to start as it has a good mix of the straight forward death metal of 80s Death and the progressive and showy late 90s stuff. Shit, I'm not even a Death fan and I quite like it so make of that what you will.
This was the first album by Death that I ever heard. Until this point I had never heard anything quite like this. I had never heard such fast drumming, such harsh vocals and such brutal riffs all put together as one, AND I LOVED IT. This album is what introduced me to Death, and to the entire death metal genre in general. This album shows Death’s evolution from their earlier more primitive works (Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, not that those are bad albums it’s just that this is better).
Man, they definitely could not have picked a better song to start this album off that Living Monstrosity. The opening riff to that song is just amazing. It’s fast and just grabs you and forces you to listen, the best part is you’re glad you did! Altering the Future is another cool song, not a highlight but a good song overall. Defensive Personalities, what a song, my favourite part is the riff when Chuck says “Defensive Person Al I TEEES!!!” it’s so awesome. And if Defensive Personalities wasn’t enough then Within the Mind will surely show you that Death means business. Really catchy chorus, a true highlight.
Now comes the monster of a song known as Spiritual Healing. This song is so good that it deserves its own individual paragraph. This song starts off with a classical sounding riff that sounds like something that would be played on an organ in a church, at around 20 seconds in the heaviest riff ever kicks in. And then, the vocals. Oh man Chuck was an awesome vocalist. After the first verse the song picks up and starts to get fast, this is an example of Chuck’s amazing song writing. Making a song have an incredibly heavy and crushing riff at the beginning and then picking up to get really fast. Another classical riff kicks in a little bit later and then Chuck says “SPIRITUAAAAAL HEEEEEALING!” after which you are bombarded with an amazing guitar solo which goes straight into the heavy crushing riff from the beginning. A truly amazing song, definitely one of Death’s best songs ever.
After a song like Spiritual Healing you would think it would be hard to top . But they manage it! Low Life, Genetic Reconstruction and Killing Spree are 3 death metal classics. All with awesomely cool riffs and amazing choruses. After hearing this album you’ll be having the chorus from Genetic Reconstruction going around and around in your head (“Genetic Reconstruction, evolution in production!”).
All in all this is an amazing album. I would recommend it to any fan of Death, Death Metal or Metal in general
- Living Monstrosity
- Defensive Personalities
- SPIRITUAL HEALING
- And last but not least, Genetic Reconstruction
When “faith healer” Peter Popoff was ousted as a fraud in the late 1980s by Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, a plethora of metal bands were quick to jump on the anti-televangelist bandwagon. When Death’s junior release, Spiritual Healing was released in 1990 with a now-infamous album cover featuring a man with uncanny resemblances to Peter Popoff “healing” a cancerous woman while an eccentric group of Bible-thumping zealots donate insensate praise, it was obvious that Chuck Schuldiner’s Death was blossoming into something different.
This period in Death’s career is typically defined by large amounts of bickering and betrayal. James Murphy was brought in to record guitar on Spiritual Healing, but was fired shortly after for ambiguous reasons. Chuck called off the album’s intended tour, leaving the remaining two members of the band (Terry Butler and Bill Andrews) in something of an irked state. Without informing Chuck, the two embarked on a tour of Europe with Walt Trachsler (from Texas’ underground sensation, Rotting Corpse) and some dude named Louie Carrisalez, and this tour was marketed as a Death tour. Upon hearing the news, Chuck was infuriated, and rightfully so–after all, Death was his brainchild, his creative endeavour; without him in the picture, Death wasn’t Death. Legal recourse was taken, and Chuck felt obligated to give Butler and Andrews the boot. No evidence of this period of inner squalor can be found on what would make up Spiritual Healing’s final product, however, and it was, at the time, Death’s strongest LP.
A complete stylistic evolution hadn’t taken place since the last album; a great deal of this album’s stylistic components were borrowed from the previous two albums, with a selection of subtle nuances created by the augmentation in production value. However, these moments are scattered almost intermittently throughout. Spiritual Healing is, by and large responsible for the direction death metal would take for years after its release. The concepts Death presented early on served as blueprints for the genre, but Spiritual Healing meshed the unprovoked whirlwind of brooding ferocity found throughout the band’s first two records with a newfound sense of mechanics and stunning, albeit few and far between, bursts of antipodean melody, often occurring during guitar solos and brief guitar-driven interludes. “Within the Mind” presents itself as something of an epicentre for these ideas; the hypnotic intro, almost Middle-Easternly tinged, juxtapositions the chugging uphill struggle that resides in the dominating guitar riff. The song’s premier guitar solo is similar to the opening lick in that it constructs an incomparable aura of both delicacy and forewarning. As the speed rises, the theme of intricacy and experimentation becomes more apparent.
Song lengths had become longer as well, all of which were upwards of four minutes long. Chuck clearly had more to say musically. The majority of the guitar riffs are broken down and explored thoroughly. The validity of this album’s revered sense of progression is undeniable. “Low Life” begins as a seedy and haunting mid-tempo piece, but eventually turns into something quicker (but equally haunting still) before launching itself back into mid-tempo territory. The variety of guitar riffs throughout this one song is staggering; the number of different guitar leads and riffs in this song alone outweigh the riffs found in an entire Lamb of God album. And this is how the entire album presents itself. Each song is something new and unique, and in the realm of guitar innovation for its release in 1990, is beyond thought, especially for extreme metal. This album is also an absolute powerhouse in the way of shredding. Both Schuldiner and Murphy are in top form here, and given that this is one of Murphy’s earliest recorded works, this is all the more impressive.
Alas, the musical innovation on this album is unique to only the guitar. Terry Butler’s bass guitar follows the rhythm guitar for 95% of the album, and it isn’t really audible to begin with. Bill Andrews is a talented drummer; he can play fast, and he does some pretty nifty things with his bass pedal, but not once does he overstep the circumscribed rhythmic boundaries. There is absolutely zero rhythmic experimentation here. Death would become known for intricate bass guitar and drum work, but there are nearly no traces of these things on Spiritual Healing. This is a guitar-driven album through and through.
While far from the pinnacle of Death’s lyrical achievements, Spiritual Healing is vastly far removed from its two predecessors. The theme of gratuitous brutal violence has been almost completely dropped in favour of a more socially aware political commentary. The lyrical content ranges from the effects substance abuse can have an unborn foetus in “Living Monstrosity” (The beginning of the end begins at birth/Breeding masses of twisted screaming flesh ), to dissociative identity disorder in “Defensive Personalities” (One mind divided into three, for every problem a personality), but the theme of social awareness is prevalent in each song.
The production, courtesy of mastermind Scott Burns is clear, if a little flawed. As mentioned, the bass is too low in the mix, and it would have been nice to have it brought a little closer to the forefront. The raw death metal sound of Death’s previous two albums is pretty much gone. The sound may be flawed, but for a early-90s death metal album, it is pretty damn satisfactory. Scott Burns had only produced a handful of albums by this point, a lot of which would eventually graduate to legend status (Obituary’s Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death, Deicide’s self-titled and Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains to name a few), and he would eventually develop into one of the greatest metal producers of all time.
This album often gets ignored, largely due to the fact that it was followed by Death’s “breakthrough” album, Human which went on to be one of the most revered albums in metal history. Regardless, Spiritual Healing is mandatory listening for any fan of death metal. It represents a pivotal time in the growth of a genre that would spawn into something massive.
The first thing I think when I turn on this album, with the opening track "Living Monstrosity" ringing in my ears is, "Oh yeah, this is Death". They have such a distinct sound. A sound that is their own. They push this sound even further with the 1990 masterpiece, "Spiritual Healing".
One of the first things I've noticed about this album is that the sound is great. It sounds well made, well produced, and clean. With "Scream Bloody Gore", I found it had a messy quality to it, in a good way, like it sounded like it was supposed to be a lower quality. This record doesn't have that, as much anyways, and it brings a new sound to Death's music. Higher quality usually equals better sound, and better sound usually equals an easier to listen to record.
Let's talk about the vocals. This time around the vocals are perfect volume and are greatly in tune with the drums and guitars volume. As one thing you will notice, just like I did, the vocals sound exactly like the previous records. It's quite awesome that Chuck can maintain the exact same vocal on each record so well, almost as if they were recorded all in one day, and put them on different records. Now for me, one of the biggest things that made me love Death was the fact that Chuck's vocals are so good. And when Death puts almost identical vocals on each record it makes me very happy.
Guitar, shall we? Well, I have to say the guitar went from simple, heavy and great, to a little more technical, heavier, and greater. The song "Spiritual Healing" is the prime example. A good thing about Death's first two records is that fact that they can have a primitive sound, and rather simple guitar, and be completely amazing. But now, you have this record that steps it up a notch technically. What do you start to think? Remember that change can be good. In this case it was a right move, in my eyes, because I believe a band's next record should be better than their last, because if it wasn't then, they can really never go anywhere. That's a reason why I love this album, guitar wise. Their notch-up was correct, logical, and it worked.
Bass time. This time, the bass is a little bit quieter. Is it audible? Yes. Is it audible enough? That's debatable. I think not. The thing that really got me about the previous albums, especially "Scream Bloody Gore" was how loud the bass was. It was the loudest I've ever heard in any band, that's for sure. With "Spiritual Healing", I believe if the bass was louder, it wouldn't have sounded as clean as it is, and would have added a lot of extra heaviness that maybe would have drowned out the technicality of the guitar. My opinion. Over all you can hear it, but don't expect it to be very loud like the previous albums.
Drums. Ok, Death's drums, as anyone who has heard the first records, has always been rather simple, and because they are simple, that makes them very repetitive in some cases, making some songs basically just boring. There is a little more variation on this album, and it works to an advantage, for me, anyways. There really isn't much to say on that note, just that it is basically the same old same old.
Ok so overall, I think this album is more technical and more heavy in the guitar department, I feel the drums are quite the same old Death drums, I think the bass fits nicely in making the album have a cleaner, more technical feel, yet still being audible, and very clear, and great. Another new thing on the album is the song lengths. That's always a good sign for me, so, it helps as well. The vocals, are as always, very, very good. So basically, we have a different album... That's not so different.
The album's only weakness I can hear is the drums. Repetitive drums. They are good, of course, don't get me wrong, and there is some variation, but, it doesn't take away the fact that they are, however, repetitive.
It always seems to me that I am the only guy in this world who thinks this 1990 masterpiece from the legendary Florida based death metal originator is the best album they have ever put out. For some reason, since the day I have heard this album, it has always been very special for me. From the production, to the vocal performence, to the amazing songwriting, this is absolutely perfect. There's no doubt that Death has put out some more complex stuff afterwards, but complex isn't always better. This is the perfect match between old school death metal, with an added touch of what was to come.
Starting the album, Living Monstrosity begins with a simple, but crushing, classic death riff. The lyrics to this song has always amazed me. "Born without eyes hands, and half a brain, being born addicted to cocaine". Excellent.
Altering The Future starts with a slow, almost doomy riff. Followed by a weird set of notes, with an inversed drum beat which gives a good feeling, before going into a more straightforward, "headbangable" drumbeat and riff. The first solo is what you expect from Mr. Schuldiner. This guy has always had his own style, and it shows even more on this album. The second solo is my favourite ever. The choice of notes is perfect. 3 thumbs up to that.
Defensive Personalities is a fast almost thrashy song, with a slow, anthemic chorus. Very memorable. "Protecting the weak points of the mind, defensive personalities". The next riff shows the diversity in Death's music, the drumbeat in the back was mostly unheard in metal back then. But the band managed to keep a dark feel to that part.
Within The Mind is simply amazing. Not much else to say.. The melody in the middle after the solo at the 2:18 mark is the best ever PERIOD.
The title track introduces a tapping pattern which Chuck has used alot in future Death albums. A great all-around, long, non-repetitive song which almost reaches 8 minutes long. The lyrics are clearly about Chuck's feeling towards the catholic church's doubtful manners. I can't stress enough how much I like the sound of this album. I think all death metal drummers should get a hint and listen to this album, and just realise you don't have to play at incredible speed to get a great song!
Genetic Reconstruction starts with an awesome riff, which abruptly cuts, and goes into another great, yet surprising riff. Then comes the classic death harmonised melody. Chuck really had it back then! Again here, the solo, is EXCELLENT! The backing riff and drum beat merge perfectly together. I don't understand how they managed to come up with such great ideas. Nobody in death metal has ever come close to this in my opinion. No one.
Closing the album is the fast Killing Spree, complimented by cool lyrics about a guy who is sick of his boring life, so he decides to put a little something new in his life by killing people, and enjoying it. The middle part is amazingly musical. Another great, great, GREAT solo! A perfect way to end the album, leaving the listener amazed and wanting to play the record all over again.
If you ever come across this album in a record store, may it be on vinyl, on cassette or on CD, buy it. It is absolutely worth it, and you won't ever let it go. it is the best work from Death, it is incredibly underrated and more people have to discover this great metal work. Do it for yourself, you'll be pleased.
A slight improvement compared to Leprosy but not enough. The two worst elements (rhythm section) from Leprosy were still present. The drums were still too simple for the compositions and the clear production ‘Spiritual Healing’ had, made this even more obvious. I don’t know if Terry Butler really played the bassguitar this time but who cares, they’re hardly hearable.
Rick Rozz was replaced by a guy named James Murphy who was still skinny and unknown in 1990 and would later also make name for himself with Obituary, Cancer and Testament and some others as well. Murphys solos are a huge improvement as they could compete with Schuldiner with ease, making the interaction worthwhile to listen to. A great example is the superb solo work on ‘Altering the Future’.
Apart from the titletrack this album has not brought forth as many classic as other albums yet it holds some great material. ‘Genetic Reconstruction’ and ‘Defensive Personalities’ both share a decent blend of midpaced and uptempo thrashing death metal with a high level of catchiness and some great lyrics that go beyond the good old gore approach. These two are easily the best songs on the album together with the already mentioned titletrack and opener ‘Living Monstrocity’. The opinions about the lyrics of his anti-abortion song ‘Altering the Future’ are divided and I myself do not share his point of view. The song itself is musically great although at times slow paced a bit too much.
‘Spiritual Healing’ was a tiny step forward compared to ‘Leprosy’ concerning compositional quality and a fairly large step sideways in terms of leaving the gore lyrics and heavy production behind.
Death are known as true pioneers of the death metal genre and are recognized as a legendary name in the metal comunity. This album has been overlooked over time, mainly because their sound was really evolving at this point. Chuck hadn't yet contacted the guys from Cynic, yet was already leaning towards a progressive sound. The result is very interesting since you can really see that the band were on to something new at this point.
The riffs are strong and Schuldiner's vocal performance is awesome. His screams really vent out anger and are full of passion and emotion. The tone already has a distinct "Chuck" feel to it, with a lot of reverb and those quintessential Death harmonies.
I see Death as band that weren't necessarily THE best at any singular aspect, but they were the best unit. They weren't the fastest, they weren't the heaviest, but their songwriting surpassed anyone in the genre at the time, and this is what makes the music timeless.
As for the songs, they all smoke, period. "Living Monstrosity" has chugging section which are sick heavy and a brilliant vocal performance from Chuck. The songwriting is amazing as always, with the arrangements suiting the music perfectly. However, the standout here has to be the title track, with a chorus so infamous and so mean it hurts. The intro, with its very cool tapping line, is legendary, and the rest of the song is so catchy and features some ridiculous screams from the main man himself. "Genetic Reconstruction" and "Killing Spree" are also very strong tracks that end the album with a bang.
The songwriting, as I previously mentioned, went up a notch, and the band started honing a truly unique sound. They were taking huge risks at the time, and maybe that's why this record is sometimes forgotten. But any metal fan should really get aquainted with this, because this is where the evolution of the band's sound really started.
Talk about a huge improvement in every department from Leprosy. This is still done in a similiar style to Leprosy, a bit less brutal though (lyricaly and a little musically), but it improved about it in a bunch of ways. On Spiritual Healing Chuck & Co. (the classical line up with Terry and Bill) have improved upon their skill greatly. Chuck's song writing has greatly improved, on Leprosy sometimes the songs can be a bit lacking, on Spiritual Healing the complexity and song structure keeps the songs enjoyable from begining to end, all of them. Chuck's guitar playing also improved, but he had help from the great James Murphy, so all credit can not go to him. Bill Andrew's drum playing is amazing as compared with Leprosy, its much faster and more interesting. He seems to do more than just follow along with the rest of the band, at times he will focus the songs attention on his drumming like on the end of Spiritual Healing (track five).
What makes this album more break through for Death is that chuck switched from gore charged lyrics, to a political/social frame. The majority of the songs on this album focus on political or social issue like abortion or the death penalty. More social issues are delivered such as humans being stupid and placing so much value on the accumulation of wealth and petty material possesions and ignoring larger problems. Although Spiritual Healing is just an improvement upon Leprosy musically, the lyrics make them sound like two different styles of music. The gore lyrics of past Death made their songs seem darker and more evil, while the political/social lyrics make the band, this album, have a more serious and valid sound, like the band is saying something informative or important on this album. Death metal is dominated by fantasy, mythology, gore, death...etc, lyrics such as that, so its nice to see some death metal with a political/social lyrical content ( I am not saying Death is the only band that does this).
The guitar work on this album is most impressive. The riffs on Spiritual Healing amaze me, they are complex and origonal. Chuck and James deliver long rolling riffs that don't take a back seat to the vocals or drums on this album at almost all times. They range from slow to fast, and have a sutble brutality to them, unlike the more blatant in your face guitars of Leprosy and Screaming Bloody Gore. The solo's are equally amazing, they are so long and non repeatative. Each solo from each song is totaly different and not borrowing from other solo's on this album. Up to this point(1990) this is Death's best work lyrically and musically.
Tracks that stick out and are memorable are Living Monstrosity and Altering The Future for their socialy edgy lyrics. Spiritual Healing and Genetic Reconstruction offer alot musically, that makes them memorable. All the tracks on this album have thier moments, none are lackig in any department. Its a consistent listen from Living Monstrosity to Killing Spree, for any Death fan of their older stuff (like 1987-1991).
The statement above (the title) describes the lyrics of the album, which involve Chuck's views on various social issues such as the death penalty, cloning, and vigilante justice among other things. Due to this the lyrics are a step forward from the clichéd gore lyrics that were present on the first two albums. Along with the lyrics, the music took a change in direction on this album, beginning to go in a more technical direction with less focus on brutality, (a style which would later be explored further in Human and the future albums to a much greater extent) and although most of the past brutality remained, there was a step up in the quality of the song writing, along with improved musicianship, which was complemented with more complex riffing, many (meaningful) tempo changes throughout the album, and better guitar solos. And the addition of James Murphy as a second guitarist didn’t hurt, either. The production gets the job done, but is somewhat flawed. The good aspects are that it's relatively clear, but not so too clean for a death metal album, nor does it sound sterile, the bass is too low in the mix, though. The main problem in the production is with the drums which are pushed too far back resulting in some of the potential power of the album being lost.
Personally, I find this album to be highly under-rated; even though it was a landmark for Death it lives in the shadow of the next album, Human. However it's also a great album.
The album starts off with Living Monstrosity, which is a great opening track. A very aggressive, high speed intro leading into Chuck's unique growling vocals, and then switches between mid and high speed riffing, leading into dueling solos by James and Chuck about half-way through the song, before reverting back to the pattern that the song started in, and all of this is topped off with socially conscious lyrics about drug addiction.
Altering The Future is next, one of the highlights of the album musically and lyrically, this song relies primarily on mid-paced riffs, up until Chuck comes out with a solo, which is followed with a faster one by James, then once again reverts back to the riffing style that was in the beginning of the song. It's hard to say exactly what makes it a stand out, so the best thing I can say is to listen for yourself.
Next up is Defensive Personalities, one of the weaker songs on the album, although it's not a bad song, it simply doesn‘t stand out, it has good drumming, riffs, and solos, but it just doesn't have anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the album.
Within The Mind is similar, however, somewhat more memorable.
Next up is the center piece of the album, the epic title track, and the highlight of the album: Spiritual Healing. A slow, epic sounding riff opens up the song, which shifts up into a higher tempo, more aggressive riffing, and vocals come in. From this point the song continues on at the same pace, until settling back down into the slower riff, and then two solos emerge around the four minute mark. Afterwards, the song reverts back to a very slow paced riffing, until another tempo change, which leads back into the faster riffs from earlier, which the nearly eight minute long epic ends on.
Low Life, is the next track, and is a very aggressive and angry song with more great riffing and six solos in a row, plus some clichéd but well written lyrics, making it another highlight of the album.
And now, as the album nears a close Genetic Reconstruction is up, with a very interesting mid tempo riff leading into the song, until another tempo change comes along, while Chuck spews out lyrics about cloning and it's affects on a fantasy. This, like every other song on the album (they tend to follow a pattern), leads into some good guitar solos by both James and Chuck, and then going back into the riffing, the bass coming through yet again, until the song ends with a mid-paced riff.
The final song is Killing Spree, with lyrics dealing with school shootings. The song employs very aggressive riffing, although it slows down into mid-tempo as a set up for the two solos, which then reverts back to the aggressive ending before, until the end of the song, which bookends the album nicely.
If you’re looking for an under-appreciated classic in early death metal, give this album a try.
This album is a crucial album in Death's progression. Leprosy was still a very straightforward album but on Spiritual Healing the music got much more technical and slowed down quite much. Also Spiritual Healing was the only Death album to feature three members from the previous album. Yes, the line-up stays almost the same. Only Rick Rozz left the band to be replaced by James Murphy. Chuck had a real talent for spotting gifted people. The added technicality was something really new in the death metal-scene back then and also Spiritual Healing's intelligent, non-gore lyrics were something quite spectacular.
The album starts off quite straightforwardly but the song doesn't continue in that vein. More technical riffing, slower pace and more technical solos. The music is still clearly death metal. The riffs are heavy as hell and the drums pound like usual on the more straightforward parts. Bill Andrews isn't a genius on the drums though and the drumming isn't anything remarkable compared to say the technicality of Gene Hoglan or Sean Reinert. Also Terry Butler's bassing isn't anything remarkable or noteworthy although it is sufficient. The guitarwork and the compositions on the other hand fully make up for the average rhythm section.
The guitarlines vary from clear death metal riffs to maidenish twin guitar leads though they mainly stay in the death metal area. The riffs usually control the field but when the leads strike in, they steal the whole show. The melodies flow very well and have a really sinister sound to them which suits the otherwise brooding atmosphere of the album very well. The riffs are more controlled than on the previous albums. They have a clearer purpose and deliver more accurately due to Chuck's progression as a song writer. Also both Chuck and James are excellent solo guitarists so there's nothing lacking in that department. One of the most impressive solo parts is the tradeoff between the two guitarists in 'Low Life'. Partly Murphy even outplays Schuldiner. Chuck's vocal performance has been tuned down a bit. The lyrics are a bit easier to hear and he doesn't sound as brutal as before although he does some screams which remind me of the greatest parts of the vocalizing in Scream Bloody Gore.
The variation in the material adds quite much to the age of the album. Even after quite numerous listens, I find myself wondering what is coming up next. Chuck and co. have come up with some really great and unexpected compositions in here. A very underrated album.