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Death by Metal - 70%

Odovacar, August 27th, 2012

The fact that I was born in 1984 means that I have missed out on a lot of metal history. Sure, it has been documented in the form of records and concert footage, but it’s not the same as actually being at a specific event, such as the early genesis of death metal with early acts like Morbid Angel, Possessed,and Repulsion. Thankfully I have my time travelling DeLoreanfueled up and ready to go to 1984 in Florida to experience the rehearsal of the pre-Death band, Mantas. Or if you don’t have the means to travel back into time, Relapse has conveniently capitalized on the recent resurgence of Death’s popularity bycollecting the demos and rehearsals of Chuck Schuldiner’s first band into a variety of audio formats(CD, LP, and digital download!) for your listening pleasure.

Death by Metal collects two demos and a rehearsal of Mantas — consisting of six original songs — most of which are found on the disc twice in widely varying quality. The first set –- labeled as demo version 1 –- has a very primitive, muddy quality about them.

The guitars are drenched in reverb and distortion while flurries of drums overtake that to barely make the riffs distinguishable from the rest of the music. And the vocals, probably the dual duty of Schuldiner and drummer Kam Lee, are mostly incoherent grunting and yelling with the occasional audible “death by metal” shouted on the title track, which of course is completely befitting for death metal. This is definitely a group of teenagers cutting their teeth on thrash to make death metal through a standard tape deck. The aggression, energy, and intensity are there, however it is shrouded in the static void.

The second demo set and rehearsals have more clarity, allowing the guitars to really cut through the mix so you can hear the speed metal riffs of “Mantas” and “Death by Metal”. The less obsessive Death fan would probably not recognize any of the material off of this collection save for “Evil Dead”, which appeared on Death’s first LP, Scream Bloody Gore and has remained a live staple when theywere actively touring.

While the rest of the tracks are good in their own right, there’s a reason that “Evil Dead” managed to live beyond the Mantas days. Its haunting minor tapped intro followed by its ripping main riff has allowed it easily transition into pure death metal.

Listening to Death by Metal is an interesting footnote of metal history and the musical evolution that Schuldiner will eventually embark on with his subsequent and more famous band. The casual metalhead may not have any interest in this collection due to the primitive, muddy recordings, but for anyone fascinated by the history of metal, particularly the beginnings of death metal, would definitely want to check this collection of demos and rehearsals out.

Originally written for Teeth of the Divine