Chuck Schuldiner And How His Actions Broke Down the Stigma Around Death Metal

Heavy metal has always gotten a bad reputation. It was (and still is) always seen as a music genre that is dedicated to morbid and twisted subject matter. It always seemed to attract the “wrong crowd”, to bring together the worst kind of people. This is utterly and entirely false. Chuck Schuldiner Metal, especially death metal is just a subgenre of music that some people enjoy. There is nothing wrong with liking such heavy elements; it is merely a personal taste in music. In the 90s, when grunge, rock and metal dominated the scene with Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails, metal was thriving. It was always an existing genre in the music world, but really gained popularity in the 90’s. DEATH became active in the 1984, but started blowing up in the 90’s.

Charles Michael Schuldiner was born on May 13th 1967. He was raised in Florida, alongside his older brother and sister. When Schuldiner was 9 years old, his older brother sadly had passed away. Losing people in life is always hard to deal with, but it becomes especially difficult when death occurs so suddenly and early in one’s life. This is exactly what had happened with Chuck; he met tragedy early, and learned how to deal with it through music. Schuldiner has created two amazing bands: DEATH (earlier known as Mantas) and Control Denied. Chuck made five albums with DEATH, and just one with Control Denied. He has made many friends, and connections, and left so much inspiration and talent behind for future generations to explore and become motivated to keep the metal alive. Schuldiner kept going until his last days were upon him; he never threw in the towel, never admitted defeat and certainly never let anyone take him down.

“There are no limits, you are only limited by however far you want to be limited.”

Chuck was so humble; he never put himself up on a pedestal for the music he created. A lot of people credit Chuck for starting the death metal genre, thus bestowing the status of “the Godfather of Death Metal” onto him. When asked about this large title, Schuldiner nervously chuckles and replies with “Well, it’s definitely flattering, but I really can’t have considered myself to have started [death metal]. I think bands like Venom… in my opinion…were the first. But I think maybe I’ve kept it going, you know, to what death metal is today… and I guess I picked up where they left off… and I’m still in there, luckily”. Chuck is the very definition of humility; rather than taking all the praise have feeding it to his ego, Chuck steps back and cites the bands before him, and cites himself as the mere messenger rather than a God himself.

Chuck went into the doctor’s one day for what he thought was a pinched nerve. It turned out to be a brain tumor; Schuldiner was tragically diagnosed with brain cancer on his 32nd birthday. Chuck underwent radiation therapy in October, and surgery in January of the following year. Rather than letting his entire world fall apart, Chuck persevered and continued to do what he loved to do: create music. The metal community eventually found out about Chuck’s condition, and immediately started multiple fundraisers and charity concerts to help Schuldiner and his family get through the very expensive medical bills that were coming in. In total, the money raised amounted to 70 000 US dollars—just enough money to keep the bills paid. Two years later, Chuck’s cancer returned. Artists and fans again leapt to help raise money to cover the medical costs. Artists started auctioning off their personal belongings, and people donated money in hopes of helping to cover the costs of the treatments. Chuck began the chemotherapy process again, but was also taking additional medicine that lowered his immune system. On December 13th, 2001, the Godfather of Death Metal took his last breath and sadly passed away at the age of 34.

Chuck was such an inspiration to so many people: guitar players, musicians, metal bands, and people looked up to this man. Countless bands and artists cite DEATH as being one of their main inspirations to even becoming a band. Many friendships are created by conversations that started with DEATH. Chuck and DEATH revolutionized metal, and took the step that Slayer and Venom were inching toward. This inspiration eventually led to the “DEATH To All” tours. These tours are set up by members of the previous DEATH lineups would get back together, and have another person performing the lead guitar and vocals (this is what Chuck would perform). This band would tour across countries, performing DEATH songs, and honoring Chuck and his legacy, keeping his memory alive for others to enjoy.

Other than producing earth-shattering death metal, one of the most said things about Chuck was how positive his was. During interviews, he was so polite, so friendly, and just such a nice person both to work with, and even just to know. There were times were Chuck would be performing, and the crowd would be too rambunctious, or people would just be so blatantly rude, and Chuck handled them so politely. He was very patient, and truly an inspiration not only the death metal community, but to any aspiring artists who feel as though the cards are stacked against them. Chuck put his nose to the grindstone when the going got tough, retracted back into what he knew, and came back with 110%. Chuck knew exactly what it took to be a successful musician, and did not stop until he became what he had dreamed.

Chuck Schuldiner was such a kind, humble and inspirational man who left Earth far too soon. He carved the way for death metal, and inspired many along the way. The cancer is his life showed that the metal community is just a bunch of people who always help others in need; thousands of people donated and went to the charity shows to help out Chuck in his time of need, not once but twice over. Chuck showed that fans of death metal are not heartless people, but rather the strict opposite.

Author Bio: Leann Jeethan

Leann Jeethan is a recent English Literature graduate from Southern Ontario. She is a lover of all literature, and adores authors like Anthony Burguess, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. She spends most of her free time reading, writing and catching up on The Walking Dead.

Works Cited:

  • Archive-Rob-Mancini. “Death Frontman Chuck Schuldiner Dies.” MTV News. 18 Dec. 2001.      Web. 21 Aug. 2017.
  • “Chuck Schuldiner” Chuck Schuldiner – Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives. Web. 21  Aug. 2017.
  • “Death in the Studio Recording “Individual Thought Patterns” – 1993” YouTube. Socialgarbage2, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 Aug. 2017.
  • “History of Chuck Schuldiner” Headbanger Heaven. 22 Dec. 1970. Web. 21 Aug. 2017.
  • Torreano, Bradley. “Chuck Schuldiner | Biography & History” AllMusic. Web. 21 Aug. 2017.