Depending on who you talk to, Chuck Schuldiner was a visionary, a perfectionist or a short fused volatile, creative being. A common ground appraisal is that the late legend of DEATH, previously known as MANTAS, and CONTROL DENIED changed death metal forever by having the stones to fuse progressive and power metal into a style dictated by brutality.
"Death by Metal" is a remembrance documentary where DEATH fans will gain a better insight into Chuck Schuldiner's ascension to metal fame, and the brain tumor which took his life.
Even today, it's fascinating to hear Schuldiner's audile expedition from 1987's raucous "Scream Bloody Gore", widely recognized as one of the genre's first authentic death metal albums, to the revolutionary progressions fleshed out through "Spiritual Healing", "Human" and "Individual Thought Patterns" to CONTROL DENIED's "The Fragile Art of Existence". A technical surgeon on guitar, and wielding one of the genre's most recognizable growls, it came as a shock to many that Chuck Schuldiner could actually sing as cleanly as he shredded with CONTROL DENIED. A shame, since his mission was hardly over at the time of his demise.
The metal community lies in wait as to whether or not the unfinished second CONTROL DENIED album, "When Man and Machine Collide", will ever see completion and release. Meanwhile, Canadian filmmaker Felipe Belalcazar releases his tribute to Schuldiner, "Death By Metal", one that feels incomplete despite the appearances of the core faces of DEATH and CONTROL DENIED, along with Chuck's family, Jim Morris of Morrisound Studios and scene journalists.
"Death By Metal" is relayed through the mouths of Schuldiner's past associates like Steve DiGiorgio, Gene Hoglan, Rick Rozz, Shannon Hamm, Richard Christy, Chris Reifert, Terry Butler, Sean Reinert and Bobby Koelble. They thread their stories sharing both fondness and hardship. Chuck Schuldiner may have played at genius level, but he ate through musicians in similar fashion as Yngwie Malmsteen, 26 total appearing in DEATH, including three touring hires.
That being said, there's a less romantic anecdote to Schuldiner's personality which may or may not catch some viewers off guard. The documentary recalls an infamous feud with DARK ANGEL over who deserved the headlining slot when the bands were co-billed together. Ultimately, DEATH dropped off the tour, just as Chuck Schuldiner dropped personnel, as Rick Rozz attests. Bobby Koelble recollects his own ejection, accompanied by Schuldiner's nutty dismissal, "You're conjuring a dick!" Then there's Chuck's infamous tirade against Relativity Records for marketing "Individual Thought Patterns" with other death metal offerings of its time.
For a guy portrayed in this movie in both a positive and sometimes negative light, Chuck Schuldiner had no qualms wearing a shirt splayed with cats during a segment on "Headbangers Ball". Schuldiner hardly seemed fazed by Beavis and Butthead's roasting of DEATH's "The Philosopher" video. His message, cast vividly in "Death By Metal", is that he hardly subscribed to typicality in sound and in dress, even if that meant reverting to mid-'80s power rock on the album "Symbolic".
Fans would do well to keep digging beyond what's presented on "Death By Metal", but the general picture is illustrated just enough, complete with preserved live footage worthy of their invested time.