Written by Eric Rasmussen on October 31, 2013.
Death’s final studio album is one of the all time metal classics. On The Sound of Perseverance, Death took their brand of technical progressive thrash death metal to the next level. This is death metal evolved.
Most tracks open with sparse instrumentation. Deep bass lines, drum solos, lead guitar melodies, welcoming you to a new soundscape before the rest of the band appears. Before the thick guitar and bass riffs take over, the drums pound relentlessly, the scratchy vocals and lyrics invade your consciousness. Soon all of the instruments are building and pushing and driving to create an oppressive atmosphere, making it harder to breathe, harder to think, a deadly wall of sound compelling and propelling you deeper into their vision.
Just when you can’t take any more, it stops. A heroic melody swoops in to the rescue, letting you soar through the world they’ve created. Soon you’re surrounded by glitchy high-speed guitar solos, unexpected drum fills played with impossible accuracy, bass and rhythm guitars carrying you further and further inward until there’s nothing left but you and the music. But you have only a moment to reflect before another chaotic shift in tempo leaves you stranded in the fray, the frenzy of chugging riffs and blast beat drums.
Usually when we talk about progressive metal we mean metal with classically influenced melodies and harmonies, sweep picking and scales, and the many other ways skilled musicians have learned to show off their skills. You won’t get that here. You’ll get the sound of a band that evolved naturally, forever in debt to the heavy metal and thrash that preceded it, but carving ahead well into uncharted territory.
Death’s magic is making you a part of their journey. It’s tragic that they never got the attention they deserved1, and far more so that lead guitarist/songwriter Chuck Schuldiner passed away at 34. If you missed out on The Sound of Perseverance for any reason before, now’s the time to get it. This metal is just as relevant today as it was in 1998.
1. According to the WikiPedia entry, The Sound of Perseverance originally saw about 34,000 copies sold in the US, vs. hundreds of thousands of record sales for popular Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and Morbid Angel albums.