Missing Out On Death

Death Mexico 06-89
A Sniper [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Death (the band) was one of those bands that I somehow missed at the time, discovered over a decade later, and have loved ever since. There have been far too many bands like that. When people give me crap for not listening to much new music, I have to point out that I am making up for lost time by enjoying bands that I missed. The music may be old, but some of it is still rather new to me.

I recently caught Death by Metal (2016), a great documentary about Death and frontman Chuck Schuldiner. I found myself in agreement that one of the coolest things about him was how he refused to be constrained by others' expectations and was willing to explore new directions. Some of the later albums seem like progressive death metal, and I'm not sure that existed previously. Needless to say, the film inspired me to find Leprosy, Human, and the rest.

Given that I was a metalhead during most of the period Death was active, how did I miss them? I think missed their first album, Scream Bloody Gore, because I was still fairly new to the metal scene when it was released in 1987 and was mostly focused on the thrash metal coming out Los Angeles or San Francisco. It would have been difficult for anyone to compete with Slayer, Metallica, Testament, and Death Angel for my attention around that time. I'm not sure how I managed to miss Leprosy in 1988, but I don't think it was on any of my friends' radar. By this point, the friend who was most responsible for informing me of new metal bands had been getting into hardcore. Since there were only a few of those bands that I liked, I hadn't been listening to him as much when he recommended bands.

It is easy to understand why I missed the next several albums. I moved away for college, got into what was being called the Seattle grunge scene, and lived with people who were not fans of death metal and objected whenever I'd play it. Sad to say, it would take a Beavis & Butt-head episode in 1994 to remind me of Death. And what was even sadder, I don't remember being all that impressed. I was familiar with other death metal bands by this point, and I didn't know enough about Death to appreciate their place in the history of the genre. They didn't sound distinct enough to get my attention at the time.

I briefly rediscovered Death in the late 1990s when a friend lent me Individual Thought Patterns. As much as I liked it, I wasn't buying many albums at this time because it never seemed like I had time to listen to any of them. I do remember thinking at the time that this was a band I wanted to hear more of, but it would take another decade for that to happen.

In the late 2000s, I picked up a compilation album that had a cover of a Judas Priest song by Death on it. While it wasn't a great cover or anything, it reminded me of the band and prompted me to pick up Human, Individual Thought Patterns, and Leprosy. I really like all of them, and now that I am thinking about Death again, I need to complete my collection and get the rest of their albums. It is strange to think that I could have been enjoying their music for all these years had I not repeatedly missed them. Fortunately, it is not too late to do so now.