Death, Vivus!

Jon Wiederhorn

By Jon Wiederhorn

on 02.28.12 in Reviews
Seminal death metal band’s live epitaphs

Having just released what would be their last and most progressive album, 1998′s The Sound of Perseverance, seminal death metal band, Death, launched their final tour. Two of the shows were recorded and, in 2001, released on separate CDs to raise money for frontman Chuck Schuldiner’s brain tumor operation. Tragically, the guitarist and vocalist died from the disease in December of that year at 34. Vivus! features both albums, Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) and Live in Eindhoven ’98. The sets are almost identical, and while the mix for the LA club show is crisper and Schuldiner more conversant with the crowd, together they demonstrate that whether playing an intimate venue or an outdoor stadium, Death took no prisoners, combining virtuosity, ferocity and enthusiasm in equal measure. Since Schuldiner was dedicated to playing complex guitar music at that point, the only songs from the band’s first two bludgeoning, groundbreaking releases (1987′s Scream Bloody Gore and 1988′s Leprosy) are “Zombie Ritual” and “Pull the Plug” respectively. The remaining tracks are from the band’s four rhythmically challenging post-1991 discs. The musicianship throughout is capably handled by Schuldiner, guitarist Shannon Hamm, bassist Scott Clendenin and drummer (and Howard Stern sidekick) Richard Christy (Charred Walls of the Damned), all of whom followed Schuldiner into his power-prog project Control Denied. In retrospect, the discs should have offered a wider variety of songs, but, of course, when they were taped no one knew they would stand as Death’s live epitaphs.