Death was one of the pioneering extreme metal bands, and one of the best in the genre by far. Every album they made was a distinct progression from the last, and they only got better and better. This, their final album, was the culmination of Chuck Schuldiner’s creative genius, and perhaps the finest of their catalogue.
“The Sound of Perseverance” is progressive metal done right. The songs are complex, unpredictable, and always interesting, but the “progginess” never detracts from the “metalness” (Dream Theater should have taken some lessons from these guys when they tried to make a “classic metal” album with “Train of Thought”). The guitar riffs are brutal and uncompromising, but very sophisticated. And they strike a perfect balance between the driving metal riffs and insane complexity. It’s not like Dillinger Escape Plan or Theory in Practice, where the riff changes every two seconds, and you can barely follow what’s going on (not that there’s anything wrong with that . Chuck Schuldiner and Shannon Hamm are a brilliant guitar duo. Both have incredible chops, and they know exactly what to do with them. And, their playing is very melodic as well as heavy. This is a very heavy album, but it’s also a very melodic album. Oh, and the drumming. Richard Christy’s drumming on this album is fast, stylish, relentless, and just plain awesome. People keep comparing him to Gene Hoglan, as Rich was his successor, but they have very different styles, and have both contributed something really amazing to Death’s sound, just in different ways. So, I think it’s best not to compare them too much. I’ll just say that anyone filling Gene’s shoes has their work cut out for them, but Rich did a damn fine job.
Describing these songs is pretty hard, as they’re all pretty unpredictable from beginning to end, but I’ll give it a shot. The opening track, “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” is a powerful opener, starting with a thunderous drum roll, and leading you through pulverizing riffs and incredible time changes. “Bite the Pain” starts with a very melodic riff, but soon builds into insanity, with some cool proggy basslines. “Spirit Crusher” is sort of like Judas Priest meets jazz metal (Christy shines on this one). “Story to Tell” and “Flesh and the Power It Holds” are epic progressive metal, full of dynamics, and some really amazing guitar playing (the latter being my favorite of the album). “Voice of the Soul” is a brief respite from the metal attack. This is a beautiful instrumental, with acoustic and electric guitar melodies swirling about each other in dazzling patterns. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is the cover of Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”, which is played to perfection (who knew Chuck could wail like that???). Richard Christy really adds a lot of coolness to the drumming on this one (and the drumming was pretty awesome already). Really cool and fun way to end the album.
This is simply one of the best metal albums you can expect to hear. It has everything you need: heaviness, melody, chops, diversity, even the lyrics are great. It may take a few listens to sink in, as the songs seem a bit random and disjointed at first, but once you’ve given it a few listens, everything comes together nicely. I’d recommend buying “Human” or “Symbolic” first though, if you’re new to Death’s music, but once you’ve gotten those, get this. Also, if you’re looking to get into more challenging technical metal bands (like the ones I mentioned above), this album is a good stepping stone to ease you into it (Theory in Practice will scare you senseless if you’re not ready for them ).
It’s such a shame what happened to Chuck. He was one of the most talented musicians metal has ever seen, and I can only imagine where they might have gone from here.