FILM REVIEW | DEATH BY METAL
photo by nacrowe
fans often have a misconception that bands are democracies.
perhaps this has to do with the very nature of being a fan, which entails the capacity to project yourself and your feelings, fears and aspirations onto an external entity like an artist, band, politician or even a sports team. the payoff for this projection is the reciprocal confirmation of whatever narrative we like to tell and delude ourselves with. in this manner being a fan is very much about you the audience and not the artist.
so when you learnt that bands have less than savory internal dynamics where power, creative control and finances are not co-equal, for some this is a hurdle. an autocracy like SMASHING PUMPKINS with the pumpkin king BILLY CORGAN is hard to stomach given the open ethos and message of exclusivity of his music. its easier to come to terms with the fact that NINE INCH NAILS is the front group of auteur TRENT REZNOR in my mind because of the singular misanthropic nature of his lyrics and sonic palette.
enter DEATH METAL and the legendary namesake band for the genre DEATH. a recent documentary DEATH BY METAL (MENTAL PICTURES, 2016) delves into the life and legacy of frontman/songwriter/guitar virtuoso CHUCK SCHULDINER and his pioneering sound which further refined THRASH METAL into a whole world of technicality and brutality.
through 7 albums over an 11 year span he did not repeat the same recording lineup twice. keep in mind that all these albums absolutely slayed which is testament to his vision, passion and technical abilities. it also gets into the nature of megalomania and the challenges of maintaining a singular focus. there are lots of bands that function on a high level with a seemingly regular interchanging of musicians around one visionary artist, namely QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, BLACK SABBATH, MEGADETH, KING CRIMSON, THE MISFITS, ANTHRAX, and GUNS N' ROSES to name a few. with the exception of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, most of these groups have one lineup from which they derived their cult status and later permutations were meant to maintain some semblance of legacy stature on subsequent tour packages.
not the case with DEATH. if anything their music became more progressive and technically demanding as the "band" continued onward. people have several arguments for which lineup was the definitive "classic" permutation of the band, which to me is amazing. this documentary really gets into gritty details of how SCHULDINER pulled off this streak and how his singular focus was both an inspiration to his former band-mates and the bane of their existence while in the eye of the storm.
highly recommended this documentary and for the record, personally i'd put SCHULDINER on the REZNOR end of the cultural spectrum as CORGAN has been exposed as a joke and a fraud in recent years. definitely dont want to confuse that issue.