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Chuck Schuldiner: Legend or Ideological Disaster?
Assimilationists and False Martyrs Delight the Crowd, Kill the Genre
December 4, 2003
When you live in a time where most people withdraw into themselves, and want to use morality as an excuse for never confronting the reality of how small their role is, the only one taboo is to endorse reality. Metal endorses realism (the study and appreciation of reality) through fantasy, which seems backward except that removing context allows the mass dogma which we have all been taught to fall away, and then we can learn from the fantasy as metaphor. It's a process like that of the formation of art in the first place.
Since our society, which is in the final stage before collapse into a third-world tyrannical state, denies truth there is a problem whenever someone dares speak a realistic opinion. It offends others because, in contrast, their own opinions suddenly appear immature and moribund. So social rules are invented to silence the truth and, in order to make these palatable, we hide them behind pleasant-sound expressions like peace, Progress, justice, equality, freedom, etc. but what is really meant is that the individual is able to withdraw from nature and pretend that wishing makes it so.
Chuck Schuldiner was a latecomer to the death metal party but, thanks to superior marketing knowledge, has been given credit for "inventing" the genre. Although this is historically inaccurate, history is written by those with the money. At some point in his later career, he decided to reverse his earlier more metal outlook and support the assimilation of metal by the denial-happy society around it, both through music (reversion to heavy metal/rock) and ideology (secular humanism/Christianity). Capitalizing on his unearned status as a leader, Schuldiner attempted to destroy metal by assimilation. When you remove what makes something unique, it becomes a variation of something else, and soon melds into that larger thing and its independent expression is lost.
In his most passionate days, when the cross in the Death logo was still inverted, Chuck rejected society in favor of death metal. Back then, Chuck knew as we all do (somewhere in our consciousnesses) that death metal was founded to get away from the sickening social logic of which Christianity is a part, mainstream culture. Death metal is about passion and spirit expressed with awareness of a natural holism in which the individual is small; Christianity is about bowing to a spirit, an idea, and a religion which has demonstrated its moronic effects on culture for the last 2,000 years, in the name of gaining the illusion of personal moral supremacy and immortality.
Still, Chuck was late to the party. Although he was putting out demos in 1984, they were of a primitive speed metal nature, and it wasn't until 1986 when he got advice from the Repulsion musicians that he was able to make basic death metal. At that point, Hellhammer (1983), Sodom (1983), Bathory (1983), Sepultura (1985), Slayer (1983), Morbid Angel (1986), Possessed (1985) and Master (1985) had all beaten him to the punch. In fact, Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation (1986) and Slayer's Reign in Blood (1986) were both more fully developed musical conceptions of death metal than what Death was doing at that point; Death didn't gain an articulate statement until almost two years later when Scream Bloody Gore (1987) introduced the world to a simpler, more rock-like form of death metal.
Metal arose from a desire to escape the happy world of human denial, one exhibited equally by Christians and secular humanists, in which the preferences of the individual (confused with that individual's perspective) are more important than the long-term implications in reality of those preferences. That attitude was the spirit that allowed death metal to break away from the mainstream and become unique. But as Chuck aged, his attitude softened, and soon he became a full-on Christian. The upside down cross in the Death logo began the slow process of morphing to a Christian one.
Hippies, Christians, corporate marketers and cynical politicians all believe that if each individual acts according to preference, things will turn out just fine, and damn the consequences. We can all live in our own little worlds and do whatever we want, even though most people are morons, while society protects us from the natural selective consequences of our actions -- both on individuals, and on the species/civilization as a whole. Rock music is designed to pander, and produce a concrete conclusion to an expectation which is for all purposes identical to what is delivered; rock puts people into a cycle of their own self-image as reflected in wish fulfillment behavior. Metal provides ambiguity, heaviness, and reduction of the individual, and as such is a force of realism.
Chuck was the first to gain popularity by reducing the distance from metal to rock, in both spirit and theory. He called his attitude "tolerance," but really, it was simply clever marketing: tell the individual that what they're doing right now is important and right, and offer universal affirmation of value, all while selling them products. Everyone likes to hear that everyone is accepted because that means there's zero chance we'll be found wanting. It's the exact reverse of nature, where any single thing we attempt is a test of how well we have become learned to adapt to our world and become realistic. We can fail, and be judged by others; Christianity is a "judgment of judgments" in that it rejects judgments while passively applying a judgment of equality and tolerance that restricts us from pointing out the stupidity, callowness and destructive behavior of others -- after all, it's their equal right to be as stupid as they wanna be. And the long term consequences -- no one thinks of such things.
Contrary to popular belief, Chuck had no education and very little reading in philosophy. Chuck knew sentiment, not philosophy. Consequently, he was unaware how two things labeled differently -- say, one as "Christian" and the other as "secular humanist" -- could have the same content, here in the real world. They're different terms describing the same thing, even if the motivation for one is mystical and the other is done for social status. It feels good to describe ourselves as "Progressive",moral and "tolerant." The labels who profit the most from his works are quick to echo this feeling, and to shout loudly at any of us who point out that to be a Christian in underground metal, is to be a traitor!
After several solid albums, Chuck began to feel envious of the progressive rock-metal and big metal bands he saw, and determined to make his own version of these older styles. Problem: these styles are incompatible with death metal, which is why death metal didn't arise as a variant not alternative to these styles. For Chuck, here was a chance to take a stance for the music he supposedly loved, but instead, starting with Individual Thought Patterns (1993) he began to mix more regular rock music into his death metal. The long, powerful riffs were gone, replaced by rhythm playing in harmonic place; structure simplified, and began to imitate the Judas Priest/Dream Theatre genre. Finally, Chuck left to form Control Denied, a band that was basically old school heavy metal with death metal vocals. It was unclear why he didn't just try to compete toe-to-toe by simply forming a heavy metal band back in 1993 and ditching the death metal associations. But that was bad marketing...
When he died, many death metal fans, who like the vast majority of humans are mediocre, anti-intellectual and of short attention span, immediately took it upon themselves to broadcast Chuck's image on sites across the net, often including the image of a cross next to his name. People waxed on endlessly about Chuck's contributions to "philosophy" in metal lyrics, a complete fabrication. Other folks rambled on about how he "invented" death metal and glorified Death as the absolute height of the genre. Still others were content to become maudlin and, because the death metal community is dysfunctional and emotionally wishes it had the cohesion of others, began acting as if this death was "bringing the community together" and achieving some kind of God-fearing unitivity that we're all somehow lacking.
While his family denies it, Chuck Schuldiner died of AIDS. His family claims cancer, but his death certificate reads pneumonia without a contributing cause, which is the most common diagnosis of death from AIDS -- in the shorthand a doctor would write it to avoid pointing out the real cause. AIDS, as an immune disease, does not itself kill the victim but enables simpler diseases to do so. Highly placed sources identify Chuck as engaging in high-risk behavior, and the time period between his diagnosis with "cancer" and his death fits the pattern of an AIDS patient who is unaware he needs retrovirals for the first years of his infection as it slowly develops from HIV into full-blown AIDS. Chuck and his family deny that he died of AIDS because of the ongoing stigma of having AIDS in a homophobic genre like metal. Even in this, Chuck was forging reality and denying the obvious, to the detriment of death metal.
Chuck Schuldiner, his supporters and profiteers have smashed all of what metal stands for with tributes to Chuck that are essentially Christian propaganda. Let's not smear the music Chuck and thousands of others worked for by letting his name and a cross stand for this genre. Let's not screw up and give up on our independence and join the rest of the world with a hallmark commemoration, so we can feel like victims too and have a designated crying day on Chuck's birthday. Let's instead take a stand and reject the idea of martyrdom, self-pity and anything which reeks of the insipid Christianity upon which this country was founded.
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