Considering Black Sabbath released their first record in 1970, it’s strange to think no metal band considered calling themselves Death until Chuck Schuldiner did so in 1984. Sure, there was Grim Reaper in 1979 and the rock band Death in ’71, but naming his band Death is one of the many genius ideas Chuck Schuldiner came up with.
According to Chuck’s loved ones, the name Death was inspired by his older brother Frank, who died at age 16, when Chuck was just 9 years old. ”I always thought that the name of the band derived from the death of his brother,” said his mother, Jane. “And while the word had such painful memories, I did not object.”
Schuldiner’s Control Denied bandmate Tim Aymar later solidified the theory, recalling a day when Chuck took care of him after experiencing the death of his own brother. “Chuck got me to the airport, and explained the story of his brother Frank, and why he named his band Death in order to turn such a horrible, negative feeling into something positive.”
But why are metal bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Slayer and Macabre so obsessed with death? First, ask your mom why she watches so many trashy murder shows at 11 in the morning, or ask your local TV station why their ratings spike when covering violent crime, or ask why The Devil in the White City spent over seven years on the New York Times Bestseller list. We, as a species, are inherently fascinated with darkness, and as much as we like to pretend, we have not evolved past the gladiator days of ancient Rome.
One of the best examples of correlating the brutality of human history with modern-day extreme metal was actually given to us by the History Channel, and they used a song by Suffocation to do it. Near-death experiences have also inspired some of metal’s best bands. Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” was famously written about Nikki Sixx flatlining in the back of an ambulance, Overkill’s Bobby Blitz wrote “Another Day to Die” after being told he had just six months to live, and Goatwhore’s whole career has been influenced by a near-death experience.
Want to know the truth about death in metal? Watch the video below for everything you need to know!
The Truth About Death in Metal
Best Death Metal Album of Each Year Since 1985