Chuck Schuldiner

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Chuck Schuldiner
Schuldiner circa 1992
Schuldiner circa 1992
Background information
Birth nameCharles Michael Schuldiner
Also known as
  • The Godfather of death metal
  • Evil Chuck (early career)
Born(1967-05-13)May 13, 1967
Long Island, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 2001(2001-12-13) (aged 34)
Altamonte Springs, Florida, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
Years active1983–2001
Formerly of

Charles Michael Schuldiner (May 13, 1967 – December 13, 2001) was an American musician. He founded the pioneering death metal band Death in 1983, in which he was the lead vocalist, guitarist, primary songwriter and only continuous member until his death in 2001. His obituary in the January 5, 2002, issue of Kerrang! described him as "one of the most significant figures in the history of metal."[1] Schuldiner was ranked No. 10 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists in 2009 and No. 20 in March 2004 Guitar World's "The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists".[2] In 1987, Schuldiner founded the publishing company Mutilation Music, affiliated with performance rights organization BMI. Schuldiner died in 2001 of a brain tumor.[3]

Schuldiner is often referred to as "The Godfather of death metal",[4][5][6] though he was not fond of the nickname,[7] remarking that "I don't think I should take the credits for this death metal stuff. I'm just a guy from a band, and I think Death is a metal band."[5]


Early life[edit]

Charles Michael Schuldiner[8] was born on May 13, 1967, on Long Island, New York. His father Mal Schuldiner was Jewish and the son of Austrian immigrants, and his mother Jane Schuldiner was from the American South and had converted to Judaism.[9] In 1968, his family moved to Florida. He started playing guitar at the age of nine.[10]

Schuldiner was originally inspired by Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Kiss and classical jazz, among others. He was particularly interested in the metal movement known as NWOBHM – New Wave of British Heavy Metal – and cited bands of that genre among his favorites. He frequently cited French band Sortilège as his personal favorite metal group. Slayer, Celtic Frost, Possessed, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond and Metallica were later influences he would apply more to his own songwriting. Later in his career, Schuldiner frequently cited progressive metal bands such as Watchtower, Coroner and Queensrÿche as influences.[citation needed] The official Schuldiner website, Empty Words, quotes Schuldiner's mother making the claim that he enjoyed all forms of music except country and rap.[11]

Schuldiner performed well in school before becoming bored with education and eventually dropping out. He later regretted this decision. He has stated that if he had not become a musician, he would have liked to have become a veterinarian or a cook.[12]


Taking inspiration from Nasty Savage,[13] Schuldiner formed Mantas (which he later renamed Death) in 1983 when he was 16 years old. He played guitar in the band, while Rick Rozz was on guitar and Kam Lee played the drums and performed the vocals. In January 1986, Schuldiner moved to Toronto and temporarily joined the Canadian band Slaughter.[14] However, he quickly returned to continue the formation of Death.

Death underwent many lineup changes. With Chris Reifert, Schuldiner eventually released the first Death album, titled Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. He continued with 1988's Leprosy with the line-up of former Mantas guitarist Rick Rozz and rhythm section Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums, and 1990's Spiritual Healing, where guitarist James Murphy had replaced the fired[citation needed] Rozz in 1989.

Schuldiner in 1989

After Spiritual Healing, Schuldiner stopped working with full-time band members, preferring to work with studio and live venue musicians, due to bad relationships with Death's previous rhythm section and guitarists. This earned Schuldiner something of a 'perfectionist' reputation in the metal community. Schuldiner had also fired his manager Eric Greif but settled and re-hired him before the recording of his next, influential release.[15][16]

Death's breakthrough album, Human saw the band evolving to a more technical and progressive style, in which Schuldiner displayed his guitar skills more than ever. He continued in this style (and continued the success of the band) with 1993's Individual Thought Patterns, 1995's Symbolic. He announced the following year that he had broken up Death and would focus on his new progressive metal band, Control Denied.[17]

Schuldiner also played guitar in the supergroup Voodoocult on the album Jesus Killing Machine in 1994 and played a guest solo on Naphobia's 1995 release, Of Hell on the track "As Ancients Evolve" as a favor to the band's bassist at the time who was a friend of Schuldiner's.[18] Schuldiner played lead guitar on a tribute track to Randy Rhoads called Hardly A Day Goes By with his Control Denied bandmates Chris Williams on drums, and Scott Clendenin on bass, as well as Craig Sease on vocals.[19]

He secured a record deal with Nuclear Blast in 1997, but the label required that he release another Death album before Control Denied. As a result, The Sound of Perseverance was released in 1998, followed by the Control Denied album The Fragile Art of Existence the next year.[20] Control Denied also had other players from the latest Death album but featured Tim Aymar, a melodic metal vocalist. In a 1999 interview, Schuldiner spoke about why he didn't sing on the Control Denied album The Fragile Art of Existence "...these vocals are all I ever wanted to do in Death but couldn't. I've had this dream of recording like that for years, and it seems like a dream come true. Tim Aymar is an amazing singer and this is the main difference. I think people will be surprised at the violence and strength of the album. Many people are expecting something like Iron Maiden, but, despite being one of my favorite bands, I didn't want to make an Iron Maiden-like album. I wanted to make an unpredictable album, just like I did in Death, I guess. I don't like to make predictable albums."[5]

Schuldiner was also asked to be one of the many guest vocalists on Dave Grohl's 2001 Probot. Grohl, Napalm Death, Ozzy Osbourne, and Anthrax all increased efforts to raise funds for Schuldiner's medical bills.[21]

Illness and death[edit]

Schuldiner had experienced "extreme neck pain" in 1999[22] and was diagnosed with pontine glioma that May, on his 32nd birthday. He had surgery in New York City in January 2000, which successfully removed the tumor.[23] He continued his work with Control Denied. In May 2001, it was announced that Schuldiner's cancer had reappeared.[24] He was at first unable to afford the surgery that he needed immediately. A press release called for support from everyone, including fellow artists. Jane Schuldiner urged all who read the statements about Schuldiner and his illness to go out and get insurance, stating her frustration in the American healthcare system. Schuldiner had taken out medical insurance after his first surgery, but the insurer had refused to pay because the cancer pre-dated insurance being taken out. Many artists, including Kid Rock, Korn and Red Hot Chili Peppers, got together during the summer of 2001 to auction off personal items, with the funds assisting Schuldiner's medical expenses, an effort covered by MTV.[25] The auction was poorly managed and only a small amount of money was received by the Schuldiners.[26] Matt Heafy, vocalist and guitarist for Trivium, has stated that at the age of 15 his band had played a benefit show for Schuldiner while he was in the hospital in their days as a local band.[27]

By December 2001, Tim Aymar stated that "Chuck is in very bad shape."[28] On December 13, 2001, Schuldiner died at the age of 34[29] and was cremated.[30]


With the assistance of Schuldiner's family, former manager Eric Greif handled his legacy as President of Perseverance Holdings Ltd. Schuldiner's mother Jane and sister Beth Schuldiner frequently interact with his fans and both have stated many times that they enjoy his music. Greif kept track of his recordings and handled Schuldiner's intellectual property. Beth Schuldiner has a son named Christopher Steele, who also plays guitar and has all of Schuldiner's guitars. BC Rich also released a statement in their 2008 catalog stating that Schuldiner's signature model Stealth will be available for purchase, and that endorsement is overseen by Steele.[citation needed]

A legal battle began from the time of Schuldiner's death on the settlement of the rights to the partially completed second Control Denied album, When Man and Machine Collide, which was recorded in 2000–2001.[31] Demos of these unreleased Control Denied songs, as well as early Death demos and live Death recordings from 1990, were released in the Zero Tolerance two-part compilation bootlegs by the Dutch Hammerheart Holdings company.[32] The matter was settled in November 2009.[33] There was a meeting held by guitarist Shannon Hamm and producer Jim Morris at Morrisound in 2012.[34] By 2016, former Death manager Eric Greif indicated that the album would not be completed.[35]

Tribute concerts have been coordinated or funded by Schuldiner's mother and family and various Death tribute groups internationally. Former CKY frontman, Deron Miller, who considers Schuldiner an idol of his, got the idea, while working on various projects with former Death guitarist (and pituitary tumor survivor) James Murphy, to do a tribute album.[citation needed] Murphy announced he would release a Chuck Schuldiner tribute album to commemorate his lasting mark on the metal community and Schuldiner's family publicly offered support for Murphy's effort, though it has never materialized. In December 2022, Murphy talked about the reasoning why the project was placed on hold.[36] Schuldiner's sister Beth confirmed via her YouTube channel that Death: Live in Japan, a behind the scenes Death video, as well as a potential boxset containing all of Schuldiner's works including some exclusive copies of handwritten notes by Schuldiner are in the works via Relapse Records.[37][better source needed] The Live in Japan release was cancelled as it was planned without the "knowledge" of Chuck's estate.[38] Schuldiner estate lawyer Eric Greif held a charity Chuck Schuldiner Birthday Bash in Calgary, Alberta, May 13, 2011, featuring speeches by Greif and former Death guitarist Paul Masvidal, as well as bands performing Schuldiner's music.[39]


In January 2001, Mahyar Dean, an Iranian metal guitarist/musician, wrote Death, a book about Death and Schuldiner's poems. The book includes bilingual lyrics and many articles about the band. The book was sent through the site keepers of to Schuldiner, who in his words was "truly blown away and honored by the obvious work and devotion he put into bringing the book to life".[40]


Schuldiner designed the Death logo and its various incarnations during the length of his career. In 1991, before the release of Human, he cleaned up the logo taking out more intricate details and the "T" in the logo was swapped from an inverted cross to a more regular looking "T", one reason being to quash any implication of religion.[41]

Schuldiner was also openly against hard drugs; he is quoted as saying, "I've tripped several times. That's all because I don't like the hard drugs. And my only drugs are alcohol and grass."[12]

Schuldiner was revered in the metal community for his talents but also his positive attitude towards fans and culture. Despite the grim nature of his band, Schuldiner has been quoted as saying he's "a lover of life ... friendship, and animals" and that "I would like to live forever if it were possible".[42]

Musical style[edit]

Schuldiner was mostly self-taught as a guitarist. In 1993, he expressed a disinterest in music theory: "I know enough about what I'm playing to memorize the scales and things, but I have no idea how you would label them. As long as I can play it, memorize it and apply it, I don't need to know what you call it."[43]

In the early days of Death, Schuldiner used a "deep, raspy" death growl vocal technique. He said in 1993 that "it takes a lot of energy and a lot of throat abuse to get through a show."[43] By 1999, he emphasized that he would retire Death if Control Denied "took off", stating that "I hate screaming. I just don't like it any more. it's very hard. ... I started playing guitar. I never intended on singing this way. I never did!."[44]


Schuldiner used a simple setup. For most of his career, his main guitar was a B.C. Rich Stealth fitted with a single DiMarzio X2N bridge pickup. For his amplification, Schuldiner used a Marshall Valvestate 8100 head played through a Marshall Valvestate VS412 cabinet. He used 10-46 gauge GHS Boomers strings, and Dunlop Tortex Standard .88mm picks. Schuldiner used very little effects except for a chorus effect during his solos.[45][46]


with Death[edit]

with Voodoocult[edit]

with Control Denied[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sympathies". Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  2. ^ "GUITAR WORLD's 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists Of All Time". Archived from the original on September 2, 2011.
  3. ^ Gotrich, Lars (December 12, 2011). "Heavy Metal Articles: Death Is Never Finished: Remembering Death Metal Pioneer Chuck Schuldiner". NPR. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  4. ^ allmusic ((( Death > Biography )))
  5. ^ a b c "Chuck Schuldiner – The pain of a genius". Metal Rules. August 22, 1999. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  6. ^ "The Best Of NAMM 2008: Jimmy Page, Satriani Models Among The Highlights". Ultimate Guitar. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  7. ^ "GENE HOGLAN Says CHUCK SCHULDINER Was 'Always Uncomfortable' With Being Called 'Godfather Of Death Metal'". April 12, 2018. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  8. ^ "The man who let the Metal flow". Rock Hard (in German). November 16, 2011. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  9. ^ Chuck Schuldiner Special, Voices from the Darkside Archived December 1, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, (retrieved October 22, 2011) – Chuck's folks are both Jewish, but Chuck's mother is of a Christian background.
  10. ^ "Jane Schuldiner: The Unpublished Interview". Guitar World. September 11, 2008. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  11. ^ "Perennial Questions". Empty Words. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  12. ^ a b "Deep Look Inside". February 22, 2003. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Arielle (October 22, 2009). "The way the music died: The earliest days of Tampa Death Metal". Tampa Bay Times. Times Publishing Company. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  14. ^ Krgin, Borivoj. Liner notes to Death's Scream Bloody Gore
  15. ^ Clymo, Rob (February 1992). "Keeping Death On The Road". Thrash 'n Burn. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  16. ^ "BAND-Precious Memories of Chuck Schuldiner by Perry M. Grayson". Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  17. ^ Kitts, Jeff (April 1996). "Fuzz Box". Guitar School. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  18. ^ "Altars of Metal Interviews Death". Altars of Metal. Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  19. ^ "CHUCK SCHULDINER - A Day Of Remembrance". Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. December 12, 2006. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  20. ^ "Empty Words - Bands". Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  21. ^ Chuck Schuldiner: Biography,[dead link], (retrieved February 18, 2011)
  22. ^ Angle, Brad (December 13, 2021). "After Death: Chuck Schuldiner's Life and Legacy". Revolver. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  23. ^ Scapelliti, Christopher (December 13, 2021). "How Chuck Schuldiner pioneered the sound of death metal and became its spiritual guide". Guitar World. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  24. ^ Everly, Dave (December 20, 2018). "Chuck Schuldiner: the blazing life and tragic death of the godfather of extremity". Metal Hammer. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  25. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (June 4, 2001). "Korn, Kid Rock, Slipknot Reach Out To Ailing Death Frontman". MTV. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  26. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (January 23, 2002). "Charity Auction For Death Frontman Turns Ugly". MTV. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  27. ^ "Trivium – Matt Heafy interview 2008 (1/2)". YouTube. July 22, 2011. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  28. ^ Smoklo, Damian (December 2001). "Tim Aymar On His Mettle". True Metal/Mettle. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  29. ^ "Death Frontman Chuck Schuldiner Dies". MTV. December 18, 2001. Archived from the original on October 7, 2010. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  30. ^ Eric Greif Interview – "Chuck Schuldiner" Part 3 of 6, DEATHinHD, (retrieved April 25, 2011)
  31. ^ "CHUCK SCHULDINER's Estate Involved In Legal Dispute With HAMMERHEART RECORDS". February 24, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  32. ^ Alex Henderson. "Zero Tolerance Review by Alex Henderson". AllMusic. Retrieved January 18, 2024.
  33. ^ "Interview parue également dans le Metallian 75 de janvier 2013 (en version éditée)". NoiseWeb. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  34. ^ "Work Begins On Long-Awaited Sophomore CONTROL DENIED Album". December 17, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  35. ^ Alix Vallecillo (October 10, 2016). "Death's manager Eric Grief (sic) shuts down possibility of releasing new Control Denied album". Metal Insider. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  36. ^ "Ex-DEATH Guitarist JAMES MURPHY Explains Why He Isn't Involved In DEATH TO ALL Project". January 6, 2024. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  37. ^ "Chuck/Death/Control Denied". YouTube. April 18, 2012. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  38. ^ "Updated: DEATH's 'Live In Japan' DVD Release Canceled". October 27, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  39. ^ Celebrating Death in style: Calgary’s metalheads remember the legend Chuck Schuldiner, The Calgary Herald[permanent dead link], (retrieved June 14, 2011)
  40. ^ "Voices from Iran". Empty Words. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  41. ^ Death, Alters of Metal Interviews Archived March 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, (accessed August 26, 2008)
  42. ^ Hartmann, Graham (December 13, 2022). "10 Unforgettable Chuck Schuldiner Moments". Loudwire. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  43. ^ a b Kitts, Jeff (September 1993). "Dead Again". Guitar School. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  44. ^ Jim Raggi (March 1999). "Chuck Schuldiner: guitar player first". Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  45. ^ Everitt, Brook (June 1999). "Guitar Corner: Death". PIT Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  46. ^ "Rig Diagram: Chuck Schuldiner, Death (1993)". August 31, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
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