It seems absurdly academic for an absolute nobody such as myself to spew out posthumous critique of the legend that is Chuck Schuldiner’s body of work, but the fine folks at Relapse have given me the opportunity to talk about a Death record in 2014, so I’m jumping all over that shit. You see, I didn’t get a chance to review Leprosy when it was originally released in 1988. I was only 9, and my discovery of Death Metal was still 5 years away (although, I was heavily into Roy Orbison back then, which I’m pretty sure qualifies as Blackened Doom). Besides, Ray wasn’t even doing Metal Curse yet. At that time, he was still frantically trying to get his memoirs about being a roadie for Beethoven published, but couldn’t get any of the majors to bite. Ironically enough, I’m still pretty much at a Fourth Grade-level of writing, so this will be somewhat authentic to the period.
I wish I could say that Leprosy was my first Death Metal album, but I can’t. It wasn’t even my first Death album. I stole Individual Thought Patterns from a Musicland when I was 14, and the rest, as they say, is history. I can’t honestly say it’s my favorite Death LP, either, although I wholeheartedly understand why so many lifers do pick Death’s sophomore outing as tops. It has “Pull the Plug.” Arguably Death’s greatest song, and inarguably one of the greatest songs of all time. However, I like to point out that on my all-time fave, Scream Bloody Gore, every song is a “Pull the Plug.” But that timeless anthem certainly isn’t all Leprosy has going for it. “Left to Die” and “Open Casket” were bona fide “hits,” and the opening 1-2 punch of the title track and “Born Dead” is pretty tough to beat. It just isn’t a perfect LP. No Death Metal band has ever closed their set with a cover of “Forgotten Past,” and I’ve always found the closing tandem of “Primitive Ways” and “Choke on It” slightly less awesome by Death standards. Still, Leprosy is far better than Spiritual Healing —the band’s most unmemorable moment in my opinion— and I probably like it more than Human, but given my unashamed worship of the final three Death albums, it lands at the #5 spot for yours truly. Not like it even matters. You should own all of them or you really ought to fucking kill yourself.
As for this reissue, the bonus material is well-appreciated, but —even for the most diehard fans— perhaps a bit much. If you get the standard 2CD version, you get 10 rehearsal tracks from 1987 (which sound pretty bad). If you get the 3CD deluxe, you also get 15 live tracks from 1988 (better sound and good for at least one spin). Then if you go Bandcamp/iTunes, you get 3 more live cuts. Geez! I love Death as much as anyone, but don’t know if I’ll ever have the time and/or desire to sit around for 3 hours listening to 5 different versions of “Open Casket.” The LP version will always do perfectly by itself. Out of respect for the immortal Evil Chuck, the excess/poor quality of the bonus tracks does not reflect on the rating.
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I’m so old that my first Death album actually was Scream Bloody Gore, on cassette…
Koji Kabuto said:
My first Death album was Spiritual Healing.
Leprosy was my first Death and is still my all time favorite. I’ve got to get this reissue! Fucking bullshit that there are iTunes bonus tracks! Fuck iTunes and fuck Apple!!
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