Sunday, August 14, 2011

Death - "Trapped in a Corner" from the CD Individual Thought Patterns

Death Individual Thought Patterns CD coverChuck Schuldiner's dead. Been dead. I had no idea.

I'm not so sure whether the honorific that's tossed Schuldiner's way--"The Father of Death Metal"--is entirely accurate. I'm no expert but a quick look at Wikipedia confirms that both Carcass and Possessed released albums considered firmly in the death metal camp before Schuldiner's band put out their first LP in 1987.

But father or no, he was in there early. Think about it: his band was named Death. How early do you have to get into the death metal racket to ensure that the name "Death" hasn't already taken?

Death Leprosy CD coverSo father, maybe not, but pioneer: yes, absolutely. Back in my most thrashtastic days in the late '80's, I remember being aware of Death. I guess I'd seen Scream Bloody Gore or more likely Leprosy in the metal bins at the record stores. Anyway, I'd seen the logo and it's hard to forget it once you have. Even if you've not listened to the music.

A deep skepticism of the growling vocals* that my metalhead buddy Alan and I had developed kept me from listening to Schuldiner's band as it began. And my own estrangement from music for most of the '90's kept me from discovering them as they matured into tech death greatness.

Atheist Piece of Time CD coverIt was probably in 2007 when I stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for Atheist's Piece of Time and thence to the article on technical death metal. Having been into prog and fusion for basically my entire adult life, the terms in which Atheist specifically and tech death in general were being described, its complex rhythms and time signatures, its experimentation, appealed to me. Surely to get at this music I could put up with some growls?

I could. Piece of Time once I bought it, in its relentless epicyclicity became a brutal, headbanging favorite, and thereafter I went looking for more tech death. One of the better albums I came up with was Individual Thought Patterns by Death.

And thoough I never really dug further into the Death canon, never delved enough, really, to find out even that their frontman had died, stupidly, tragically, the songs from that album have been in regular iTunes/iPod rotation for me ever since.

But I had no idea dude was dead, none whatsoever.

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President ObamaYou may have noticed on Friday that an Atlanta appellate court had ruled key parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (some people, mostly those who complain about it, call it "Obamacare") to be unconstitutional, upholding a challenge to the law brought by Chuck Schuldiner's one-time home state, and mine own.

CNN tells me that Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to the president on the matter, disagreed with the rulling. "By bringing everyone into the health insurance system, we can not only lower costs for everyone but also finally ban discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions," she said.

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While in the studio in early 1999, Schuldiner had felt some neck pain, and went to a doctor for what he figured would be a pinched nerve. After an MRI, it was found that instead, horribly, he had brain cancer; it was a large tumor growing on the pons part of his brainstem that was pressing on the nerve.

Chuck SchuldinerHe immediately began radiation treatment, but was told the tumor was inoperable. After some time, he was told that the tumor had necrotized, not diasappeared but begun to die, and also that there WAS a surgery option; however, it was *really* expensive . . . .

Obviously I don't have Chuck Schuldiner's tax statements, but it's pretty clear that playing this brutal esoteric death metal could not have been that lucrative for him. And none of the record labels he had recorded for had ever provided health insurance. In any case, when it turned out that the possible surgery could only be performed at NYU, the hopital at first demanded 20,000 dollars before any operation could be performed. When the Schuldiner family said that was impossible and refused to sign away future royalties as was suggested, and MTV News started calling the hospital in following the story, the hospital agreed to accept 5,000, and the Schuldiners were able to come up with that amount.

He got the surgery in January of 2000, and it was reported to the media that it was successful, though later it would be revealed that only half the tumor was removed.
Schuldiner returned to work on a new album with a new group, but in May 2001, he was told that the cancer had returned, and that once again he would need surgery.

Chuck SchuldinerSchuldiner had bought insurance in the aftermath of the first episode, but the insurer he chose refused to pay for any of the newly-needed procedures, saying that the condition Schuldiner had was pre-existing. Schuldiner and his family were deeply in debt after the first go-round, so had very little to do but go begging in the face of this rejection.

"There is something terribly wrong when a country as great as America will let their citizens die for lack of insurance or money," Schuldiner's family said in a statement at the time. "[We are] aware every time [he needs treatment] that if we do not get the money, he will die."

The metal community during the Summer of 2001 mobilized itself as well as it could in order to help the Death frontman. Benefit gigs were played and benefit auctions were held. Some of this money, that which wasn't lost to crookedness or ineptitude, even got to the Schuldiners. They were able to get Chuck on a regimen of a chemotherapy drug called vincristine, but there never was a second surgery, as Chuck, weakened by the chemo, died in December of 2001.
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I have worked for the same small industrial supply company for what is approaching twenty years. And while they have paid me a salary that has allowed me to take on a grossly inflated mortgage, they have never offered me health insurance. At certain times this has been irrelevant, as I cruised through the months healthy and unbothered. At other times, though--and now is one of those times--I have had to reach into my pocket to pay for the doctors I've needed to see. And let's also say that after six years of salary stagnation, and nearly 15 points of inflation, my ability to reach down is severely limited.

I can understand when it comes down to it why a small business would be unable to offer health insurance. The nature of groups is like the economies of scale that all businessmen understand. So if you've got a five-person company like the one I work at, it's difficult to get a good rate on health insurance. I understand that.

So why do these cocksuckers--cocksuckers like my boss, like this so-called Tea Party, like the magnates that run the corporations we work for and buy from--fight a plan that would create the largest (and therefore cheapest) group of all?

Obamacare is the law of the fucking land, yet the Right, which only gets more neolithic and only gets more savage in its ongoing war upon the middle class, and they won't be happy until 99% of the country's resources are in 1% of its pockets. Death.Nothing you see around you--not the ridiculous argument over a debt ceiling that had been raised seven fucking times under George W Bush, not this absurd Norquist pledge, not the activist ruling penned by Dubina Friday--should convince you of anything but.

They didn't give a rat's ass if Chuck Schuldiner died, and (unless you've got a boatload of money) they don't care if you do, either.

File under: Death Metal

*We made an exception for Sepultura, not sure what our reasoning was, now that I think on it (Return)