Today marks five years since the passing of Chuck Schuldiner, so I'd like to revisit my favorite Death album, Individual Thought Patterns. ITP came out in 1993, an amazing time for Florida death metal; Cynic's Focus, Atheist's Elements, Pestilence's Spheres, and Morbid Angel's Covenant all came out that year. Scott Burns produced the album, Death's fifth, at Morrisound Studios.

Of all the Death lineups, the ITP one was the most star-studded. It had Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad) on drums, Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Testament) on bass, and Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) on second guitar. LaRocque's touring replacement was none other than Ralph Santolla of current Deicide fame.

With each Death album, Schuldiner's writing had grown more melodic and complex. Even though the previous album, Human, contained elements of jazz fusion, ITP was a big leap forward. The songs were rich with twisting, abstract harmonies, yet retained the signature sixteenth-note riffing present on all Death albums. The music wasn't quite jazz fusion, as it was tightly composed, but some of the tonalities definitely leaned that way. The performances were quite organic, with DiGiorgio throwing in cool runs and slides all over the place on fretless bass. The production wasn't technically the greatest (the albums before and after were more polished), but it sounded natural and captured the nuances in the playing.

Death - In Human Form
Death - Trapped in a Corner

Interestingly, the lyrics on ITP were quite angry, in contrast to the gore-oriented earlier albums and more spiritual later ones. The lyrics arose from Schuldiner's frustrations with the music industry, including lack of label promotion and legal altercations with Death manager Eric Greif (who produced Morbid Saint's Spectrum of Death) and various former bandmates. It's a testament to Schuldiner's creativity and resilience that he channeled this negativity into songs that take me to different places every time I hear them.

Dig this 1993 Headbangers Ball interview with Chuck, Gene, and Steve. Until I saw this, I'd never heard Chuck speak! Steve doesn't say a word. Evidently that's Chris Barnes doing the wicked circle headbanging at 5:08 (Death was touring with Cannibal Corpse and Carcass). The clip includes the video for "The Philosopher," but that's quite pixilated; you can see that in better quality here.


For all things Chuck-related, check out the tribute site Empty Words, which is filled with interviews, articles, downloads, and other poignant, uplifting content. If you don't have ITP yet, your life is truly incomplete. You can rectify that at The End.