To become pioneers in an expanding force seemed unlikely, but Death’s sound in the smoldering heat of 1983 gave-way to a burst onto the scene in a frantic mess that enthralled as much as it frightened. With their 1988 release, Leprosy; Death was a wrecking force that shined for their aggressive stance toward music that often featured some sort of violence or despair within their lyrical style. It was exciting and had a cover art that was just as disgusting as their music. The ripping guitars, annihilation-educing-percussion and vocals from Chuck Schuldiner, Death’s only continual front man and operator of the band. Rick Rozz was a main component to the guitars that would rattle and shake stereos everywhere. Then as Bill Andrews made his Death debut, he made quick work of the machine heavy snare and cymbal crashes, an iconic style that would continue the trend of Death Metal to bands even now.
As the title cut, “Leprosy” describes the, “Bodies deformed way beyond belief, cast out from their concerned society. Flesh contorting day after day, freak of the dark world is what the people say.” It is gruesome, but over Schuldiner’s harsh growling, it is almost near impossible to make out what he is saying. The main focus is on the intricacies of the instrumental music and the production which was handled Dan Johnson and the work of Scott Burns who would then work with Deicide, Obituary, and Cannibal Corpse.
The work quite deliberately is an assault on the listener and shows very little mercy as the consistent stomping given by Death is rapid, volatile, and able to crush bone through Leprosy. “Forgotten Past” moves in a rabid style with the snare and bass at a constant eighth note smash. The lyrics, while muddy, are embracive to tell a story of an outcast, “A place you feel you’ve been to before, where life would turn right into gore. You dig deep down through the years of decay, the truth is revealed, you have found your way.” It is this new found grip that Death takes and has over the listener that creates a control. It involves the rough beat down of instrumental style and the importance on an off-putting way of hostility.
While the tracklisting might get a laugh, and the lyrics are nearly comedic in their sense of obscenity, the technical ability of the musicians featured on Leprosy is breathtaking and actually incredible. The force of the record is obliterating, but Death’s pure ability is more than impressive as they move through each track like a speeding bullet. “Pull The Plug” reflects on the methodology behind Death and how their music is innovative and still substantial to this day. The high-pitched guitar solos are still just as impressive as they were back in 1988, the percussion is just as tight and heavy. The singing and vocal aspect is still memorable and fitting to the rampaging demon that is Death.
As the eight-track behemoth starts to come to a final close, the ever presence of Death lingers, hovering over the remains of Leprosy like a specter. While Leprosy surely does not fall quietly, Death moves heavily into the night as a swinging monster; just as it began the same journey.