Death
Leprosy (Reissue)

If you’re a self respecting death metal fan than you already have this classic album in your collection, in some form.  To show you how old this album is, it was released in 1988, the same year Slayer released South of Heaven.  To go over such a classic album could be mind numbing for some, especially if you are from that era as well and bought it the first day it came out, like myself, so I’ll interject some fun stories into the review, but primarily focus on the reissue aspect of this.  I ran to Slipped Disk Records, well, by that time I had just begun to drive, so I probably, drove there in my Ford Fairmont.  It was an ugly powder blue before I repainted it, had no a/c, roll down windows and only an am radio, until I threw a stereo in it.  I picked up the double gatefold LP and took the album home and never stopped cranking it.

Founding member, Chuck Schuldiner, had put together a new line-up and while I was still reeling from their debut Scream Bloody Gore, the year before, for me Leprosy is the best Death album of all time, in their outstanding catalog.  Let’s get to the drumming, boy o boy, Bill Andrews will never win any awards for being an outstanding drummer.  But the double bass was well done and although simplistic in nature the style fit this album.  Terry Butler had just joined the band, so his picture is in there, but Chuck layed down the bass guitar, following the drum patterns precisely, but the thumping bass sound created an extra bit of heaviness.  The dual guitars of Rick Rozz and and Chuck are incredible, creating one of the heaviest guitar tones of that time period.  Chuck had moved on from some of his past gore lyrics and talked about real life, like in the title track, ‘Left to Die’ (War) and ‘Pull the Plug’ (euthanization).  His vocals were more venomous and also very clearly pronounced as he growled each word, perfectly.  Every song is as catchy as the next one, and we all know the lyrics, hell I know this album backwards and forwards and never tire of it. I saw them 2x on the Leprosy tour.  The first time was opening for Dark Angel.  Both bands lit it up, but Death were the better band that night.  Than later that year, Death came through again as headliners blowing the place a part.  I spoke to Chuck and he was a super cool dude.  The show was insane, people slamming, stagediving and once Death opened with ‘Leprosy’ the place turned into a whirlwind circle slam pit.  Bouncers later on got rough with a stagediver and Chuck stopped the set and began to curse out the bouncer for roughing up the fan and threatened to pull the plug (I couldn’t resist), on their set if he did not allow the fans to have fun.  For the rest of the evening the bouncers layed back and let us all do our thing and had a blast!

So Relapse Records partnered with the Death foundation years ago to reissue all the Death material and some other goodies.  They will never get the rights to Symbolic though, as they have tried many times, but Roadrunner is not budging.  However Roadrunner did remaster Symbolic some years ago and it’s outstanding.  Anyway so Relapse has been reissuing the albums in 2 disc, 3 disc, vinyl, color vinyl you name it they are getting that Death name plastered on everything possible.  Also have your pick of the enormous package deals too, I always get the long sleeves and it would be nice if Relapse can at least throw a design on the back of the shirt, once in a while.  I always get the lmd 3cd edition, which is numbered out of 2000.  For this reissue all our orders were delayed.  Relapse received the 3 discs from the plant and they turned out to be data cds with the music missing from them and the merchandise was all messed up too.  So the plant went back to work to rectify the situation, which delayed everyone’s anticipation for this great reissue.

For Leprosy the source material is on disc 1, remastered by Alan Douches, who also remastered disc 2 & 3.  The sound is immense.  I performed a side by side comparison of the original cd and this one is thicker, heavier, but retains all the nuances of the original sound.  It’s louder and cranking this sucker up is fun for me all over again.  Disc 2 are Leprosy rehearsals, a mixed bag of sorts.  Some songs have vocals, others do not, it’s garage band quality.  Disc 3 is all live from the Leprosy tour and the setlist is like I remembered.  Highlights of course, most of Leprosy, ‘Zombie Ritual’ and ‘Mutilation’.  The sound quality is pretty good, but it’s not gonna win any live achievement awards any time soon and this is starting to get to be a little on the boring side regarding the Relapse reissues.  I am hoping for the Scream Bloody Gore reissue, last one to get the deluxe treatment, that Relapse throws in a vintage DVD as one of the 3 discs.  Let’s face it after 1 listen on the rehearsal crap, I never listen to them again and neither do you.

Now onto the deluxe packaging.  Coming in a thick digipak to house the 3 cds are spread across an 8 panel digi and the original album cover has been lightened up a bit and is embossed.  It’s beautiful to look at the classic Repka artwork.  The extra thick booklet contains photos, lyrics, and credits.  I love the way the reissues always have liner notes by members of Death, recalling either touring cycles, the recording and the experience back then.  They have all been outstanding up until this point.  No knock on Jeremy Wagner, from Broken Hope, who when I was in Internal Bleeding in the 90’s, we played shows with them and hanging out with him and Shaun Glass was always a hysterical time, however Jeremy was never in Death.  He recalls his experience with the classic album and Death, in general from the 80’s.  It’s a cool read, but why on earth did Relapse not get members from the Leprosy line-up or even Terry Butler who toured with Death, before he layed down his bass tracks on Spiritual Healing?  I think this would have been a much better recollection to add in the booklet, or at least keep Jeremy’s part, since he is a huge Death fan, but supplement it with the Leprosy line-up coming together to talk about the album in the booklet.

This is the album that put Death on the map as a force to be reckoned with and I think Relapse phoned this part in, I’m kinda pissed at this.  Anyway as reissues go pick this up.  Alan did a phenomenal job with the Leprosy source material and the packaging is elite as always.  Chuck (RIP) was a pioneer and a musical genius and Leprosy is a work of art, still to this day.  One of my top 5 death metal albums of all time and an album that is timeless.

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Written by Frank Rini
August 26th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: Overman

    I was four years old when this came out, but at age 18, I’ll never forget the first time I heard The Sound of Perseverance. To this day, and most likely forever, will always be in my top three albums ever. Thanks to Frank here, I’ll grab this re-issue, and join my older metal brothers with reverence as I baste in the glory of Death’s reign and push Leprosy up higher of all time greatest.

    RIP Schuldiner, ‘The flesh, and the power it holds.’

    Frank, what is your take on The Sound of Perseverance compared to Leprosy?


  2. Commented by: F.RINI

    Overman-many thx for reading, your comments and support for Teethofthedivine. I love all the Death albums, however I enjoy their earlier material a bit more. I will say their first 4 albums are my favorites. However when they decided to go more technical and progressive with Individual…, Symbolic and TSOP, I still loved the band and those albums are still some of the best death metal ever and still can’t be duplicated. I do prefer Leprosy to TSOP, as Leprosy is my favorite Death album, with Human right there with it and on TSOP Chuck’s higher vocals are a little grating at times, but that album was supposed to be the first control denied album, but he revamped some stuff and incorporated more of the Death sound into it. Richard Christie’s (love him on Howard Stern, btw), drumming is stunning on TSOP. For live stuff, I saw Death 2x on Leprosy, 1x on Spiritual Healing with James Murphy-extraordinary show, and then 1x on Individual…-and Gene Hoglan was drumming with them and it was outstanding. Anyway all the source material on the Relapse Reissues are incredible and the way Death was meant to be heard on a recording!! \m/


  3. Commented by: Overman

    Fuck yeah, didn’t know that about TSOP being a control denied album. I’ve had Death Live in L.A. (Death & Raw) for years now and loved every track and visuals of Chuck just owning his music and that third appendage, I mean guitar. He is still by far one of the greatest vocalists too. I can’t wait to get all the earlier stuff and be impressed all over again.

    I’m gonna go to the upcoming Death DTA Tour and see what you saw years ago. Thanks for keeping Death alive, ironic, but Death will always reign. And yeah, I’ve supported Digitalmetal and TOTD for years, otherwise I wouldn’t know what I was missing.

    A. Curry


  4. Commented by: F.RINI

    Yep, Chuck’s work will never be duplicated, but thankfully he created music that is timeless and still sounds awesome to this day, whether you have the remastered versions or not. He had a knack, and, even more with the later Death albums of creating emotive guitar riffs and song structures. Very difficult to do in extreme metal, but the dude pulled it off. Yeah the DTA tour looks like a killer line-up, not sure I can make it. I think Gorguts are on the bill and they rule live, as well as Noisem, from Baltimore. Get their early to see them. Very young band, but they play brutal death/thrash. Think Reign in Blood, mixed with Dark Angel and blast beats every once in a while.


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