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Monday, October 10, 2011

Album Review: Death - Individual Thought Patterns Reissue

Death - Individual Thought Patterns 3CD reissue
2011 Relapse Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



1993 was when I graduated college and entered a crummy, recession-driven job market not altogether unlike the one we're in now. In some ways, I find irony that Death's outrageously memorable Individual Thought Patterns surfaces in both markets. This year, Relapse Records brings us Chuck Schuldiner's fifth album under the Death moniker in a special three-disc reissue featuring live material, a studio outtake of "The Exorcist" and four track demos amidst the bonus features.

Wish I'd tripped across Individual Thought Patterns in 1993 instead of later in life, but you see, the American metal market had been driven underground by apathy and an effective determination to rid the world of hairball heaven. I had already drifted away from metal to explore other genres, though still keeping an ear out for exciting things in the heavy underground. Too bad this one missed my radar initially. As rash a statement as this will be, I now find little in the grunge movement (except for maybe Mudhoney and early Soundgarden) which killed American metal that stands up from a craftsmanship standpoint to Individual Thought Patterns, not to mention Schuldiner's work surrounding this pivotal release. Had the metal world embraced Human, Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic--not to mention the likewise brilliant Sound of Perseverence from 1998--would the genre have gone down so easily? There's plenty of excuses to dismiss metal and hard rock with Slaughter and Firehouse as its facemen. No excuse whatsoever when you had music as powerful as Death still chugging along beneath the fluff and the glitz.

Consider the superpower lineup flanking Chuck Schuldiner in '93 to record Individual Thought Patterns: Andy LaRoque, Steve DiGiorgio and Gene Hoglan. Of this triumvirate, only LaRoque was a metal household name at the time for his stature as King Diamond's six string impresario. Set against a shredding god like Chuck Schuldiner? Criminey, that's worth your ticket alone. While DiGiorgio and Sadus had farmed a cult audience, the hotshot story of the Individual Thought Patterns ensemble is naturally Gene Hoglan, today one of the hottest drummers on the planet.

If you're reading this, you're more than likely well-acquainted with Individual Thought Patterns, but the quick skinny on this album is that it remains one of Schuldiner's most supreme efforts--and metal's, by attrition. The logical evolution stemmed from 1990's Spiritual Healing and '91's Human, Individual Thought Patterns cultivates an intricate and effortless mash between death metal, thrash and power punch. This is undoubtedly what Schuldiner envisioned before there was ever such a thing as 1987's Scream Bloody Gore.

While Schuldiner has his share of critics (namely those he'd shown the gate over the constant fluctuation of his creative designs), this is one of his statement pieces as a music writer. Even if you don't have the constitution to roll with such ferocity and careening speed, you have to admire Schuldiner's fearless outlining on Individual Thought Patterns. He was one of the first metal freaks aside from Voivod to allow for prog and jazz elements amidst the careening speed, which Individual Thought Patterns well embraces. "Destiny" is a prime example, but you hear it all over the place on this album, thanks in large portion to Steve DiGiorgio's subliminal funk-a-matics.

You still get plenty of velocity throughout this album along with a then-strange musicality. It's so much you understand Schuldiner's ralphing and permissive signature veers which invite periods of scale-driven harmonies on "Out of Touch," "In Human Form," "Nothing is Everything" and "Mentally Blind." Let's not forget "Trapped in a Corner" and "The Philosopher," the latter of which actually made the cut at MTV. "Trapped in a Corner" features some insane jazzy bass from Steve DiGiorgio, even while the song bursts with faster thrash than most anyone playing metal in 1993--though Napalm Death and Morbid Angel would soon change those rules. "The Philosopher" may be the slowest cut on this album (you know MTV wasn't going to take one for "Overactive Imagination" if Schuldiner had cut a video), but it's an ornate distortion bomb dashed by heavy riffs and more of DiGiorgio's say what? Herbie Hancock-esque note plunks.

Of course, the most savory details of Individual Thought Patterns are shared between Chuck Schuldiner and Andy LaRoque, yet the collective efforts thrown into this album are why it is now revered--if not back in 1993. MTV was cool enough to throw Death into its confused rotation, though they disrespectfully served "The Philosopher" up for Beavis and Butthead's verbal cannonade after the cartoon rejects find out that's not the kid from Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" video. As if. No disrespect intended to Pearl Jam, but they couldn't light one of Chuck Schuldiner's farts in the technicality department, though no doubt Beavis and Butthead would welcome such a prospect with maniacal huffing and hawing.

This edition of Individual Thought Patterns is remastered by the illustrious Steve Douches and comes with two CDs of bonus material including a live set from 1993 in Germany. Amongst the live tracks are "Leprosy," "Lack of Comprehension," "Zombie Ritual," "Flattening of Emotions," "Suicide Machine" and "Living Monstrosity," along with "Overactive Imagination," "In Human Form" and "Trapped In a Corner" from Individual Thought Patterns. The third disc contains Individual Thought Patterns demos noodled by Chuck and Gene Hoglan on a four track in December, 1992.

We may living in a recession again, but the times have changed for metal. It's still underground but there's an unspoken respect factor from artists playing other styles, while the late Chuck Schuldiner is now one of the most respected musicians of his time. He may have invited bad karma unto himself by naming his band Death, but his music has become immortal. Individual Thought Patterns is but one chapter in his massive legacy.

Rating: ****1/2

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