Thursday, August 12, 2010

Death - Leprosy

Gritty, primitive, evil, and most of all, powerful

For the longest time, I was a card carrying member of the Leprosy-is-a-boring-fucking-record club, but I have recently been converted. The riffs that were boring to me a few months ago, have now become powerful and intense. The songs that plodded and lacked direction have transformed into primal death metal riff monsters. All this record needs is time, and I can now almost understand where the whole "instant gratification" criticism for most modern tech death bands comes from.

Chuck's vocal style was still in the primitive death shout stage as of the year 1988, but it sounds just as good as it did on Scream Bloody Gore. The evolution of his voice wouldn't truly begin until Human, but I am a firm believer that every style he's used throughout the years are executed perfectly. What's even more mind blowing, is when the realization that all of Death's elements have been there since the beginning hits a young'un like myself. I was introduced to Death with Symbolic, so I was a fan of the later works for the longest time, I essentially worked backwards when it came to this band. I find this actually worked to my advantage and allowed me to appreciate Leprosy more than I would have before. Some of the riffs from The Sound of Perseverance sound like reworked riffs from the title track here and Open Casket. What this serves as is an everlasting testament to Chuck Schuldiner's ability, as it has always been there, it just happened to show up in different magnitudes on different albums.

Enough of the Merlin-esque backwards history, let's enjoy ourselves some headbangin'. One of the adjectives I find myself continually using when it comes to describing Leprosy is "primitive". This is one of the most raw slabs of aggression I've heard put to tape. When I say raw, I don't mean it in the way people describe Transylvanian Hunger, I mean it is unadulterated, dirty, unfiltered, and yet at the same time pure, heavy, and domineering. The hatred, the misanthropia, it is all here in force. The attitude is the most prevalent thing here, even when the songwriting isn't horribly strong. Listen to the latter half of Left to Die, the double bass just obliterates everything in front of it. It's this intensity and focus that brings this album above other early death metal acts, and further cements Death's reputation for being one of the most consistently great bands in metal history.

All that said, this album isn't perfect. A few songs are far from memorable, and there are more than a few weak riffs. I'd say the weakest track here is probably Forgotten Past, but it's still a great song, so that just goes to show you.... Anyways, sometimes intensity and aggression isn't enough to ride on alone, the songwriting needs to be there just as strongly. For the most part it is, but it isn't the masterwork that is Symbolic, nor is it the pure fury of Scream Bloody Gore (although it is indeed pretty fucking close). I find it hard to verbalize my gripes with the album, but it is indeed a flawed work, an unfurnished jewel if you will.

Leprosy is another solid Death release, but at the same time it is one of their most pedestrian. This and Spiritual Healing are a bit middle-of-the-road in comparison to their other works, but this is just as worthy of the name as Human or Symbolic. And considering this isn't even in the better half of Death's records, it STILL scores an A-, just another monument to their incredible consistency on the whole. It's not for everybody, as Death is a band that has gone through almost innumerable lineup changes and progressions in sound. Fans of Scream Bloody Gore will eat this up, and any early death metal fan who hasn't heard this should remedy that immediately, or just leave the hall.

RATING - 90%

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