Aside form being an icon of extreme music, Chuck Schuldiner was also a stalwart of musical consistency. Though many fans consider the preceding Leprosy to be the pinnacle of Death‘s achievement, I’ve lately been wrapped up in Spiritual Healing when looking for a fix of old school Floridian death. Honestly there is no huge drop off here (nor on any Death release), so this isn’t some over-puffed defense of my questionable tastes, which admittedly this Tuesday Time Machine thing often disintegrates into. Spiritual Healing also marks a lyrical turn for Death. While Leprosy was somewhat matured, it was still set in a distant place and time. On Spiritual Healing, the topics center more around the contemporary issues of the day. Whether it be an epidemic of infant drug addiction, the hypocrisy of evangelism (obvious from the wild Billy Graham figure on the cover), or the potential of science to take a darker turn towards eugenics, Death simply doesn’t fuck around. As later albums Human or Individual Thought Patterns would turn towards subjects of philosophical enlightenment and simultaneously morph the music into something more extended and progressive, one can trace the trend back roughly to this record.
“Spiritual Healing” – Some of Chuck’s signature tapping is on display throughout the title track. We’ll start here since this is where IMHO the album really starts gaining steam. The nearly 8 minute song is one of the places where you can see Death’s approach to song writing about to change.
“Low Life” – What initially seems like it may be the thinnest sounding song on the record ends up showcasing some of the most colorful licks, riffs and solos on Spiritual Healing.
“Genetic Reconstruction” – One of the most insightful analogies for Death‘s music I’ve ever heard is a visual artist who focuses on abstract and highly stylized human forms. In order to distort the human body to convey various moods and messages, one first has to understand normal proportions. Chuck’s songwriting focuses on these paranoid, horrific melodies which helped lay the groundwork for much of modern extreme music. Listening to this track as well as the closing Killing Spree” shows a guitar player who had a fantastic sense of melody to begin with, allowing him to morph normal licks into what become the twisted cornerstones of Death‘s music.
“Killing Spree” – Yes, I know I simply picked the last four songs from the album as highlights but I genuinely feel that’s where the meat of this release lies. It’s just a cool album that combines the more thrashy, impish qualities of the early death metal years with a turn towards conscious lyrics and dense melodic constructs. Even if not the best release from the legendary band, Spiritual Healing, for me, has always been Death‘s awakening.