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Death - Spiritual Healing CD (album) cover

SPIRITUAL HEALING

Death

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.46 | 149 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Out of the seven DEATH studio albums that were released in the band's fourteen year run (as DEATH) it's this third one SPIRITUAL HEALING that gets cited most as the weakest of the pack and i can only imagine that the gawdawful cover art could possibly contribute to that more common than not opinion, however personally i really cannot understand exactly why this one has been singled out of the subsequent pack as the worst of the lot. As was notorious in the ever changing lineup, Chuck Schuldiner experienced a third guitarist on just as many albums this time with Rick Rozz being replaced by James Murphy (an unknown at the time but would go on to play in Obituary, Testament, Konkhra and Cancer). The worst artwork of the Eric Repka catalogue aside, SPIRITUAL HEALING musically speaking, continues the forward thinking march into incrementally increased progressiveness and less of the straight forward brutal rawness with a focus on more intellectually stimulating lyrical content.

Although the sub-genre of death metal began with 1987's "Scream Bloody Gore," the close ties to thrash metal were still at the forefront and while each following release took baby steps into a complete cutoff from its parent sub, SPIRITUAL HEALING still retains a heavy thrash riffing brutality augmented by a more sophisticated compositional approach but doesn't quite reach the level of the true progressive nature of "Human" and beyond. Album #3 is very much a transitional album from death metal's thrash laden birth pangs to the ever increasing technical sophistication displayed all throughout the 90s. As one decade ceded into another, Schuldiner too was laying the 80s version of the band to rest and slowly but surely ratcheting up the intensity that would culminate on 1998's "The Sound Of Perseverance." So what it adds up to is a slightly more melodic version of the first two albums that has slivers of the more technical touches such as Schuldiner and Murphy's excellent dueling guitar soloing.

Lyrically Schuldiner was maturing rapidly as he left behind the blatant shock and awe subject matter of zombies, mutilation and gore and began to tackle the complexities of human society with a special interest in the most fucked up aspects including deformed babies from coke addicted mothers on "Living Monstrositiy," abortion on "Altering The Future," schizophrenia on "Defensive Personalities" as well as the expected evangelistic brainwashing punditry as evidenced on the gawdawful cover art. These types of themes would become increasingly more relevant and refined on the following "Human" release. While the insane time signature changes and labyrinthine song structures hadn't quite blossomed completely, there are hints of the future with little snippets of frenetic time bending as well as sudden breaks that deviate from the expected "normalcy" of the previous albums.

One thing's for sure and that i would bet nobody would deem SPIRITUAL HEALING as their favorite DEATH album of all time but that is not to say that this album deserves any of the bad reception that it has received. Schuldiner dishes out the expected punishing brutal riffs at intensively high speeds with his by then signature death growls and succeeds in whipping the rest of the band into shape so that the eight tracks are completely consistently tightly delivered with the bombast and as much caustic abrasiveness one could hope for in the fledgling metal sub-genre. Yeah, that album cover really has to go. I understand that it was meant for the album to evolve more into a psychological horror soundtrack rather the blood and guts themes of prior but something about the whole Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker theme on the cover just doesn't work. Just for the record? there ARE NO BAD DEATH ALBUMS! This included. Another excellent slice of the early death metal years.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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