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Death Spiritual Healing album cover
3.50 | 205 ratings | 17 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Living Monstrosity (5:08)
2. Altering the Future (5:34)
3. Defensive Personalities (4:45)
4. Within the Mind (5:34)
5. Spiritual Healing (7:44)
6. Low Life (5:23)
7. Genetic Reconstruction (4:52)
8. Killing Spree (4:16)

Total Time 43:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Chuck Schuldiner / vocals, guitar
- James Murphy / guitar
- Terry Butler / bass
- Bill Andrews / drums

- Eric Greif / Kawai K1 keyboard (5) - not confirmed

Releases information

Artwork: Edward Repka

CD Combat ‎- 88561-2011-2 (1990, US)
CD Century Media ‎- 9962028 (2008, Germany) Remastered (?)

Thanks to MikeEnRegalia for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DEATH Spiritual Healing ratings distribution

(205 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

DEATH Spiritual Healing reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marc Baum
4 stars This is a crucial album in Death's progression. Leprosy was still a very straightforward album but on Spiritual Healing the music got much more technical and slowed down quite much. Also "Spiritual Healing" was the only Death album to feature three members from the previous album. Yes, the line-up stays almost the same. Only Rick Rozz left the band to be replaced by James Murphy. Chuck had a real talent for spotting gifted people. The added technicality was something really new in the death metal-scene back then and also Spiritual Healing's intelligent, non- gore lyrics were something quite spectacular.

The album starts off with "Living Monstrosity" quite straightforwardly but the song doesn't continue in that vein. A very aggressive, high speed intro leading into Chuck's unique growling vocals, and then switches between mid and high speed riffing, leading into dueling solos by James and Chuck about half-way through the song, before reverting back to the pattern that the song started in, and all of this is topped off with socially conscious lyrics about drug addiction. Bill Andrews isn't a genius on the drums though and the drumming isn't anything remarkable compared to say the technicality of Gene Hoglan or Sean Reinert. Also Terry Butler's bassing isn't anything remarkable or noteworthy although it is sufficient. The guitarwork and the composition itself on the other hand fully make up for the average rhythm section.

"Altering The Future" is next, one of the highlights of the album musically and lyrically, this song relies primarily on mid-paced riffs, up until Chuck comes out with a solo, which is followed with a faster one by James, then once again reverts back to the riffing style that was in the beginning of the song. It's hard to say exactly what makes it a stand out, so the best thing I can say is to listen for yourself.

Next up is "Defensive Personalities", one of the weaker songs on the album, although it's not a bad song, it simply doesn't stand out, it has good drumming, riffs, and solos, but it just doesn't have anything that makes it stand out from the rest of the album.

"Within The Mind" is similar, however, somewhat more memorable.

Next up is the center piece of the album, the epic title track, and the highlight of the album: "Spiritual Healing". A slow, epic sounding riff opens up the song, which shifts up into a higher tempo, more aggressive riffing, and vocals come in. From this point the song continues on at the same pace, until settling back down into the slower riff, and then two solos emerge around the four minute mark. Afterwards, the song reverts back to a very slow paced riffing, until another tempo change, which leads back into the faster riffs from earlier, which the nearly eight minute long epic ends on.

"Low Life", is the next track, and is a very aggressive and angry song with more great riffing and six solos in a row, plus some clichéd but well written lyrics, making it another highlight of the album.

And now, as the album nears a close "Genetic Reconstruction" is up, with a very interesting mid tempo riff leading into the song, until another tempo change comes along, while Chuck spews out lyrics about cloning and it's affects on a fantasy. This, like every other song on the album (they tend to follow a pattern), leads into some good guitar solos by both James and Chuck, and then going back into the riffing, the bass coming through yet again, until the song ends with a mid-paced riff.

The final song is "Killing Spree", with lyrics dealing with school shootings. The song employs very aggressive riffing, although it slows down into mid-tempo as a set up for the two solos, which then reverts back to the aggressive ending before, until the end of the song, which bookends the album nicely.

The guitarlines vary from clear death metal riffs to maidenish twin guitar leads though they mainly stay in the death metal area. The riffs usually control the field but when the leads strike in, they steal the whole show. The melodies flow very well and have a really sinister sound to them which suits the otherwise brooding atmosphere of the album very well. The riffs are more controlled than on the previous albums. They have a clearer purpose and deliver more accurately due to Chuck's progression as a song writer. Also both Chuck and James are excellent solo guitarists so there's nothing lacking in that department. One of the most impressive solo parts is the tradeoff between the two guitarists in "Low Life". Partly Murphy even outplays Schuldiner. Chuck's vocal performance has been tuned down a bit. The lyrics are a bit easier to hear and he doesn't sound as brutal as before although he does some screams which remind me of the greatest parts of the vocalizing in Scream Bloody Gore.

The variation in the material adds quite much to the age of the album. Even after quite numerous listens, I find myself wondering what is coming up next. Chuck and co. have come up with some really great and unexpected compositions in here. A more underrated album in their catalogue. Here started the progression of DEATH metal and was even further explored on the next album "Human".

Album rating: 7.5/10 points = 77 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Review by 1800iareyay
2 stars Spiritual Healing is where Death begin to add technicality to the mix. The songs are stillThe first two outings were straight-forward, genre-defining albums that pioneered death metal. Now, the emergence of bands like Morbid Angel sparked a change in Chuck's direction. His lineup stayed the same except for Rozz leaving to be replaced by extreme guitar wizard James Murphy. His dazzling fretwork adds a new level of talent to the band.

The songs are still very much straightforward, but the tempos are beginning to change from aural blitzkriegs to mid tempo chugs. Murphy and Schuldiner work well together, but not as well as Chuck works with later guitarists like Shannon Hamm.

As I've said before, fans of Chuck should own every studio album by him, and this is no exception. Hardcore proggies should probably stay away from this and start with the next album, the excellent Human.

Grade: D+

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Spiritual Healing" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Death. The album was released through Combat Records in March 1990. Most of Deathīs career featured constant lineup changes and this time around guitarist Rick Rozz has been replaced by James Murphy (Cancer, Disincarnate, Agent Steel, Obituary, Testament, Konkhra). The rest of the lineup who recorded "Leprosy (1988)" are still intact. This lineup was shortlived too though as James Murphy was soon on to his next project and drummer Bill Andrews and bassist Terry Butler had a serious disagreement with frontman/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner, which meant that the European part of the tour supporting "Spiritual Healing" (where they supported Kreator), was completed without Chuck Schuldiner. After that tour Chuck Schuldiner took control of the Death name again and Bill Andrews and Terry Butler left to play with Massacre on the now legendary "From Beyond (1991)" album along side former Death guitarist Rick Rozz and vocalist Kam Lee. The latter mentioned also had a short stint with Death in one of the early incarnations of the band.

The music on "Spiritual Healing" is more sophisticated and technically well played than the first two Death albums. The sound production by Scott Burns (& Death) is powerful, edgy, and actually slightly "warm" sounding. The addition of James Murphy provides the band with more opportunities, and they take full advantage of his great playing skills. His guitar solos on "Spiritual Healing" are absolutely brilliant. Chuck Schuldiner is a relatively great shredder too, but itīs definitely James Murphy who steals the show on this album. The rhythm section is tight, but personally Iīve always had an issue with Bill Andrews drumming, which I feel occasionally takes power out of the music instead of injecting power and driving the music forward like the best drummers do. Itīs not a major issue though and itīs probably an aquired taste.

All 8 tracks on the album are well composed and memorable, but itīs "Living Monstrosity", "Altering the Future", and the 7:44 minutes long title track that stand strongest in my memory. Chuck Schuldinerīs now social critical/thought provoking lyrics (compared to his early bloodīnīgore type lyrics) are a new feature in the music (although such topics were also touched upon on the predecessor) and another proof (besides the instrumental part of the music) that Chuck Schuldiner evolved rapidly as a composer (and a musician) in those years.

While "Spiritual Healing" is certainly an early example of death metal from Florida, itīs not as such an old school sounding death metal release to my ears. For that itīs way too technically focused and forward thinking. Itīs one of the early forerunners of the more technical/progressive death metal albums that would be released in the early- to mid nineties even though I wouldnīt label the music on "Spiritual Healing" technical death metal by any means. But there is a sophistication here that was rarely heard in those days. Acts like Atheist and Morbid Angel maybe did something similar, but not many others. Of course only one year down the line the situation had changed completely, and more and more technically focused death metal releases came out. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved. Even for itīs seminal nature, "Spiritual Healing" isnīt a flawless release to my ears and a higher rating wouldnīt feel honest.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Review by CCVP
4 stars Talk about great death metal!

Just 2 years after the release of Leprosy and 3 years after the release of Scream Bloody Gore, Chuck Schuldiner and Death are back once again with yet another astonishing release, called Spiritual Healing. It is important to note that it is with Spiritual Healing that Death and Chuck make their first major turn in their careers, since it's here that the thematics of the lyrics change from the infamous and fantasious gory lyrics that characterized (and still characterizes) death metal to more real lyrics, that talk about earthly issues, like teenage pregnancy, abortion and psychological, spiritual and social issues. Indeed, in this album the death metal gets closer to our everyday lives, getting more serious that the simple lyrical splatter movie musical extravaganza the genre was so far.

However, if in the lyrical department things were almost completely changed, the musical department was still very close to the previous albums. OK, i have to admit that the instrumentation is better, meaning that the band is giving more attention to the technicality instead of just playing their instruments and, because of that, the songs get a lot clearer and easier to listen. The vocals also have this improvement and Chuck's pronunciation in Spiritual Healing is probably his best ever. I mean, if you are used to death growls you don't even need to read the lyrics to understand what he is singing.

About the songs, musicianship and other features, there are somethings i would like to state:

As i said before, this album is technically superior, musically speaking, to the first and second Death albums and that is a great improvement since you can now appreciate better what the band is playing instead of just focusing in how extreme they are. However, it must be said that they only improved the way they played, what does not means that the songs are much harder to play (or they don't seem so), only that they are better executed.

The songs are all amazing. I seriously can't see a bad song in this album, so i won't: i will not point the best songs of this album, for they are all very good. Nonetheless, i don't think that Spiritual Healing is a masterpiece. The songs are just not as mind-blowing as the ones in Human, Symbolic or The Sound of Perseverance, but the album is still very good.

Grade and Final Thoughts

A great album, with great song, but not god enough to be a masterpiece? The only option left is give it the 4 star grade and, in fact, it seems to me as a fair grade indeed.

Review by JJLehto
2 stars This is the transition album in Death's career. This is one where they started moving from pure death metal to technical/progressive metal. Do not get me wrong, this album is not tech/prog metal. I would say it is still firmly under the realm of death metal...but technical influences were starting to appear.

The lineup is the same here as on "Leprosy" except for the swapping of Rick Rozz with James Murphy. The guitar work is still pretty pure death metal but there are a few signs of technicality such as in "Defensive Personalities" and "Killing Spree". Also, as opposed to Death's first 2 albums which were straightforward speed and brutality, this album shows us songs that are slower, a little more stop and go, and with slower sections in them. Also, the quality on this album is much better then the first two, which makes the guitars sound even better. Chuck still does his thing, with fast, (though sometime slow) riffs, and blazing solos. His vocals are still death metal, though not as "growly" I would say. Also, while nothing compared to later Death drummers, I think Bill Andrews shows some technicality in his drumming. Especially the last 2 minutes of "Living Monstrosity".

Living Monstrosity: This song has a neat little intro before it goes into a typical death metal riff, and drumming. It goes into a heavy, slower part after that for a while, then a cool guitar solo with heavy phaser. Death Metal continues after that until the last 2 minutes, which are pretty technical. The song is about drugs, (as the last line says "Born without eyes, and half a brain. being born addicted to cocaine").

Altering the Future: This song starts out slower paced for the first half, until the blazing solos in the middle and after that the song takes a faster, more metal pace and riffing. However, the last minute and a half takes the original, slower guitar riff which is quite technical and dissonant. This song is about abortion, and perhaps surprisingly, takes a pro-life stance.

Defensive Personalities: Has a sweet intro and is straight up death metal for most of the songs. Chuck plays some great riffs though, and the solo's are amazing like usual.

Within the Mind: This is personally my least favorite song, it just does not do it for me.

Low Life: The same can be said with this song, it is not bad, but again just does not resonate much with me.

Genetic Reconstruction: One of the stand out songs on the album. Starts out with another heavy, slower riff that changes after about a minute to a slower one. Then it is into the solo, which is backed up by some great drumming. Then we fly into the next solo which is much faster and intense. The song then conitnues with shifting, slower paced riffs.

Killing Spree: My favorite song of the album. It has a wild guitar intro before diving into the riff. A heavy song with a great feel to it. It is not terribly different from the others, with varying paced riffs and intensity and blazing guitar solos.

Overall, a good album. However, like any of Death's work this is not for the average progger, and it is still close to pure Death Metal so many prog-metal fans might be turned off. A must any metal fan, I personally give this album a 4, but for this site I have to give it a 2 star rating. For Death fans only.

Review by Kazuhiro
3 stars The band of Thrash Metal activity and a variety of might have been working on the creation of the music character as a main current in the early the 80's with individuality indeed. successfully.However, the main current and the derivation of the band that contributes to the establishment of Death Metal might be able to be counted as an original creation that Slayer and Venom did. And, the spur is hung on the part of the base further by individuality and the activity of this "Death".

The band that had become basic of Death was called "Mantas". In this band that had been formed in Florida in 1983, the Bass player was an irregular band of the absence. The existence of the band that had gone out the influence by Black Metal might have been remarkable at this time. It became dissolution as a result though Mantas produced the demo tape in 1984. However, Chuck Schuldiner aims at a real activity to get on the main current of Thrash Metal. To face the formation of Death from the production of the demo tape, it keeps producing the demo tape in California. The band from which it got on this flow exchanged Combat Record with the contract and debuted. However, the situation that kept being groped continued to the member of the band. In addition, to develop the band, Chuck Schuldiner faces the time of the reorganization of the member. Rick Rozz of a temporarily active with Massacre companion proposes the story of the union for the development of Chuck Schuldiner and Death that returned to Florida. And, the band that received drum player's Bill Andrews with Bass player's Terry Butler put power by "Leprosy" further. The tour and their activity with the video gradually multiply the spur by the band. However, the music character is converted through necessity by Rick Rozz's seceding as for the band.

James Murphy active with Agent Steel in place of Rick Rozz has been appointed in this album. It is said that Chuck Schuldiner had confidence in the member of the band at this time and the music character. This band has been exactly developing the music character by member's changing places. It might be an album with the content to which the directionality of the band and the element of the nucleus are established by this album exactly.

"Living Monstrosity" keeps the dash feeling from Riff of the picking of fast Alternative. A rhythm that puts fast and slow and a technical composition might be proofs to which the band greatly advanced. The flow that elements of a few Black Metal contain original harmony and the dash feeling might be splendid.

"Altering The Future" multiuses the rhythm of six from a heavy rhythm and Riff and advances. It shifts from the composition of complex Riff to the part of the dash feeling. A technical element of the band might go out exactly. The composition and the flow that the forecast doesn't adhere are splendid.

The band dashes from the beginning in "Defensive Personalities" in union. Riff that explodes while continuing fast development shifts to the part where fast and slow was put. Riff and rhythm that develops one after another while continuing dash feeling. And, Solo of the guitar that explodes because of the rhythm of six is impressive.

"Within The Mind" twines from original harmony a heavy rhythm and Riff and progresses. And, the dash feeling is continued from the flow that puts fast and slow. The melody of the guitar might be composed well.

"Spiritual Healing" advances with heavy atmosphere from the melody to make good use of Topping. Riff of a complete guitar continues. It rushes into the part of the dash feeling as atmosphere that Black Metal is good twining a little. And, the flow that shifts from the part with more complete Riff to the part of original harmony is splendid.

A steady rhythm and Riff of "Low Life" are impressive. Melody in close relation to dash feeling. Riff and rhythm that puts fast and slow. In addition, steady rhythm and song. The flow and atmosphere are kept good.

"Genetic Reconstruction" accompanies a rhythm steady from Riff of an impressive guitar. The rhythm and the melody with fast and slow will have an original flow. The flow that Solo of the guitar is good is continued.

"Killing Spree" shifts from the melody of an original guitar to a fast rhythm. Complete Riff and dash feeling. And, a complete oneness. The impression of this album is decided. The melody and the rhythm developed one after another might be splendid.

As for the part in the main current of various bands of Thrash Metal and Black Metal, one field might have been established by the music character of this band and the creation. And, the band advocated one item by the directionality of this album.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A few months ago I was quite surprised to see a number of Death reviews making their appearance on the PA home page. Although I have the odd death-metal album in my collection, I had never checked out Death as I assumed they were over-hyped. Well, that's my natural disposition I'm afraid. However, when they made their appearance on PA I suspected I might have missed something after all.

Indeed, when it comes to death metal, this is exactly my kind of thing: good musicianship, not only brutal but also clever, not just aggressive but affecting as well, full of real pain and extreme anxiety pouring out of freshly dug wounds. Oh yes I'm getting in the mood here! As with most extreme metal, I enjoy the music rather easily, but whether a band will captivate me or not largely depends on the vocals. Luckily those are very strong here, exactly that very mournful gruff wail that I like so much. Pretty similar to Obituary I would say.

As a death metal album this is pretty much as good as they come, but it hardly registers on my proggo-meter. The compositions and arrangements are straightforward slow-fast death metal thrash, with the guitars as the most accomplished element but without doing anything innovative. The drums are generic metal beating and I've yet to discover any bass.

Being a novice to Death, I'm not sure yet where exactly to place this album in their musical development, but it sure is a solid album in its style.

Review by J-Man
3 stars A Step Forward

Spiritual Healing is where Death got interesting in my opinion. While the band's first two albums are undeniably death metal classics, they've never really done very much for me. Spiritual Healing shows improved lyrics, enhanced production quality, better compositions, and an all around superior death metal album. Human is when Chuck Schuldiner & co began creating metal masterpieces, but of the early Death albums, Spiritual Healing is the best by far.

The sound here is pretty standard if you understand Chuck Schuldiner's style. Expect traditional 90's Florida-styled death metal on the more melodic side, without sacrificing heaviness or intensity. Spiritual Healing is before Death became more progressive and technical, so don't expect a whole lot of odd time signatures, rapid riff changes, and complex rhythm sections yet. Back then Death sounded somewhat similar to fellow Floridian death metal band Morbid Angel. However, on Spiritual Healing, Chuck took a much more melodic, slowed down style than on the first two Death albums. There aren't a whole lot of blast beats, or fast parts in general. I personally like this more melodic approach, as it shows more direction and attention to the compositional details. It was also with this formula that Chuck Schuldiner would explore further, resulting in the upcoming Death masterpieces.

Spiritual Healing is an 8-track, 43:19 album. This is the perfect length for music this heavy and intense. It doesn't drag on for too long, but it's not so short that you feel like you're getting ripped off. All of the songs here are high-quality death metal pieces, but my personal favorites are Altering the Future and the progressive Spiritual Healing. The latter actually shows some of the first real evidence of Chuck Schuldiner writing more progressive and technical death metal. All of the songs are absolute head-crushers that are sure to please old school U.S. death metal fans.

The musicians of Death during this lineup are good, but nowhere near the level of the Human lineup. Of course, Chuck Schuldiner is fantastic (as always), but his backing band is lacking by comparison to the next few lineups. Bill Andrews' drumming is good, but nowhere near the level of Reinert, Christy, or Hoglan. Terry Butler is a pretty uneventful bassist. It wasn't until the next Death album, with Steve DiGiorgio's fretless talents, that the bass playing would get interesting. James Murphy is a very solid guitarist, but once again, he's paled in comparison to the following Death guitarist.

The production is a major improvement over Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, but it's still not very good. Although the thick 80's production is gone, instead we have a thin, flat sound. Everything is audible and professional (a definite improvement) but it's just not very powerful. At least the next four Death albums have some of the best production in the industry.


Spiritual Healing is a very good album by Death, but it's always been overshadowed by their following albums for me. Whenever I want to listen to Death, this just isn't the album I pull out. This is a very dated album by today's standards, but its influence and importance is undeniable. Sounding dated is not a plus in my book, but I'm sure old school death metal fans are fine with it. Despite its flaws, this is a quality album worth 3 solid stars.

Review by Necrotica
4 stars There seems to be a growing number of people who consider the 1990 album Spiritual Healing to be Death's worst record, even deeming it clunky and unfocused. Personally, I still stand by my opinion that Scream Bloody Gore was the most lackluster offering by the band; it sounded more like a foreshadowing of future greatness than a great album itself. While follow-up Leprosy did its best to raise the stakes, Spiritual Healing still seems to improve things much further and hit almost all of the right notes. While it may not be the very best album of the Death canon, it is often overlooked and definitely deserves more praise than it gets.

So what do we get? Between eight tracks and forty-two minutes of non-stop death metal, the record flies by pretty quickly. Chuck Schuldiner's songwriting is still the main focus here, but plenty of new elements after predecessor Leprosy help this album succeed the way it does. First things first, the music is way more technical and intricate; many of the speed metal sections of Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore, while still present, are toned down and usually replaced with rapid tempo shifts and frequent time signature changes. That, and the rhythms are usually quite unorthodox; the riff during the verse of the title track still throws me off now and again. More specifically, though, everything has tightened. The production sounds cleaner, the songwriting is actually more focused than people give it credit for, and Schuldiner was finally starting to ditch the gory lyrics in favor of more social and philosophical issues.

With that said, how are the songs? They follow the typical Death "verse/pre-chorus/chorus/solo/verse/pre-chorus/chorus/sudden stop" formula fans have come to expect by this point, but with the sort of forward-thinking attitude that makes this a great predecessor to Human. Schuldiner and co. were interested in progressing the band's sound, and it shows. It's probably best to start with the opening number "Living Monstrosity" because it's the first impression. As the mid-tempo riff starts up, you may realize the aforementioned tightness in the sound compared to Leprosy. One other thing to note is that Chuck's vocals are a touch odd, and are my main issue with the album. While they're not bad, there's an unsettling echo effect used on his voice that sounds pretty off-kilter compared to how organic the rest of the music is. However, going back to the song, it's an exceptionally strong opener, combining thrashy riffs, an emotional chorus that repeats the beginning motif to great effect, and an emotionally poignant solo that leads to Schuldiner's climactic lyric, "Some say she's naive; she's a stupid bitch." Blunt, but effective.

The other tracks are of a similar nature to "Living Monstrosity," but all have certain moments that set them apart from each other. For instance, after a rather complex riff pattern in "Low Life," a solo battle between Schuldiner and other guitarist James Murphy comes out of the blue. They both let their playing styles clash as a galloping thrash riff illustrates the background behind the two leads. Also worthy of noting is the doom-laden intro to "Altering the Future"; while the rest of the song is Death doing business as usual, the beginning sets a completely different tone, one of despair and a loss of hope. Even when the mid-tempo riff for the verse appears, the atmosphere set by the first thirty seconds continues to loom over the music long after it has concluded. Finally, there's the title track. Good God, the song is great. After a very Halloween-esque (seriously, it sounds eerily close to something out of the main theme from the Halloween movies) intro, the rest of the song is absolutely jam-packed with those "certain moments" I mentioned, the ones that set it apart from other songs on the album. How about the unorthodox riff that manages to be in 4/4 time, and yet has some of the most off-kilter drum work in Death's discography? How about the constant tempo-switches during the speed metal portions? How about the chilling chorus with rapid guitar runs and Schuldiner screaming the song's title? Great moments are littered throughout the song, making the whole thing an absolute highlight.

There's not much else more to say, really. Spiritual Healing is a delightful slice of death metal, as well as a great illustration of how Death were progressing as a group and an entity. While later albums like The Sound of Perseverance and Individual Thought Patterns would come to surpass it, the album has aged very well and remains an early technical death metal classic even after twenty-three years.

P.S.: What the hell is up with that silly album cover?

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

Review by Warthur
4 stars Spiritual Healing is an awkward spot in the Death timeline; they hadn't quite abandoned their old, more straight-ahead death metal style here, but on the other hand hadn't entirely embraced the technical death metal direction they would latch onto on Human.

It's the more straight-ahead death metal numbers which suffer the most here, with the least progressive songs tending to be the least accomplished. This isn't just a style thing - the sections in question just aren't quite as good as, say, the material on Leprosy, and at points sound like polished-up rejected songs from Scream Bloody Gore. The album is saved by Chuck beginning his introduction of more technically intricate techniques into his performance and songwriting, the title track here perhaps being the best example of this.

Between this and the lyrical shift from overt shocking gore to more contemplative examinations of weightier issues, it's quite clear to me that this more technical, almost progressive material was where Chuck's heart was really at by this stage of the band's existence, his tastes having evolved away from the group's earlier style. Between that and the decision of the rest of the band to tour Europe without Chuck, it's no surprise that this lineup (a mildly tweaked version of the one that did Leprosy, with Rick Rozz gone and James Murphy in his place) didn't last, or that Chuck would switch to working with session musicians rather than running Death as a band project in future.

Review by 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 [%*!#]ed 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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Getting more progressive? Definitely, just listen to the amount of technicality in the first track - from the elaborate riffing, prog metal rhythms, the beast instrumental part, splendid guitar solo. There is more focus on instrumental prowess, which, taken the average vocal into account, is a w ... (read more)

Report this review (#2636067) | Posted by sgtpepper | Monday, November 22, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Paul Masvidal of progressive acts Cynic and Æon Spoke has described this album as the starting point of Schuldiner's more progressive direction, and "Spiritual Healing" has been hailed by many as Death's transistion album from straightforward death metal to progressive metal. That is probably tru ... (read more)

Report this review (#273141) | Posted by Time Signature | Saturday, March 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Following the two previous thrash releases, Spiritual Healing is the first album where the musicality begins to venture down a different road for Death. For a start, the lyrical content is focussed on social issues as opposed to the violence on Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. The song structur ... (read more)

Report this review (#256309) | Posted by dalekvilla | Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Death was always my favorite death metal band. They easily could mix brutality with virtuosity. Spiritual Healing is their 3rd album and Rick Rozz was replaced by James Murphy to record this stuff. Unfortunatelly short before promotional tour Chuck decided not to go to Europe, James left for Obi ... (read more)

Report this review (#212190) | Posted by LSDisease | Thursday, April 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I loved this album when it was released almost 20 years ago. Today, it seems dated. In hindsight; I am not convinced this is even Death Metal. OK, maybe Death Metal Light. The scene has evolved and become very much more brutal and technical than this album. On Spiritual Healing, we get eight s ... (read more)

Report this review (#202052) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, February 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Another 3.5 stars from me, as this one sees DEATH progressing even further but they still aren't quite "there" yet. Most people overlook this one, as it's sandwiched in between the early classic (Leprosy) and the start of the progressive death metal albums (Human). I think this one is slightly bet ... (read more)

Report this review (#148335) | Posted by Xanadu97 | Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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