Metal!

Eric Greif, Death's longtime manager, on the significance and influence of Death on metal

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How would you characterize Chuck as a person?

Chuck was always thinking one step ahead of his contemporaries, and therefore, all of his records were a progression. And he was quite a complex character on top of that. Chuck mellow a great percentage of the time, but he would then sort of explode in rage over something that could be rather small. So working with him was a joy except for those rare moments when he would blast off. That made working with him very interesting to say the least. But we were essentially friends.

How would you characterize his sense of humor? Some of that seems to come through a bit in the music, too.

We were really always really funny with each other. He always had a wacky, random sense of humor, and that made touring a lot of fun, for example. I was one of these managers -- or I really should say he was one of these artists who needed a manager with him 24/7, so I went out on the road, as well.

What do you feel Chuck brought to heavy metal that hadn't existed before. You mentioned that no one sang quite like him, but is there anything else you would say made what he did unique and special?

On the one hand, he became rather progressive in that every record was a progression from the one before it. But more than that, he had simplicity, really, in the song structure that made it almost pop-like. Paul Masvidal, who played on the Human record, mentioned to me his belief that "Pull the Plug" was death metal's first pop song and that it was very verse-chorus-verse-chorus kind of set-up that makes for a sing-along quality.

So Death were, above all, catchy, among other things. The songs were all very catchy, even if they were complicated. I think that characterizes the Death sound from Scream Bloody Gore to The Sound of Perseverance. There's a catchiness to the material, which is probably why it's just continued to grow after his death, to the point where Death is more popular now than ever.

Barney Greenway of Napalm Death has often said that he feels Napalm Death has essentially catchy songs except that the music is nothing like what you'd hear in a Top 40 hit.

No, of course not. Within the realm of extreme music, Death is very identifiable, and Chuck brought that pop sensibility to extreme music. That's quite interesting to analyze.

Do you have any favorite Death albums?

I think my favorite Death album is probably Spiritual Healing. The reason I like that so much is that it's right dead center in the middle of going from the more brutal to the more progressive. When I look at the entire career, and the fact that I mentioned that each record is a progression from the one before it, I think that Spiritual Healing was right on the cusp of going completely progressive with Human.

So it has the brutality of the first two records, but it also has the more progressive, technical aspect to it, which I think makes it the perfect album. Not to mention that it's the only record I co-produced. But it's more than just that; it's the songs as well and where Chuck was at as an artist. I like that period. I do have favorite songs on each record.

What are a couple of your favorite songs from Human?

I like "Suicide Machine," both lyrically and musically. And I also like "Lack of Comprehension" because we worked on it so closely, as it was the first time we ever did a video for MTV. With "Suicide Machine," I think I liked the lyrics and the whole Kevorkian story and "Lack of Comprehension" because of the way Steve DiGiorgio's bass worked with Chuck's riff. I think right from the opening bar it's an awesome song. Continue reading for more from Eric Greif.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.