Death didn’t take a break following their breakthrough and genre creating album, Scream Bloody Gore. They followed it up with 1988’s Leprosy, an album that’s considered by many to be one of their best.
The great thing about Leprosy is that it builds upon the ideas that Schuldiner put to tape on Scream Bloody Gore. Leprosy takes his approach on that album, with tuned down rhythm guitars, echoing guitar melodies and galloping bass drums and refines it. Schuldiner takes the writing to another level, challenging the listener with songs that have several changes in tempo and sound that somehow hold together.
The production on Leprosy is also much better than Scream Bloody Gore, being crisper and clearer. It sounds like a major label album, which was almost unheard of for death metal albums at that time. None of the instruments are buried at the back of the mix. You can hear the bass guitar as clearly as the lead guitar and drums, though it never overtakes them.
Chuck Schuldiner pulls triple duty on Leprosy, not only filling the roll of vocalist and playing, but also playing bass. He isn’t credited on the album for bass, though, instead that goes to Terry Butler who has played bass for not only Death, but also Obituary, Massacre and Six Feet Under.
Joining Schuldiner is Rick Rozz, also on guitar, and Bill Andrews on drums.
If Death has shown one thing, it’s that they know how to kick off an album. The title track, “Leprosy,” grabs the listener right away, pulling them into Schuldiner’s world of ferocious speed and dark melody.
“Leprosy” sets the mold for most of the album. While there are not any bad tracks, some stand out above others. These include “Left to Die” which sees Schuldiner write a very tonal song and slow the tempo down, but just for a little bit, before busting forward with one of the best speed blasts on the album.
“Pull the Plug” stands out for being slower and almost groovy. It’s kind of like stumbling into swampy water in the middle of a burning landscape. It sneaks up on you, causing that unconscious headbanging you do when a great song is on in the background.
Other standout tracks include “Open Casket” and “Choke On It.” While they don’t really break the mold of the other songs we heard from Death, they manage to stick out for showcasing the variety of what can be done in that mold of speed, tone and melody.
What can I say, it’s Death. I don’t think anyone has ever said there’s been a bad album from Schuldiner and cohorts. Buying the album for most is going to come down to whether they are fans of Death or not. If they are Death fans, then they probably bought Leprosy a long time ago.
As for the rest of us, give it a listen. If you liked Individual Thought Patterns then you’ll probably like Leprosy too. It’s a good listening experience, though slightly not as good as Individual Thought Patterns.
If you’re wanting to build a death metal collection, then I’d say this one is recommended as part of it. It may not be the best album in the genre, but it is an important one, showcasing a band that really set the standard for the genre. With Leprosy, they raised the bar, thus making this album at least worthy of a listen if not purchasing.