Death – Death By Metal Documentary

Death By Metal
Directed by Felipe Belalcazar
Produced by Mental Pictures
Review by Chris Galea

Consisting almost entirely of interviews, “Death By Metal” is an engrossing documentary that tells the story of Chuck Schuldiner and Death, the band Chuck spearheaded, and which was fundamental in spawning an entire Metal sub-genre…Death Metal.

The interviews gather testimonies and thoughts of persons closely associated with Death…persons such as family members of Chuck, band members, journalists and Death’s band manager. Although the documentary was produced after Chuck’s death, there are even archival interview excerpts with him.

What emerges is that Chick was yes a musical genius but also a flawed one with his own idiosyncrasies such as impulsivity, paranoia and susceptibility to mental exhaustion. In fact, while director Belalcazar’s admiration for Death and Chuck is obvious throughout, “Death by Metal” is more than a eulogy to the USA musician. For example the documentary reveals the extent of Chuck’s tantrums and his inability to pin down a stable line-up. It reminiscences on the numerous European tours, including some crucial ones, that Chuck cut short…and consequently alienated several people.

“Death by Metal” is a treasure-trove of trivia that will delight the most hardened fan but even viewers unfamiliar with the band or the music genre should find it quite interesting. For at the end of the day this is the story of a human being’s pursuit of his dreams and the importance of a loving family in providing an environment conducive to those very dreams. These are factors anyone can relate to. When Chuck’s sister recalls that the day Chuck was told he had a brain tumour was also his birthday, you can’t help feel a tinge of sorrow.

As far as being a musician was concerned, Chuck Schuldiner was the epitome of avant-garde in the sense that his mindset was constantly aiming to be creative besides cultivating musicality and technique. This sometimes conflicted with market demands and is another factor the documentary tackles.

Towards the end Glenn Drover (guitarist who played with bands such as Death, Megadeth, King Diamond and Testament) shares a reflection that’s actually a good summation of Chuck’s raison d’etre. Drover said “[Chuck had…] the balls to do something that he wanted to do and not conform to what everybody else though he should be. That is the testament to a true musician….somebody who follows his own path and not caters to what he thinks other people expect from him.”

“Death by Metal” is about life as much as it is about Death.

Watch the trailer here:


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