Bazillion Points Revives 'Choosing Death' This November; Death Metal & Grindcore History Exhumed in Revised & Expanded Death-luxe Edition

This November 2016, Bazillion Points Books expands its lethal library with a revised and expanded 400-page "death-luxe" edition of Decibel editor Albert Mudrian's morbid modern classic Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Choosing Death will join Daniel Ekeroth's Swedish Death Metal, Tony Rettman's NYHC, and dozens of other essential volumes detailing extreme underground happenings. 

Says Publishers Weekly: “Mudrian, editor-in-chief of Decibel magazine, condenses painstaking and lengthy interviews to create this informative history of death metal, covering the genre’s origin in small clubs and basements on two continents; its spike in popularity and major-label interest circa 1992; the relative obscurity that followed; and the music’s rebirth in recent years." 

Preorder the book at this location and receive a color woven patch featuring new cover artwork by celebrated painter Dan Seagrave. 

Mudrian's widely praised blow-by-blow history of metal's most relentless strains was first published in 2004, leading to seven further translated editions (plus a limited edition hardcover from Decibel Books in 2015). Picking up the gruesome path over a decade later, Mudrian leaves no tombstone unturned, delivers three new chapters, and expands every chapter with material from 50 new interviews. 

Bazillion Points has completely rebuilt the results in a larger, heavier 130gsm format offering new introductions and afterwords by Mudrian; a foreword from forefather Scott Carlson of Repulsion; new artwork and photographs; and a brutal new 16-page color section featuring raw, bloody early photos of Death, Repulsion, Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Thanatos, At the Gates, Napalm Death, Carcass, Dismember, Nihilist, and many others. 

"The only reason Bazillion Points didn’t release the original version of Choosing Death back in 2004 is because they wouldn’t exist for another four years!" says Mudrian. "That minor delay ultimately couldn’t prevent this unholy union of print-minded forces. In fact, the extended courtship provided me with an extra dozen years to fashion this ultimate edition of Choosing Death. Only the Bazillion Points' Choosing Death is real…" 

“Extremely well researched and compiled with a true passion, Choosing Death is the testament of an era—an underground bible.”—Lee Dorrian, Napalm Death/Cathedral

Thrust your fingers into the freshly turned soil, and inhale the stench of CHOOSING DEATH! 

Scream Bloody Gore: The Choosing Death Interview Outtakes

Recently, Relapse reissued Death’s unparalleled debut Scream Bloody Gore, and I can’t stop listening to it. Lucky for you, this obsession inspired me to dip back into some interviews I originally conducted back in 2013 for the revised and expanded (NEARLY SOLD-OUT) edition of the Choosing Death book. Below, Scream Bloody Gore (and, duh, Autopsy) drummer Chris Reifert and former Death manager Eric Greif recall some SBG memories that failed to make the final cut of Choosing Death.

What are your earliest recollections of Scream Bloody Gore

Eric GreifScream Bloody Gore had been sent to me as promo, I looked at the cover and giggled a little, and thought “wow, that’s brutal” but never actually listened to it. And at that time, of course, all of the reviews for Death were horrible—across the board. Anyone who claimed that they liked Death two years later, if they say they liked Death when Scream Bloody Gore came out, was a liar. All of the Bernard Does and all off these guys who were the established writers, they wrote of Death at the beginning. It wasn’t until Leprosy that everything changed—from my perspective anyway. It was a joke. Even the guy that signed Death to Combat, [former A&R director] Steve Sinclair considered it a joke. He really only signed him at Don Kaye’s insistence. 

So, Steve Sinclair is responsible for the infamous “This album is Don Kaye’s folly” line in the LP liner notes?

Greif: Yeah, absolutely. And it was something that always bothered [Death founder] Chuck [Schuldiner]. Scream Bloody Gore was never reissued in Chuck’s lifetime. It was only posthumously put out by Century Media as part of the deal that [CM founder] Robert [Kampf] had with Relativity post Chuck’s death. Chuck never lived to see the removal of that or the removal of John Hand from the record. So, of course when Relapse and I do the reissue of Scream Bloody Gore both that line and John Hand will be removed. It always bothered Chuck in a big way.

It’s become funny over the years at how inaccurate it is. 

Greif: In retrospect, especially. Looking at the entire Death career, who is going to slay Death now? But if you’re putting someone in the shoes of someone my age—early 20s—in 1987, this was quite a monumental record. We could talk about Seven Churches all you want Scream Bloody Gore stood on its own as the heaviest thing ever when it came out. When Steve was making arrangements for the recording of Scream Bloody Gore, for its second incarnation, which was with [producer] Randy Burns at I guess maybe Music Grinder in L.A., from what I understand from Randy, it was just like “Try to refine this a little. Try to make this as mainstream metal as you can.” That was the instruction given to Randy when it came time to record the record. 

And that was all Steve Sinclair’s doing?

Greif: Yeah, because he had his A&R guy who a local in the New York scene who wanted very much to get this band on that label. So, I think Steve just kinda went along with the instance of Don because Don was such a megafan. Sinclair went for his own label, of course, Mechanic and went into the commercial metal thing with the Bang Tangos and all of that stuff. I just don’t think he even wants to revisit talking about it, as silly as that is. 

---- 

Had you already signed to Combat when you recorded the eventually aborted session?

Chris Reifert: Yeah, the deal was sealed and they trusted us to find a studio and go at it on our own, which turned out to be a terrible idea [laughs]! We were enthusiastic, but unaware that the studio we picked was a bad choice, due to the fact that the folks who ran it had NO idea of what metal was. We figured our brutality would shine through, ya know?

Can you talk about exactly what it was about the original Florida recording session that you guys disliked so much? From my understanding you never even did the vocals before you (cough) pulled the plug on it

Reifert: It was Combat who realized we were making a mistake. We were happy just to be in a recording studio making death metal. I think we went there for two days. One day for setup and one day for recording. There's actually a bootleg out there of that session. Someone sent me a copy of it not too long ago which was interesting since I taped over my copy ages ago. Didn’t think it would be important later so I probably taped Repulsion over it or something [laughs]! I've heard seven songs from that including “Legion of Doom,” which obviously didn't make it onto the “real” version of Scream Bloody Gore. Maybe we did more, but I honestly can't remember… it was SO long ago. And yeah, we only did drums and one guitar track—that's as far as it got.

Did Combat get to hear the tapes? If so, did they have any feedback?

Reifert: Yep, they somehow got a listen after that first attempt and wisely said it sounded like shit. We were shocked at first I suppose, but as soon as we found out they were gonna fly us to L.A. to do it right, excitement took over pretty quick. It was time to write it off at a loss and move forward. The best part was we got to work with Randy Burns who had done Seven Churches... score! 

New Trailer for "DEATH by MetaL" Documentary & Interview with Director Felipe Belalcazar

DEATH by MetaL.jpg

In case you've missed it, DEATH by MetaL is the upcoming documentary on a band that we happen to be slight fans of. Hence, we're fairly chuffed that director Felipe Belalcazar has agreed to screen the film in its entirety as past of Choosing Death Fest: Grimposium

As we're excited to the point of counting down the minutes, we got in touch with the Deathly director for a semi-lengthy chat about the documentary. If this hasn't caught your interest enough, we've got a trailer filled with new content. Check it out below. 

For any similarly enthused parties, help support the completion of the deahtly doc via purchasing a Death shirt or hoodie at Teespring, available in Scream Bloody Gore, Sound of Perseverance, and DEATH by MetaL designs.

We’ve got to start this interview with the most important question, obviously. What’s your favorite Death record?

That’s hard. Because to me, and this is a two-part answer, to me Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy should be a double record. If, in my ideal universe that were to happen, then my favorite death record be between those and Human. Now, in reality, and if I have to pick only one, I would go with Human.

 Getting into the documentary itself, from watching the preview we can see a lot of visual effects going on. Can you tell us a little about the decision to introduce those elements? What motivated you to go with this sort of approach?

Right off the bat I can’t take credit for the whole visual part because my sidekick, well I wouldn’t even call him my sidekick, we’re like Bill and Ted or something on this death metal trip, my buddy Jaan [Silmberg] is the art director on this thing. He’s not a death metal fan -- well he is now, but he wasn’t before. The reason why we decided to go this way was because in our many trips, talking about the records and the band and everything, describing Human always came with this, [element of] it’s almost like you took Pink Floyd and Rush and then Death and put them into a blender, you know? We wanted to explore that concept as much as possible using the elements that are already there.

The reason for that is because we don’t want to make a statement like “that to me, Human is like blah blah blah,” and then come up with new graphic elements that did not have something to do with the record originally.  Using [the original elements], and the technology available now, with Jaan we were able to just basically explode the Human cover. And that’s "explode," not "explore," because explore is you just sit and look at it while you’re listening to it. But with the way that we wanted to show how awesome and, I just can’t describe it, how Human is, we wanted to take the Human cover and pump it full of LSD. And then lick it. 

If you were trying to introduce some new element, or some new graphic, that would take away from what Human means. 

Human as an album, everything about it was so different. Everything aboutv[the documentary] needs to be different. We’re talking about the album, and listening to the clips, whatever, but you have the whole visual aspect. You have to blow people’s minds, the same as you’re blowing their minds with the music.

The film will be screened in its entirety and Choosing Death Fest: Grimposium; what part of the production process are you currently in? 

Because this is a doc it's easier to have a full story edit done. Think of it like a manuscript of a book:  it’s easier to have that finished before everything else, dropping in the images and graphics. The part we’re in right now is that the movie is done, it’s been done for maybe a month, per say, maybe less than that. And logged and everything. Now  a friend, Gustavo Valderrama, who's a huge Death fan, is doing the audio mix. And Jaan and I are working on graphic stuff, because we’re using after effects on it so takes a while to do a few things like renders sometimes.  

Can you give us some details about the structure of the documentary and why you chose that? 

Originally I wanted to just talk about Chuck being this genius or musical dude. But then after thinking about it for awhile, and reading Albert’s book and everything, Chuck and Death are intertwined in a way that the band is almost biographical of him in many ways. So then it was a thing of the proof is in the pudding type thing, it was a rewrite approach to show about Chuck as this musical genius that he was, then how that translates into a doc. For example how we show Human.

But then also you have this side of him being, I don’t want to say paranoid, because when you’re close to your thing, it’s not paranoia, but really high strung and wound up about things, so that translated into other things and lyrics. It became almost-- I don’t want to say multi-dimensional-- but we also didn’t want to spoon feed the audience, saying things like “because Chuck was feeling this way he wrote this song.” But at the same time, those parallels are drawn by the people that lived them. It’s not a flattering thing either, you see things on Facebook like “ Oh ‘The Philosopher’ was written about Paul Masvidal because blah blah blah,” No. It’s more like why was Individual Thought Patterns done and written up, and have the approach that it did. And why did they bring Andy LaRocque, and all of these bigger questions kind of linked to the same thing.

You’ve got quite an impressive cast of interviews. Was there anyone in particular you found to be most surprising, or gave some surprising insight?

All of the interviews can fit into that category in one way or another because this happened so long ago that it’s interesting to see these guys think back to when they were teenagers when they are my dad’s age now. So that was weird, realizing like”Wow, Terry Butler is my dad’s age.” [Something that] wasn’t surprising to me because I’ve worked in the industry with things like [YouTube metal channel] Banger before, but to somebody like my wife (because she came on the road with us on some of the trips), [it was surprising] meeting someone like Terry Butler who is into horticulture and has an amazing garden. Beautiful flowers in these skull pots. I was like "Yeah that’s wicked," but she was even more impressed because this is Terry Butler from Obituary, you know, Inked in Blood is their last album, he’s got this public image, so that was the surprising part in the regard. 

To me, and this was happening on the spot and then later on in the edit, you’re hearing stories and when you ask somebody else that was involved in the same incident, or whatever, later on in another interview, and they tell you the same story and it’s really interesting to hear it come together from the same people. And in the same way things can fall apart. I won’t tell you which stories fell apart. 

One of the interviews that was amazing like that was Terry Butler and Rick Rozz because of many things. If you remember, about a year ago was the DTA/Massacre tour, and towards the end of that tour there was a big blowup, very public. There were a lot of nasty things said, both publicly and on the bus, and this was very fresh when I went to see Terry and Rick. I saw them a day apart. Then when I’m asking Rick I’m like “Tell me about Leprosy,” and his face just changed. And when I asked Terry the same thing it almost felt like they were next to each other, after doing both the interviews and seeing what they said (and hopefully this comes out in the edit too) it almost came to a point where they were completing each other's sentences in telling how things went and how the record was done. So that was really cool, because just a few months they were at each other’s throats because of all this other stuff. 

Watching the preview, the quality on it really nice, with a high production value. In comparison, sometimes you see the heart is there, and the video quality isn’t great, the sound quality isn’t good. This looks very professional. Could you explain why you decided to go with the route? Rather than an iPhone in the basement. 

There are a few prongs to that. For one, it’s my job, I work in film, so that’s a personal standard. Putting that aside, it’s one of those things that you need to have in order to have a legitimate acceptance. And I’m not trying to make this like a black album, or make Death the next Sublime or whatever, but if I want a lot of people to watch this, I need to get this on Netflix or Hulu or whatever. And if I want these guys to look at this seriously, then this needs to look like the rest of the things that are in there. There is an approach if you want to sell it, because fandom is like a mountain and very few fans are going to be at the top and buy an uncut, four-hour VHS thing of their super obscure band. And I’m not saying Death is obscure, but if they are as awesome as I’m trying to convey in this documentary, then I need to make this documentary as awesome as I’m trying to say this band is. 

Could you tell us something that you think the long time Death fans will enjoy about the documentary, and something that you think a new fan will enjoy?

A long time fan would find, I don’t know if "closure" is the right word, but would find a straight up answer (finally) to questions like what happened in the Spiritual Healing tour when Chuck didn’t go. At the time there was no internet, and they were pissed at each other when they did the interviews, so it’s hard to sift through the bullshit. Now what happened, we’ll answer that in the best way we can, and they’ll be more in the extra features. 

They will enjoy hearing, or maybe not, about the the Human tour of Europe, and about how it went, because again, with no internet, even to this day, information is mixed because of the time and all this other stuff. A long time Death fan will definitely enjoy hearing Chuck’s mom tell how this whole thing came together. 

A new fan, or a new convert, will see these guys now and see that they are true to what they were before, or who they were. Like Rick Rozz is still riffing it out in Florida, and you see it where we interview him. And people who have met Terry Butler know that he is super chill because we interviewed him at his house. Everyone that we interviewed, we tried to get them where they feel the most comfortable, so the new fan will know that it's like [in death metal voice:]“Fucking ‘Mutilation!’ but I gotta go mutilate the weeds too.” That type of thing. 

I’m a big documentary nerd, I’ve watched documentaries since I was a kid, so I get off on the realness of it. For a long time I thought that the whole Ozzy Osbourne shot on the Decline of Western Civilization where he spills the orange juice, the whole thing was staged but I thought for the longest time that the whole thing was real because he was so fucked all the time. I like that type of thing. 

From the preview, it seemed like a good amount of the footage is backstage, live stuff, stuff that someone had from a personal camera -- is there a lot of footage that was unreleased?

With Death, it’s hard to say what’s released and unreleased. Basically between Chuck’s passing and until they got to Relapse, there was a lot of back and forth and not everything was owned by the same people. There are a lot of things that a lot of people I’ve shown them to have never seen them, and I’ve never seen them, so I don’t know how rare those things are, but I would suppose they are rare. Specifically, that backstage thing, that is a tape transfer from Eric, who said he’s never given it to anybody, so I have to go by that. So it’s a tape transfer of [then manager] Eric [Greif] filming this observational documentary basically, so reality television of Death basically, from the “Lack of Comprehension” video (because it was a one day film shoot). He shot most of the takes, and the dicking around, and it’s about 45 minutes long. And from there I took all the takes and put together what you saw on the video. 

In the preview there is a shot with Sean [Reinert] where he cuts from now, talking about the video, to Eric catching him at the time talking about the many takes on the drums and how much of a bitch it was. There's a couple like that. Also, this guy, I don’t know who he is, but he’s friends of Eric I guess, [had these] three VHS tapes. These are legit the dude’s tapes from 1985, or something, and he’s like “Yeah I was there, and we used to trade tapes, you can probably use these.”

Now one of the videos is not on YouTube -- I’ve only been able to find one song and it’s super shitty quality online, and that one is the Milwaukee Metal Fest of 1991, with the Human lineup and Scott Carino on bass. The other two are what I think are the earliest videos of Death. One is from their very first tour, and the other is from when they met Eric, before he signed on as their manager. I got those three tapes professionally transferred, so they’re like as sharp as we’re going to get out of a VHS, and you’ll see they’re pretty good. On YouTube everything is just a big blob, and here [in the documentary] you can see them play and it sounds great.

The Milwaukee Metal Fest one is from the side of the stage too. I don’t know if you’ve seen the old pictures of Eric wearing a green Israeli Defence Force sweater, it has some yellow Hebrew writing on it, and a big star. If you’ve seen those pictures and if you watch the Milwaukee Metal Fest video (which will be included in the extras in the DVD), you’ll see Eric standing at the other side of the stage, standing and just rocking next to the sound board guy. 

Have you seen a strong reaction or buzz about this?

The fans are into it. The ones that know, because pretty much every day we’re hearing over Facebook from people like “Wow, I didn’t know this was going on. I missed the t-shirts!”

“Wow really? We’ve been going on for more than a year, but that’s cool.”

So they’re pretty into it. In terms of internet buzz, aside from talking to Justin [Norton, of Decibel] about new content, that’s about it. I haven’t put up new content for a reason, to keep it all under wraps. Not just to build up the hype, [but] because you don’t want people to watch a movie when they’ve already seen half of it in the trailers. Also, you don’t want to show something in the trailer, all the cool parts, and then you go watch the movie and you’re like “Man, the trailer was better than the movie!” 

Now I have shown this movie in some stages to Albert and Jeff Wagner, and Eric saw it last night of what the movie is looking like, with graphics, up until yesterday. He loved it, and he said it was great, it hits all the points. Chuck’s sister has seen it, (some parts not, the whole thing) and she really liked it too. That’s a good thing I guess, right?

What else would you like to say to some interested death metal fan?

Even though it’s official, the band --well Perseverance Holdings-- was behind it in the way they are facilitating access to a lot of things, this is 100% independent, there’s no label involved, there’s nobody.

The reason why I mention that is because it's not cheap to make something like this, so that’s why we’ve been selling the shirts. And it’s also tricky to run a crowdfund and keep people happy. I say that because I’ve had previous run ins with that stuff, like the extreme metal episode of Banger. At Banger, we didn’t have a full crew the way they had with say a full-fledged Metal Evolution episode, obviously for payroll reasons. 

But it wasn’t just me doing it. It took us a long time, working every day, to get this stuff out. That was a big challenge, the whole crowd funding thing, and I’m pretty happy with the way that’s turned out. I think people are happy about the t-shirts too, so that's cool. I’m going to be running the last t-shirt campaign hopefully, this time we’re doing sweaters, or hoodies, for instance in the US [laughs], to basically finish off.

We’re all fans here in this, but we’ve got to keep the lights on, you know?

For more info and updates on DEATH by MetaL, check out the Facebook page. To help support the project, grab a Death shirt or hoodie from Teespring, available in Scream Bloody Gore, Sound of Perseverance, and DEATH by MetaL cover designs. You can purchase tickets to see the advance screening of the documentary as part of Choosing Death Fest: Grimposium—featuring workshops with J.R. Hayes and Leila Abdul-Rauf, panel discussions — which will take place at 12pm Saturday, April 16 at Underground Arts in Philadelphia, PA.   

Derkéta's Top 5 Doomy Death Metal Songs of All Time

Choosing Death Fest goes down April 16 at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer. To celebrate, we’re asking some of the artists performing to list some very specific "death metal top 5s." Of course, Derkéta guitarist/vocalist Sharon Bascovsky slowed things down a bit with her Top 5 Doomy Death Metal Songs of All Time. Here we go: 

Bolt Thrower “Destructive Infinity”
When I first bought War Master, it was just a promo cassette, red cover—nothing fancy. But the music was there, so I thought, and that’s all that mattered. About a decade or so later I got Warmaster on CD. To my surprise track five comes on and it was a song that was left off of the promo cassette. For me, it was a new Bolt Thrower song from an old release, really tripped me out. It has been one of my favorite songs from them ever since.

Carnage “Dark Recollections”
Carnage is one of those bands that when I first heard them I was blown away. "Dark Recollections" to me captures what death metal is all about. You cannot listen to it without actually getting captured into the song, and to me that is what makes a good song. This is one of those songs that you like at first listen.

Nomenclature Diablerie “Lovecraft”
Back in the tape trading days, Ross [Dolan] from Immolation included the Nomenclature Diablerie two-song demo on a mix jam tape that he sent to me. It was an instant favorite. Still to this day not too many people know about this band, but I’ve always raved about them in interviews. Years later, the band had contacted me after noticing my mention of them in interviews and I finally got the scoop. The band was created out of a contest between two roommates to see who can create the heavier band. Matty Smith [guitars] recruited Sloth from Sadistik Execution [drums] and with Toneye’s vocals, they created one of the most brutal cult death metal recordings. Brilliant.

Rottrevore “Conspiracised”
Rottrevore is a band that to me is the U.S. equivalent of the great Swedish death metal that captured most of our souls back in the ’80s and early ’90s. Their songs are extremely well written and catchy, lots of hooks that stay away from the expected patterns, and is just pure brutality. “Conspiracised” is just one of those songs, right around the 40-second mark you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Entombed "Morbid Devourment"
What is a list without the mighty Entombed?! “Morbid Devourment” is one of my favorites off of Left Hand Path, which is undoubtedly one of the most iconic death metal albums of all time. The Phantasm outro to the song “Left Hand Path” still gives me chills to this day. This song brings in a touch of doom that adds this eeriness that death metal should have. 

So, that is my list of just five of the songs that have captured a part of me in this cursed death metal lifestyle. The impact of these songs is pretty huge though, kind of like when you find others that have been captured by these songs you just give them that subtle nod that, “yeah, you get it; you’re alright—you’re family.”