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 Greif: Scream 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!