• Death – Leprosy (3-Disc Reissue)

    Death – Leprosy (3-Disc Reissue)
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Releasing on: April 29th, 2014.
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    Death’s classic second album (considered by many to be their best work), originally released in 1988, was a ridiculously influential offering that was right in line with the style of music that bands like Slayer and Metallica were pumping out around the same time but with an added layer of heaviness and serious doses of the macabre. The line up this time around was made up of Chuck Schulinder, Fred DeLillo on guitar, Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums and this album was raw, it was dark, it was blisteringly fast and it was, for lack of a cornier term, brutal. The band would evolve, they’d get more progressive and in many ways more interesting but this album really represents them at their most intense.

    Now reissued by Releapse, this is a pretty fancy set, a lot of time and a lot of care has obviously gone into making this the best release that it can be.

    Available as a two or three CD set (the three disc set is available exclusively through the Relapse website here and it’s limited to 2000 pieces), the package also comes with liner notes, lyrics and a bunch of never before seen photos of the band – twenty-four pages of material there, a nice touch. You can also opt for a picture disc version limited to 1000 pieces or get a regular vinyl version of the remastered album that includes a download code for the contents of the two bonus discs, and then there’s a limited edition of 500 collector’s edition LPs available too. Lots of choices here, as far as formats go, probably too many to be honest.

    But obviously it’s the music that matters the most here, and the complete track listing for this release is as follows:


    Leprosy / Born Dead / Forgotten Past / Left To Die / Pull The Plug / Open Casket / Primitive Ways / Choke On It

    So obviously this is the album in its entirety, re-mastered by Alan Douches (who has worked on material by everyone from Motorhead to Cannibal Corpse to High On Fire) and while it’s often times a risky decision to go back and revise something that sounded very raw in the first place, Relapse has done a pretty great job here. The album still sounds heavy and nasty and fast and, yes, very raw but the sound quality is better. You can get a better feel for the guitar work and the vocals are just ever so slightly cleaner here. This means you can make out the lyrics easier but that we don’t lose any of the intensity of Chuck Schuldiner’s vocals.

    Listening to this again for the first time in a while, it’s pretty obvious how the band’s work would go on to have a huge impact in death metal to come, black metal as well. That intense sound is there, but the playing is so tight and so refined that the band really just shreds here. All eight tracks are fantastic, they don’t let up. Odds are pretty good though, that you know that already. What makes this release more interesting than the admittedly really good sounding remaster are the bonus materials that accompany it on the extra discs.


    Open Casket (9/23/87 rehearsal) / Choke On It (9/23/87 rehearsal) / Left To Die (9/23/87 rehearsal) / Left To Die Take Two (9/23/87 rehearsal) / Left To Die (12/05/87 rehearsal) / Open Casket (12/05/87 rehearsal) / Pull The Plug (12/05/87 rehearsal) / Choke On It (12/05/87 rehearsal) / Born Dead (12/05/87 rehearsal) / Forgotten Past (12/05/87 rehearsal)

    This second disc contains roughly fifty minutes of never before released rehearsal takes from two separate sessions that took place in 1987 before the album proper was recorded. Not surprisingly, the sound quality is nowhere near as good as the proper takes included on disc one. The sound is pretty muddy, to be honest, and a lot of the playing gets lost in the mix but it’s really interesting to hear how the music evolved from what we hear on these recordings into what wound up on the album itself. Right from the minute the first version of Open Casket kicks in you can tell these guys are playing for keeps, the musicianship, even in the rough form we hear it in on this disc, is fantastic. A lot of times the vocals almost disappear in the mix, but this stuff sounds like it was recorded on tape recorder in someone’s basement, we should be happy it exists at all. The quality of the 12/05/87 material is a bit better than the earlier rehearsal but it’s still muddy. Regardless, fans will want to check this out, it’s really a fascinating glimpse into Death’s history.


    Leprosy (Live at Backstreets) / Open Casket (Live at Backstreets) / Zombie Ritual (Live at Backstreets) / Pull The Plug (Live at Backstreets) / Left To Die (Live at Backstreets) / Mutilation (Live at Backstreets) / Forgotten Past (Live at Backstreets) / Born Dead (Live at Backstreets) / Denial Of Life (Live at Backstreets) / Primitive Ways (Live at Backstreets) / Infernal Death (Live at Backstreets) / Leprosy (Live at The Dirt Club) / Pull The Plug (Live at The Dirt Club) / Forgotten Past (Live at The Dirt Club) / Primitive Ways (Live at The Dirt Club)

    Last but not least, the third disc includes two shows, the first recorded at Backstreets in Rochester, New York on December13th, 1988 and the second from The Dirt Club in Bloomfield, New Jersey two nights prior on December 11th, 1988. Note that the ‘digital deluxe’ version includes three tracks not available anywhere else (Open Casket, Mutilation and Infernal Death) from that show at The Dirt Club, which is kind of frustrating if you want a physical copy with everything on it.

    The sound quality on these live recordings is a bit rough, the levels fluctuate a little bit here and there and you can probably safely assume these were taken from older cassette sources but again, the inclusion of this material really goes a long way towards documenting the band as they were during this period in their career. The material from the album itself is represented properly in life form here, and the vocals sound decent enough that you can actually understand them most of the time, even if the drums and bass sound pretty flat. There’s only so much you can do with material like this, but as with the rehearsal material it’s cool to hear it, particularly if you’re a fan who never got to experience Death live back when that was still an option. The Dirt Club show sounds a fair bit better than the Backstreets one, the sound is more complete, it’s fuller and the drums have a bit more power to them.

    All in all, this is a pretty massive undertaking on the part of Relapse here and while some will understandably take issue with the whole ‘instant collectible/limited edition’ route they’ve taken, the material here is excellent and the package as a whole is ridiculously comprehensive. There’s really no other way to cut it, Death fans should consider this essential.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Classic fucking album. Is Rick Rozz actually listed as Fred DeLillo on the packaging?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Relapse sent MP3s to review so I honestly don't know how he's credited on the album itself.
    1. Geten's Avatar
      Geten -
      Pull the Plug!