Throughout the history of heavy metal, there have been many influential bands who’ve helped guide the trajectory of various sub genres. Very few, however, can claim a spot in that highest of echelons in regard to influence and importance, like Death and the subgenre with which they share a name.
Death could be considered one of maybe 3 or 4 bands responsible for the birth of Death Metal, perhaps one of the biggest and most expansive subgenres today.
The innovation in Death’s sound cannot be understated. Bands were trying to emulate them 5 years after the fact. You can take an early Death album and hold it up to death metal albums released fifteen years later, and it will not sound dated. Like I said, other bands took their time catching up.
Frontman and ringleader Chuck Schuldiner has become something of an icon of metal in subsequent years – a larger-than-life figure of reverential stature, spoken of in the same way as Iommi and Lemmy.
And that reverence is because Chuck was an innovator, an artist. Not satisfied with just creating and mastering a sound so well that bands still emulate them 30+ years later, he pushed Death into new territory – expanding into (and helping to create) further branches on the death metal tree, such as technical death metal, progressive death metal, and even melodic death metal.
Put simply, Chuck Shuldiner and Death were and remain a fountain of inspiration that has guided the progress of Death Metal all over the world for over thirty years. Their influence on the heavy metal today is immeasurable.
To think what more Chuck could’ve achieved, had his life not been cut tragically short, is pointless. His contributions to music are more than most would hope for in many lifetimes. We may miss Chuck, but the gifts he left us continue to bear fruit.