DEATH - Leprosy (COMBAT Records - LP 1988)
Let’s visit the past again. Here’s a classic Death album “Leprosy”. Oh, I think it’s the first death metal album, which I’ve ever heard and it was 25-26 years ago or something like that. You can imagine how many times have I listened it since then. Hundreds? I know every riffs, every vocals line – this album has no secrets before me anymore. This is a reason why I don’t play it so often these days and I prefer to put something new instead (like Gruesome or Skeletal Remains), because I don’t feel this excitement when I hear “Leprosy” anymore. This album will surely remain a total classic for me and I will always consider it as one of the best death metal records of all time. But not as Death’s finest album, because I like “Spiritual Healing” more. This one is their second best IMO.
Anyway, it’s been one year since the band has brutally mutilated every metalhead with “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy” was released in 1988. There’s been quite significant line up change – only Chuck Schuldiner remained on the altar of gore. He was joined by his old Mantas pal Rick Rozz on guitar, as well some other Massacre members – Bill Andrews on drums and Terry Butler on bass. But Butler joined the band shortly after the recording session of “Leprosy”, so he’s here just on the photos (Chuck recorded all bass lines). Interestingly, the line up here is almost the same, as on the three years later recorded “From Beyond”, but that’s another story.
“Leprosy” definitely shows a great progression and improvement with songwriting and technical aspects. You can hear that the songs are better composed, with lots of brilliant arrangements, more detailed guitar work, drums parts and everything else. Primitive gory death metal was moved along to Autopsy with Reifert, while Death took a huge step forward. Both Schuldiner and Rozz showed some great guitar work here, came up great heavy riffs, fantastic leads or quite a lot of melody for such an aggressive death metal album. They’ve been both equally responsible for composing “Leprosy”, most of the songs were written by two of them and only two tracks (two BEST songs on the album – “Leprosy” and “Pull the Plug”) were composed solely by Chuck and one song (“Primitive Ways”, which is also my least fave track here) was written only by Rick Rozz. More mature, much more developed and though through – this is what you’ll think, if you compare “Leprosy” to “Scream Bloody Gore”. Every song bursts with great brutal energy, but surprisingly a lot of these riffs are quite catchy and memorable, which is something that will always differ Death from other, more brutal US death metal acts. Obviously it’s not the ultra-progressive and innovatory Death songs yet, so do not expect “Human” from it. This album is closer to such “Pleasure to Kill” for instance than to “Symbolic” and “Human”. It’s aggressive, often relatively fast and still rather harsh sounding, but the production is very strong aspect of this album.
I have two really favourite songs here – first one is the title track, which may even be my favourite Death song ever. Oh, I love the riffs in it, that heaviness, harshness, melodies and the vicious atmosphere of “Leprosy”. This song has also quite memorable parts, it basically is one of those songs, where every riff is nailing you to the ground and crushing immediately. And the second fave piece is “Pull the Plug”, of course! Wow, this is such a killer, I’m sure that everyone knows this track, as it’s probably one of Death’s most popular anthems. This song is relatively easy, when speaking of its structure, arrangements and everything. But it’s so bloody effective, slower parts in it are absolutely fantastic, guitar leads are perfect and yet again the music is very memorable, you will remember its chorus or some of these killer riffs forever.
But there are more exceptional songs, like “Left to Die”, “Choke on It” and “Open Casket”, so the whole 40 minutes always go fast. It’s not a perfect record, it’s not the best death metal album (although an important one in my personal ranking and my death metal history). It has its faults, especially the drums, as I don’t really like the monotonous drumming of Andrews, who especially in the faster parts seem to be playing the same patterns over and over again. But his playing seems to fit that old school death metal character of “Leprosy”, so it is not a major complain. More so, the snare drum sound is almost annoying sometimes, but I can live with that. All in all, it’s been almost 30 years since “Leprosy” was recorded and this album didn’t get old at all, I still listen to it with smile on my face and with a great pleasure. And I am sure that in another 20 years it will make the same impression, because this is a timeless album.
Standout tracks: “Leprosy”, “Pull the Plug”, “Open Casket”, “Left to Die”
Final rate: 90/100