The origins and influences of death metal as a genre are often fiercely debated, but as with any other type of music, there are pivotal moments and artists who have left an indelible mark.
In a recent conversation with the Loaded Radio Podcast, Volbeat and Asinhell frontman Michael Poulsen shared his insights on the evolution of death metal and the band that he believes played a pivotal role in completing the genre. When asked about his three favorite death metal albums, Poulsen included Death's Spiritual Healing on his list.
"When I heard Spiritual Healing … Of course, before that, I did hear Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, but something happened with Spiritual Healing," said Poulsen. "You could suddenly hear the mighty talent of Chuck Schuldiner. You can hear the progress. It was like he took — not only did he take the death metal style to a certain level."
Poulsen then went on to discuss Death's place in the history of death metal, noting that there will always be a debate about who started the genre. However, he believes that Death "completed" the genre, while Possessed "planted the seed."
"You know, there will always be that discussion: was it Possessed that started death metal or was it Chuck Schuldiner who started death metal? But I think to do it fair, I will say that Possessed planted the seed of death metal, but Chuck Schuldiner became the tree. So he kind of completed it somehow."
Poulsen elaborated on his love of Death, saying that he was impressed by Schuldiner's songwriting and the thought-provoking lyrics on Spiritual Healing. He also praised guitarist James Murphy's contributions to the album.
"Scream Bloody Gore was a great album. And the lyrics were more gory, and they're fun. And pretty much the same on Leprosy. On Leprosy, you could actually start to hear that Chuck was getting into structure when it comes to how he was writing his songs. But on Spiritual Healing suddenly there was more structure and the subject of his lyrics was just something you haven't heard about before in death metal." Poulsen explained.
"Suddenly it was relevant subjects, what was going on in American society, just what was going on in the world. And it makes you think, 'What the fuck is going on here?' And just the whole cover artwork. But I also think the songwriting was so solid. And I've also gotta give a lot of credit to James Murphy since he also wrote some material for that album and great solos. For me, that was just the essence of how I wanted death metal to sound like. When that record came out, it was like, 'Wow.'"
It's undeniable that Spiritual Healing remains a seminal work that transformed the genre, and its influence endures to this day. And Poulsen proudly wears those influences in the fantastic debut of his new band Asinhell.