Schuldiner formed Death as Mantas in 1983 when he was 16 years old. Original members were Schuldiner (guitar), Rick Rozz (guitar) and Kam Lee (drums and vocals). In January 1986, Schuldiner moved to Toronto and temporarily joined the Canadian band Slaughter. However, he quickly returned to continue the formation of Death.
Death underwent many lineup changes. With Chris Reifert, Schuldiner eventually released the first Death album, titled Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. He continued with 1988's Leprosy with the line-up of former Mantas guitarist Rick Rozz and rhythm section Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums, and 1990's Spiritual Healing, where guitarist James Murphy had replaced the fired Rozz in 1989.
After Spiritual Healing, Schuldiner stopped working with full-time band members, preferring to work with studio and live venue musicians, due to bad relationships with Death's previous rhythm section and guitarists. This earned Schuldiner something of a 'perfectionist' reputation in the metal community. Schuldiner had also fired his manager Eric Greif but settled and re-hired him before the recording of his next, influential release.
Death's breakthrough album, Human saw the band evolving to a more technical and progressive style, in which Schuldiner displayed his guitar skills more than ever. He continued in this style (and continued the success of the band) with 1993's Individual Thought Patterns, 1995's Symbolic, and finally The Sound of Perseverance in 1998. Throughout his career, Schuldiner was not afraid to take on controversial lyrical subjects, taking an anti-drug stance on "Living Monstrosity" and writing about abortion in "Altering the Future".
He put Death on hold after this to continue Control Denied, which he had been putting together prior to the release of The Sound of Perseverance, and released The Fragile Art of Existence in 1999. Control Denied also had other players from the latest Death album but featured a melodic metal vocalist. Schuldiner also played guitar in the "supergroup" Voodoocult on the album Jesus Killing Machine in 1994 and played a guest solo on Naphobia's 1995 release, Of Hell on the track "As Ancients Evolve" as a favor to the band's bassist at the time who was a friend of Schuldiner's. Schuldiner was also asked to be one of the many guest vocalists on Dave Grohl's 2001 Probot. Grohl, Napalm Death, Ozzy Osbourne, and Anthrax all increased efforts to raise funds for Schuldiner's medical bills with Grohl trying to involve Schuldiner on an album he was working on.
In 1998, while touring the world for The Sound of Perseverance album, Schuldiner admitted his disdain for the emerging fusion genre of nu metal. In describing his own music, he referred to it as "...metal - melodic. No hip hop, jumping up and down, baggy trouser crap."
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