Death to All Breathe New Life into Old Favorites: Floridian band Death is one of the pioneers of death metal. Active from 1983, their back catalog is essential listening for fans of the genre. Leprosy in particular is a bonafide classic of any genre.

The band ceased to be when main man Chuck Schuldiner died in 2001 and, for a long time, that appeared to be that. Much like Motorhead and Lemmy, Death continuing full-on without Schuldiner was a non-starter. It just wouldn’t work; he wrote the songs, and he was there one mainstay while the lineup shifted over the years. So Death lay dormant.

In recent years though though, three former band members have come together as Death to All, to pay tribute to their comrade. That’s drum icon Gene Hoglan (also of Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Testament), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Sadus, etc) and guitarist Bobby Koelble. The lineup is completed by vocalist and guitarist Max Phelps, of Cynic (among others).

At the Belasco in Downtown L.A. on Wednesday, Death to All was immense. And as much as the heaving venue was delighted to see the three former members of Death playing these amazing songs again, Phelps is an absolute revelation front and center.

Regardless of dismissive naysayers might tell you, death metal is not easy to sing, and Death songs are particularly challenging. Schuldiner was no Cookie Monster sound-alike. The man that a voice like gargling nails — in turn devastatingly low and then ear-shreddingly high. Phelps can do it all, and he’s an amazing guitarist too. The songs, frankly, sounded perfect.

“Spiritual Healing,” “Evil Dead” and “Leprosy” whizz by in a blur. “Suicide Machine” is a sledgehammer to the noggin and, towards the end, “Zombie Ritual” is the closest Death gets to a singalong. “Pull the Plug” is a lumbering, unrelenting, sludgy metal monster. Fucking perfect!

Earlier, New York death metal icons Suffocation were awesome, even if their sound seemed a little muffled (not their fault at all). Vocalist Ricky Myers replaced Frank Mullen a few years ago, not an easy task. Mullen’s ultra-deep grunt is a hallmark of this band. But Myers does a fine job and the likes of “Infecting the Crypts” from the Effigy of the Forgotten debut were performed magnificently on The Belasco stage.

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