ATHEIST Frontman: CHUCK SCHULDINER Did Not Create Technical Metal

The new issue of Brazil’s Roadie Crew magazine includes an interview with singer and co-founding member Kelly Shaefer of reactivated seminal technical metal pioneers ATHEIST. During the chat, Shaefer gave his opinion on the roles that some of the other late Eighties and early Nineties bands played in the development of progressive/technical extreme metal. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

On CYNIC‘s “Traced In Air” album:

Shaefer: “It’s difficult, because you can’t help but look at the history of a band when they make a record fifteen years later. I mean, you can’t help but think on how they used to be then. What CYNIC did in their new album is very interesting. I think they had a lot of artistic balls, so to speak. They really kind of went in a different direction, and you know, I’m proud of them for that. I personally as a fan would have loved to see them make more of a metal record. That’s the CYNIC that I really loved. But I’m very proud of the landscapes that they have created musically. I’ve always believed in those guys since we first recorded our demo together back in the late Eighties. I always felt they were one of the most talented set of guys on the planet.”

On PESTILENCE:

Shaefer: “PESTILENCE made a great comeback record, but I don’t think that they deserve to be mentioned in that movement (technical metal). I don’t feel like anything they were making was really visionary or technical in any way, to be honest. I’ve talked to Patrick Mameli [PESTILENCE mainman] about this. That’s my honest opinion. I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. That’s how I feel about it. I’m sure many will disagree, but I’m sure many will also agree that bands like SIEGES EVEN deserve more credit than PESTILENCE. WATCHTOWER deserves more credit than PESTILENCE. WATCHTOWER was probably the first band that made we all realize that that kind of musicianship was possible within the realm of metal. We just took it a little further and made it a lot heavier.”

On DEATH and Chuck Schuldiner:

Shaefer: “Chuck obviously is super-important to anything that has an extreme metal tag, and that includes technical metal. But technical metal was so different than what he initially started or from what he is sort of the grandfather of. I knew Chuck and all my friends knew Chuck. He was very passionate and very much a pioneer of… I mean, he was very ballsy to call his band DEATH in the mid-Eighties. That alone was a huge thing that you have to respect, and I always did, and I think that all of us do. But when we talk about… when we first started, we had the same manager, and we would hear stories… When we played shows in Tampa with DEATH, Chuck would say things about us like that we were so noisy that we sounded like a train station. It was strange to hear that, because we were just a demo band at that point and we couldn’t understand why he was slagging us off. I think he just didn’t understand what we were doing. At the time, he didn’t think that jazz should have a place in metal. He even said that jazz shouldn’t have a place in metal on many occasions. He would say that we didn’t listen to metal at all and that we just listened to jazz. No! That’s just false. There was a lot of kind of a spirited competition. I think that’s where he was coming from. Chuck was really worried and protective over this kind of music and he should be. He really stuck his neck out for it. However, I think once he got a little older, once he jammed with Paul and Sean from CYNIC, he changed his viewpoint and he realized that musicianship is everything. The bands that we all grew up with… IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, those guys are all great players. He also grew up on those bands. I think he realized that technicality and incorporating different influences was not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think it’s important that the young metal fans know that Chuck Schuldiner is very much responsible for extreme metal, and extreme visuals in that genre. However, ATHEIST comes from a whole different place, and Chuck didn’t have anything to do with where we come from. I don’t say that to slam him in anyway. But we had our own thing, we did our own thing, we are still alone on a street corner of metal that was not embraced when we first made this kind of music.

“In a lot of years of DEATH, obviously, Chuck did embrace technicality, and, of course, that for he being in a much larger band than us, if people don’t tell the story correctly, it appears that DEATH was at the forefront of this. They weren’t. There were ATHEIST and CYNIC who were basically there.

“Everybody has a branch on the tree, and Chuck was definitely a thicker branch on the tree, a very important part of what we all do. We owe him a great deal of gratitude for being the pioneer that he was. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done and accomplished. But truth and matter of fact is that technical metal was not created by Chuck Schuldiner.”

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