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Death: Individual Thought Patterns

In memory of Chuck Schuldiner, and that it’s been roughly ten years since his passing, Relapse Records has been reissuing many of the legend’s releases as reissued material with plenty of bonus music for the fans that has never been released before. Recently I tackled the Death album Human and it’s three disc reissue on here as a feature article that took a more personal look at the album. For a while I debated on how to handle these, as the Control Denied reissue review felt like it simply would not be good enough for the impending Death reissues considering the impact these albums made on me during my Metal discovery stages. And, with the third reissue out, being the infamous Individual Thought Patterns release, I felt compelled to speak from my heart about this latest reissue.

First of all, I want to make one thing clear: Individual Thought Patterns was always an album I had to be in the right mood to properly enjoy. I had to really want to hear the album, or else I simply wouldn’t enjoy it as much. The reason for that is due to the amount of Progressive elements that often didn’t quite fit well with Chuck’s voice or even, dare I admit, felt a little tacked on at times. But, when I was in the mood for something a little different and what I would consider a more adult oriented (in maturity, not lyrical themes or subject matter) version of the style, almost an Adult Contemporary Death Metal breed if you would. But, even when I was not really in the mood for it, I still embraced many of the songs on here, but when I wanted to venture in more experimental territory, tracks like “Trapped in a Corner,” “Overactive Imagination,” and “Nothing is Everything” would rip right into me while I would get lost in the Progressive aggression and attitude of the album. So, of course, when Relapse announced a release date for their reissue of this release, I immediately pre-ordered this (which you can find more information on that in the Distro reviews for the Relapse Store in the All Reviews section of this site), and anxiously waited.

And waited…

And waited… Until shortly prior to it’s release the disc found it’s way to my possession. I tore the box open with anticipation and threw that CD into the car’s stereo, and was reminded exactly what made this album so good, as well as why I have to be in the right mood to like it. Right now as I type this review, I’m up to “Nothing is Everything” on my at least sixteenth spin with this disc of the set alone. Some times with it I admit to taking it out of the player for something a little fresh when not doing work on this site, such as in the car or unwinding at home, but for the most part it stayed lodged in there. But it took no less then one spin to make me realize something was drastically amiss. Something that made me immediately go back to my original Individual Thought Patterns pressing and throw me into absolute horror. The new remix of this album was horrid.

For the 2011 reissue of Individual Thought Patterns, I sadly feel I must cry bullshit on the remix of the effort, and the thing is that, from what I’ve read on the net and thanks to conversations with friends and acquaintances, I seem to be the only one greatly let down by this. After spending time with the original version, I can’t help but feel the guitars in this mix are podded up higher and sharper, and it winds up ruining some of my favorite songs all together by making the bass sound less important, which was one of the most important instruments to the success of this release. That additional layer of Progressive goodness was what helped Individual Thought Patterns become a staple of the Death discography, and one listen makes you realize even Chuck himself seems to be aware of this. The audio also comes off a bit foggy, losing much of the bite that the sharper guitars gave it as well. Such a strong album seems to have gone through a remix hell that greatly hurt the impact the music has, leaving me with very few moments of headbanging, even to my favorites like those mentioned before, especially “Nothing is Everything” which is my favorite track off the entire release.

Heartbroken, I also immediately took notice of the bonus material, and unlike Human, and even The Sound of Perseverence reissues, this one felt less intimate in comparrison. I don’t know if this is due to a lack of material available that was not released, or just general decision to include less demo recordings, but this 2011 reissue features one disc worth of demo material, and only on the third disc. If you are not lucky enough to get that limited to two thousand edition of this release, you may not legally get to hear these recordings. The first ten songs are four track demo recordings with Chuck and Gene Hogland from December of 1992, which is essentially the entire album but rawer and with only those two involved. Then you have the riffs to “In Human Form,” “The Philosopher,” and “Trapped in a Corner” from a riff tape Chuck put together sometime in 1992, more then likely before the other demo recording session. These are the closest you will get to enjoying the evolution of the material in a manner that made the Human reissue just so damn impressive and awe-inspiring to any Death fanatic who bares any sort of connection to the album or the band. Instead, we are given a live concert on the second disc from Germany in April 13th, 1993. This is nice to have, and is one of the earliest Death live concerts to be recorded and released as anything other then a bootleg. The quality is pretty good too, and overall the concert is enjoyable. But, the problem is that this reissue simply doesn’t have the same magic that the other reissued releases have.

As a man who has been a fan of Death for quite some time, making it a point to get these three disc sets to feel closer to the music, I was greatly let down by this release. Though, it was bound to happen. Each album reissued so far has been remixed, and this one just felt like it took something special to me and gave it the touch of death. While it’s not a horrible mix, it simply doesn’t have that bite to it, or anything from the original that made it so great. I would never rid myself of the original mixes I have of these albums, this is one that no matter what I will never be rid of. In the end, tracking this edition of the album down is really only worth it for the bonus demo material, and even the live release, though I personally am not the biggest fan of live CDs and prefer having video with it more.

Sure, it may sound jaded of me to say I don’t like this reissue that much in part of the lack of bonus demo tracks, and honestly, you have every right to call me that. But when you go from a fantastic reissue like Human to this, it’s a bit depressing. I don’t feel any closer to this album then I did before. Infact, due to that and the audio quality of this mix, I feel further from it. So many times while typing this, I just wanted to take this disc out of the player and listen to something else entirely. The music on here simply doesn’t convey the personal thoughts of Chuck while dealing with the music business the way the initial release did. Much of the message is just lost, and the emotional power behind Chuck himself and the band members to tell these ideas through the power of music is simply not there. I actually feel disconnected, and in a way feel as if a crazy person had just walked into the studio and started venting about his problems through an oddly artistic manner lyrically. It’s not the same album to me, now does those lyrics, vocals, or musical layers seem to work with one another, coming off more as if the band and even Chuck himself weren’t on the same page.

But, this reissue did bring me a little closer to Chuck thanks to one thing: The liner notes. The booklet that comes with both the two and three disc editions include expanded liner notes from those involved in the making of this album. Gene Hodlan’s input gives you the state of mind he was in when he went into this recording, how he and Chuck came about working together, what the album means to him and expands on the hardships that were faced before his time in the group, as well as bit during. They give more insight to how this effort came about, hinting at how you should look at the album as well, and when coupled with that message behind the compositions and lyrics while tackling the original mix of the album, you can’t help but feel a bit closer in the long run and understand the struggles a little better then before. So, for the liner notes, I personally thank Relapse for giving these memoirs a chance to see the light of dat, and everyone who contributed them to this pressing. But, overall, I feel offended. I feel let down. As I sit here, I feel as though I’m ready to cry, like someone took something precious from me, and I’ll do whatever I have to in order to get it back. Luckily that just means going home shortly after writing this and popping the CD into the player and laying back while better understanding the meaning of Individual Thought Patterns. Words genuinely cannot express how let down I was by this release, but hopefully my sorrow over such a potentially big reissue of one of Death‘s most important albums has left me quite distraught, and how I feel even Chuck would not approve this final mix to be sold to his loyal, respected fan base.