Death’s Mind-Altering Classic Individual Thought Patterns Turns 30


It seems almost trite to write something about what this pivotal record from Death means to death metal at large, given how much has already been said about the band’s importance. But with yesterday marking the 30th anniversary of Individual Thought Patterns‘ release, we figured it’s worth taking another look back at one of the most influential death metal releases of all time.

Initially released in 1993 by Relativity Records (and then rereleased by Relapse in 2011), the album features the impressive work of guitarist, vocalist, and project mastermind, the late Chuck Shuldiner, who along with guitarist Andy LaRocque, drummer Gene Hoglan, and bassist Steve DiGiorgio helped further cement Florida’s death metal scene as one of the most potent on the planet.

Possibly the most notable thing about this record is that it truly showed Death hitting their stride. Scream Bloody Gore is still a masterpiece, but it is raw and not fully formed. With Leprosy, Spiritual Healing, and Human, Death got closer and closer to their signature sound. But in my opinion, Death really came into its own with this record and the following Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance. It’s not that those initial albums missed the mark in any way, but they were still figuring out not only the sound for the band, but for the genre in general. 

Music aficionados often credit Death with solidifying death metal as a genre with musical complexity — or to put it in caveman terms — riffs. And I fully agree, but as an untrained musician with more of a foothold in the cultural side of death metal, what I think is the most exceptional thing about the album is that it set the stage for death metal to be seen as thinking man’s music, rather than simply a collection of heavy, impressive song structures and gory lyrics. While Cannibal Corpse are one of my all-time favorite bands, Death set the stage for death metal to be so much more than the obvious. 

Standout track “The Philosopher” is an obvious pick as the single, but the riffs and song structure are almost reminiscent of Nile, a band that defined the next big wave of death metal. My personal favorite is “Trapped in a Corner,” which, in my humble opinion, helped bridge the gap between melodic European death metal and the emerging American scene, showing that we Yanks can be melody-driven and play with classical influence and black metal tropes in our death metal as well. And the title track, of course, is also one for the books, showcasing the best of what the album has to offer. 

Falling in the middle of the band’s discography and representing everything that Death already was and would be, Individual Thought Patterns is an album that almost doesn’t need this type of celebration. To this day, it’s still widely in rotation for metalheads everywhere and continues to contribute to the sound of modern death metal. Yet, it’s still worth pausing and celebrating, as the legacy left by Chuck and the boys not only helped put U.S. death metal on the map, but it helped put U.S. death metal on the map as something more than just pure brutality.

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