Death To All Tribute Show at TLA Revives the Spirit of Chuck Schuldiner

May 22nd, 2024 – As an avid listener of old-school Bay Area thrash metal, I’ve been to more shows than I can count. But let me tell you, the Death To All tribute show at the TLA in Philly last night took me right back to those glory days of the fantastic four.

Photos + Foreword by Keith Baker ( @avgjoe_photo ) , Article by @a.j.kinney

The venue was packed with metalheads of all ages, a testament to the timeless influence of Chuck Schuldiner and Death. The stage setup was simple but effective—no frills, just a backdrop of the iconic Death logo and the instruments that were about to unleash hell.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted. The opening notes of “The Philosopher” sent chills down my spine. The band, featuring Death alumni and some of the finest musicians in the metal scene today, nailed every riff and solo with precision and passion. It was as if Chuck himself was there, channeling his spirit through their fingers.

Max Phelps, who took on vocal and guitar duties, did an incredible job of capturing Chuck’s unique growl and intricate guitar work. His presence on stage was commanding, yet respectful of the legacy he was representing. The rest of the band—Gene Hoglan on drums, Steve DiGiorgio on bass, and Bobby Koelble on guitar—played with an intensity that only seasoned veterans could muster. Hoglan’s double bass was relentless, DiGiorgio’s bass lines were a masterclass in technical proficiency, and Koelble’s solos were both precise and soulful.

The setlist was a dream come true for any Death fan. Classics like “Symbolic,” “Crystal Mountain,” and “Spirit Crusher” had the crowd in a frenzy. There was a perfect balance between the technical brilliance of later albums and the raw aggression of their early work. When they launched into “Pull the Plug,” the mosh pit exploded, reminding me of those chaotic nights at the Mabuhay Gardens.

What stood out most was the palpable sense of community in the room. Everyone was there to celebrate the life and legacy of Chuck Schuldiner. Strangers became friends as we shared stories of our first Death records and past shows. The band members themselves took moments between songs to express their gratitude and share anecdotes about Chuck, making the night feel personal and heartfelt.

The encore was nothing short of epic. They began with “Zombie Ritual,” and it felt like the TLA was about to collapse from the sheer energy of the crowd. As the final notes rang out and the band took their bows, I felt a mixture of exhilaration and nostalgia. It’s rare to find a tribute show that not only honors the original music but also captures its spirit so authentically.

Walking out of the venue into the cool Philly night, I couldn’t help but smile. The Death To All tribute show was a pilgrimage for those of us who have lived and breathed metal for decades. Chuck Schuldiner may be gone, but his music is immortal, and last night, it was very much alive.

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