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3.73 | 62 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1990

Filed under Death Metal


1. Living Monstrosity (5:08)
2. Altering the Future (5:34)
3. Defensive Personalities (4:45)
4. Within the Mind (5:34)
5. Spiritual Healing (7:44)
6. Low Life (5:23)
7. Genetic Reconstruction (4:52)
8. Killing Spree (4:16)

Total Time: 43:19


- Terry Butler / Bass
- Bill Andrews / Drums
- Chuck Schuldiner / Vocals, guitars
- James Murphy / Guitars

About this release

Full-length, Combat / Under One Flag (Catalogue # 88561-2011-2), March 13th, 1990

Produced, recorded & mixed by Scott Burns & Death

Recorded and mixed at Morrisound Recordings, Tampa, Florida

Engineering assisted by John Cervini and Mike Gowan

Arranged by Death with invaluable studio assistance by Scott Burns

Cover artwork by Edward J. Repka
Photography by J. J. Hollis
Art direction by Dave Bett
Design by Brian Freeman

Also released by CBS.

Reissued by Century Media Records.

Reissued by Relapse Records on November 20th 2012 as a 3 disc four panel machine numbered digipak deluxe edition with expanded artwork and liner notes limited to 2000 copies:
Disc 1: Spiritual Healing
1. Living Monstrosity (05:09)
2. Altering the Future (05:34)
3. Defensive Personalities (04:46)
4. Within the Mind (05:35)
5. Spiritual Healing (07:44)
6. Low Life (05:23)
7. Genetic Reconstruction (04:53)
8. Killing Spree (04:17)

Disc 2: Spiritual Healing: Rehearsals
1. Altering the Future
2. Defensive Personalities
3. Within the Mind
4. Within the Mind: Take 2
5. Spiritual Healing
6. Killing Spree
Spiritual Healing: Studio Instrumentals
7. Defensive Personalities
8. Spiritual Healing
9. Within the Mind
Take & Jam Tracks
10. Satanic Jam
11. Primus Jam
12. Jon a Qua: Take 2
13. Jon a Qua: Take 3
14. Jon a Qua: Take 4
15. Jon a Qua: Take 5
16. Jon a Qua: Take 6

Disc 3: Live at Streets, New Rochelle, NY March 17th, 1990
1. Living Monstrosity
2. Pull the Plug
3. Zombie Ritual
4. Spiritual Healing
5. Left to Die
6. Defensive Personalities
7. Genetic Reconstruction
8. Open Casket
9. Within the Mind
10. Leprosy
Unearthed Pre-Human Rehearsals
11. Suicide Machine
12. Together as One
13. See Through Dreams

Reissued by Relapse Records on November 20th 2012 as a limited die hard fans pack which includes:
Deluxe 3 CD version of Spiritual Healing album (Guaranteed number 1-500)
Exclusive 36x36 pre-folded Spiritual Healing artwork flag
Exclusive color Spiritual Healing t shirt (Available only with this package)
6 count Death pin set
3 count Death vinyl sticker set (Featuring Spiritual Healing, Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore art)
1 die cut Death logo patch
1 die cut Death logo sticker
2 Death logo guitar picks (With Chuck's signature replica on back)

Thanks to UMUR, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
Out of the seven DEATH studio albums that were released in the band’s fourteen year run (as DEATH) it’s this third one SPIRITUAL HEALING that gets cited most as the weakest of the pack and i can only imagine that the gawdawful cover art could possibly contribute to that more common than not opinion, however personally i really cannot understand exactly why this one has been singled out of the subsequent pack as the worst of the lot. As was notorious in the ever changing lineup, Chuck Schuldiner experienced a third guitarist on just as many albums this time with Rick Rozz being replaced by James Murphy (an unknown at the time but would go on to play in Obituary, Testament, Konkhra and Cancer). The worst artwork of the Eric Repka catalogue aside, SPIRITUAL HEALING musically speaking, continues the forward thinking march into incrementally increased progressiveness and less of the straight forward brutal rawness with a focus on more intellectually stimulating lyrical content.

Although the sub-genre of death metal began with 1987’s “Scream Bloody Gore,” the close ties to thrash metal were still at the forefront and while each following release took baby steps into a complete cutoff from its parent sub, SPIRITUAL HEALING still retains a heavy thrash riffing brutality augmented by a more sophisticated compositional approach but doesn’t quite reach the level of the true progressive nature of “Human” and beyond. Album #3 is very much a transitional album from death metal’s thrash laden birth pangs to the ever increasing technical sophistication displayed all throughout the 90s. As one decade ceded into another, Schuldiner too was laying the 80s version of the band to rest and slowly but surely ratcheting up the intensity that would culminate on 1998’s “The Sound Of Perseverance.” So what it adds up to is a slightly more melodic version of the first two albums that has slivers of the more technical touches such as Schuldiner and Murphy’s excellent dueling guitar soloing.

Lyrically Schuldiner was maturing rapidly as he left behind the blatant shock and awe subject matter of zombies, mutilation and gore and began to tackle the complexities of human society with a special interest in the most fucked up aspects including deformed babies from coke addicted mothers on “Living Monstrositiy,” abortion on “Altering The Future,” schizophrenia on “Defensive Personalities” as well as the expected evangelistic brainwashing punditry as evidenced on the gawdawful cover art. These types of themes would become increasingly more relevant and refined on the following “Human” release. While the insane time signature changes and labyrinthine song structures hadn’t quite blossomed completely, there are hints of the future with little snippets of frenetic time bending as well as sudden breaks that deviate from the expected “normalcy” of the previous albums.

One thing’s for sure and that i would bet nobody would deem SPIRITUAL HEALING as their favorite DEATH album of all time but that is not to say that this album deserves any of the bad reception that it has received. Schuldiner dishes out the expected punishing brutal riffs at intensively high speeds with his by then signature death growls and succeeds in whipping the rest of the band into shape so that the eight tracks are completely consistently tightly delivered with the bombast and as much caustic abrasiveness one could hope for in the fledgling metal sub-genre. Yeah, that album cover really has to go. I understand that it was meant for the album to evolve more into a psychological horror soundtrack rather the blood and guts themes of prior but something about the whole Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker theme on the cover just doesn’t work. Just for the record… there ARE NO BAD DEATH ALBUMS! This included. Another excellent slice of the early death metal years.
There seems to be a growing number of people who consider the 1990 album Spiritual Healing to be Death's worst record, even deeming it clunky and unfocused. Personally, I still stand by my opinion that Scream Bloody Gore was the most lackluster offering by the band; it sounded more like a foreshadowing of future greatness than a great album itself. While follow-up Leprosy did its best to raise the stakes, Spiritual Healing still seems to improve things much further and hit almost all of the right notes. While it may not be the very best album of the Death canon, it is often overlooked and definitely deserves more praise than it gets.

So what do we get? Between eight tracks and forty-two minutes of non-stop death metal, the record flies by pretty quickly. Chuck Schuldiner's songwriting is still the main focus here, but plenty of new elements after predecessor Leprosy help this album succeed the way it does. First things first, the music is way more technical and intricate; many of the speed metal sections of Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore, while still present, are toned down and usually replaced with rapid tempo shifts and frequent time signature changes. That, and the rhythms are usually quite unorthodox; the riff during the verse of the title track still throws me off now and again. More specifically, though, everything has tightened. The production sounds cleaner, the songwriting is actually more focused than people give it credit for, and Schuldiner was finally starting to ditch the gory lyrics in favor of more social and philosophical issues.

With that said, how are the songs? They follow the typical Death "verse/pre-chorus/chorus/solo/verse/pre-chorus/chorus/sudden stop" formula fans have come to expect by this point, but with the sort of forward-thinking attitude that makes this a great predecessor to Human. Schuldiner and co. were interested in progressing the band's sound, and it shows. It's probably best to start with the opening number "Living Monstrosity" because it's the first impression. As the mid-tempo riff starts up, you may realize the aforementioned tightness in the sound compared to Leprosy. One other thing to note is that Chuck's vocals are a touch odd, and are my main issue with the album. While they're not bad, there's an unsettling echo effect used on his voice that sounds pretty off-kilter compared to how organic the rest of the music is. However, going back to the song, it's an exceptionally strong opener, combining thrashy riffs, an emotional chorus that repeats the beginning motif to great effect, and an emotionally poignant solo that leads to Schuldiner's climactic lyric, "Some say she's naive; she's a stupid bitch." Blunt, but effective.

The other tracks are of a similar nature to "Living Monstrosity," but all have certain moments that set them apart from each other. For instance, after a rather complex riff pattern in "Low Life," a solo battle between Schuldiner and other guitarist James Murphy comes out of the blue. They both let their playing styles clash as a galloping thrash riff illustrates the background behind the two leads. Also worthy of noting is the doom-laden intro to "Altering the Future"; while the rest of the song is Death doing business as usual, the beginning sets a completely different tone, one of despair and a loss of hope. Even when the mid-tempo riff for the verse appears, the atmosphere set by the first thirty seconds continues to loom over the music long after it has concluded. Finally, there's the title track. Good God, the song is great. After a very Halloween-esque (seriously, it sounds eerily close to something out of the main theme from the Halloween movies) intro, the rest of the song is absolutely jam-packed with those "certain moments" I mentioned, the ones that set it apart from other songs on the album. How about the unorthodox riff that manages to be in 4/4 time, and yet has some of the most off-kilter drum work in Death's discography? How about the constant tempo-switches during the speed metal portions? How about the chilling chorus with rapid guitar runs and Schuldiner screaming the song's title? Great moments are littered throughout the song, making the whole thing an absolute highlight.

There's not much else more to say, really. Spiritual Healing is a delightful slice of death metal, as well as a great illustration of how Death were progressing as a group and an entity. While later albums like The Sound of Perseverance and Individual Thought Patterns would come to surpass it, the album has aged very well and remains an early technical death metal classic even after so many years.

P.S.: What the hell is up with that silly album cover?
Spiritual Healing is an awkward spot in the Death timeline; they hadn't quite abandoned their old, more straight-ahead death metal style here, but on the other hand hadn't entirely embraced the technical death metal direction they would latch onto on Human.

It's the more straight-ahead death metal numbers which suffer the most here, with the least progressive songs tending to be the least accomplished. This isn't just a style thing - the sections in question just aren't quite as good as, say, the material on Leprosy, and at points sound like polished-up rejected songs from Scream Bloody Gore. The album is saved by Chuck beginning his introduction of more technically intricate techniques into his performance and songwriting, the title track here perhaps being the best example of this.

Between this and the lyrical shift from overt shocking gore to more contemplative examinations of weightier issues, it's quite clear to me that this more technical, almost progressive material was where Chuck's heart was really at by this stage of the band's existence, his tastes having evolved away from the group's earlier style. Between that and the decision of the rest of the band to tour Europe without Chuck, it's no surprise that this lineup (a mildly tweaked version of the one that did Leprosy, with Rick Rozz gone and James Murphy in his place) didn't last, or that Chuck would switch to working with session musicians rather than running Death as a band project in future.
"Spiritual Healing" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Death. The album was released through Combat Records in March 1990. Most of Death´s career featured constant lineup changes and this time around guitarist Rick Rozz has been replaced by James Murphy (Cancer, Disincarnate, Agent Steel, Obituary, Testament, Konkhra). The rest of the lineup who recorded "Leprosy (1988)" are still intact. This lineup was shortlived too though as James Murphy was soon on to his next project and drummer Bill Andrews and bassist Terry Butler had a serious disagreement with frontman/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner, which meant that the European part of the tour supporting "Spiritual Healing" (where they supported Kreator), was completed without Chuck Schuldiner. After that tour Chuck Schuldiner took control of the Death name again and Bill Andrews and Terry Butler left to play with Massacre on the now legendary "From Beyond (1991)" album along side former Death guitarist Rick Rozz and vocalist Kam Lee. The latter mentioned also had a short stint with Death in one of the early incarnations of the band.

The music on "Spiritual Healing" is more sophisticated and technically well played than the first two Death albums. The sound production by Scott Burns (& Death) is powerful, edgy, and actually slightly "warm" sounding. The addition of James Murphy provides the band with more opportunities, and they take full advantage of his great playing skills. His guitar solos on "Spiritual Healing" are absolutely brilliant. Chuck Schuldiner is a relatively great shredder too, but it´s definitely James Murphy who steals the show on this album. The rhythm section is tight, but personally I´ve always had an issue with Bill Andrews drumming, which I feel occasionally takes power out of the music instead of injecting power and driving the music forward like the best drummers do. It´s not a major issue though and it´s probably an aquired taste.

All 8 tracks on the album are well composed and memorable, but it´s "Living Monstrosity", "Altering the Future", and the 7:44 minutes long title track that stand strongest in my memory. Chuck Schuldiner´s now social critical/thought provoking lyrics (compared to his early blood´n´gore type lyrics) are a new feature in the music (although such topics were also touched upon on the predecessor) and another proof (besides the instrumental part of the music) that Chuck Schuldiner evolved rapidly as a composer (and a musician) in those years.

While "Spiritual Healing" is certainly an early example of death metal from Florida, it´s not as such an old school sounding death metal release to my ears. For that it´s way too technically focused and forward thinking. It´s one of the early forerunners of the more technical/progressive death metal albums that would be released in the early- to mid nineties even though I wouldn´t label the music on "Spiritual Healing" technical death metal by any means. But there is a sophistication here that was rarely heard in those days. Acts like Atheist and Morbid Angel maybe did something similar, but not many others. Of course only one year down the line the situation had changed completely, and more and more technically focused death metal releases came out. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved. Even for it´s seminal nature, "Spiritual Healing" isn´t a flawless release to my ears and a higher rating wouldn´t feel honest.
The Angry Scotsman
This is the transition album in Death's career. This is one where they started moving from pure death metal to a more technical metal. Do not get me wrong, this album is not tech metal. I would say it is still firmly under the realm of death metal...but technical influences were starting to appear.

The lineup is the same here as on "Leprosy" except for the swapping of Rick Rozz with James Murphy. The guitar work is still pretty pure death metal but there are a few signs of technicality such as in "Defensive Personalities" and "Killing Spree". Also, as opposed to Death's first 2 albums which were straightforward speed and brutality, this album shows us songs that are slower, a little more stop and go, and with slower sections in them. Also, the quality on this album is much better then the first two, which makes the guitars sound even better. Chuck still does his thing, with fast, (though sometime slow) riffs, and blazing solos. His vocals are still death metal, though not as "growly" I would say. Also, while nothing compared to later Death drummers, I think Bill Andrews shows some technicality in his drumming. Especially the last 2 minutes of "Living Monstrosity".

Living Monstrosity: This song has a neat little intro before it goes into a typical death metal riff, and drumming. It goes into a heavy, slower part after that for a while, then a cool guitar solo with heavy phaser. Death Metal continues after that until the last 2 minutes, which are pretty technical. The song is about drugs, (as the last line says "Born without eyes, and half a brain. being born addicted to cocaine").

Altering the Future: This song starts out slower paced for the first half, until the blazing solos in the middle and after that the song takes a faster, more metal pace and riffing. However, the last minute and a half takes the original, slower guitar riff which is quite technical and dissonant. This song is about abortion, and perhaps surprisingly, takes a pro-life stance.

Defensive Personalities: Has a sweet intro and is straight up death metal for most of the songs. Chuck plays some great riffs though, and the solo's are amazing like usual.

Within the Mind: This is personally my least favorite song, it just does not do it for me.

Spiritual Healing: Starts off with a cool tapping part, and continues on in a more or less death metal path.

Low Life: The same can be said with this song, it is not bad, but again just does not resonate much with me.

Genetic Reconstruction: One of the stand out songs on the album. Starts out with another heavy, slower riff that changes after about a minute to a slower one. Then it is into the solo, which is backed up by some great drumming. Then we fly into the next solo which is much faster and intense. The song then continues with shifting, slower paced riffs.

Killing Spree: My favorite song of the album. It has a wild guitar intro before diving into the riff. A heavy song with a great feel to it. It is not terribly different from the others, with varying paced riffs and intensity and blazing guitar solos.

This is an album that captures Death in transition. Still pure death metal, but with more sections of slow and heavy, some more technicality and variation. Chuck's composition skills are starting to show. However, some parts can be a bit dull.

Three and a Half Stars
A Step Forward

Spiritual Healing is where Death got interesting in my opinion. While the band's first two albums are undeniably death metal classics, they've never really done very much for me. Spiritual Healing shows improved lyrics, enhanced production quality, better compositions, and an all around superior death metal album. Human is when Chuck Schuldiner & co began creating metal masterpieces, but of the early Death albums, Spiritual Healing is the best by far.

The sound here is pretty standard if you understand Chuck Schuldiner's style. Expect traditional 90's Florida-styled death metal on the more melodic side, without sacrificing heaviness or intensity. Spiritual Healing is before Death became more progressive and technical, so don't expect a whole lot of odd time signatures, rapid riff changes, and complex rhythm sections yet. Back then Death sounded somewhat similar to fellow Floridian death metal band Morbid Angel. However, on Spiritual Healing, Chuck took a much more melodic, slowed down style than on the first two Death albums. There aren't a whole lot of blast beats, or fast parts in general. I personally like this more melodic approach, as it shows more direction and attention to the compositional details. It was also with this formula that Chuck Schuldiner would explore further, resulting in the upcoming Death masterpieces.

Spiritual Healing is an 8-track, 43:19 album. This is the perfect length for music this heavy and intense. It doesn't drag on for too long, but it's not so short that you feel like you're getting ripped off. All of the songs here are high-quality death metal pieces, but my personal favorites are Altering the Future and the progressive Spiritual Healing. The latter actually shows some of the first real evidence of Chuck Schuldiner writing more progressive and technical death metal. All of the songs are absolute head-crushers that are sure to please old school U.S. death metal fans.

The musicians of Death during this lineup are good, but nowhere near the level of the Human lineup. Of course, Chuck Schuldiner is fantastic (as always), but his backing band is lacking by comparison to the next few lineups. Bill Andrews' drumming is good, but nowhere near the level of Reinert, Christy, or Hoglan. Terry Butler is a pretty uneventful bassist. It wasn't until the next Death album, with Steve DiGiorgio's fretless talents, that the bass playing would get interesting. James Murphy is a very solid guitarist, but once again, he's paled in comparison to the following Death guitarist.

The production is a major improvement over Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, but it's still not very good. Although the thick 80's production is gone, instead we have a thin, flat sound. Everything is audible and professional (a definite improvement) but it's just not very powerful. At least the next four Death albums have some of the best production in the industry.


Spiritual Healing is a very good album by Death, but it's always been overshadowed by their following albums for me. Whenever I want to listen to Death, this just isn't the album I pull out. This is a very dated album by today's standards, but its influence and importance is undeniable. Sounding dated is not a plus in my book, but I'm sure old school death metal fans are fine with it. Despite its flaws, this is a quality album worth 3 solid stars.
Time Signature
Living monstrosity...

Genre: death metal

Paul Masvidal of progressive acts Cynic and Æon Spoke has described this album as the starting point of Schuldiner's more progressive direction, and "Spiritual Healing" has been hailed by many as Death's transistion album from straightforward death metal to progressive metal. That is probably true, although I think there are innovative and progressive inklings already on "Leprosy".

Compared to "Leprosy" the songs on "Spiritual Healing" are slower which allows the musicians to focus more on technicality, which is reflected in much of the riffage being more complex here than on "Leprosy". Schuldiner's talent for composing dynamic songs based on changes in time and tempo and in the stitching together of seemingly incongruous song parts, which surfaced now and then on "Leprosy" is much more evident on this album (the title track, "Altering the Future", and "Defensive Personalities" are good examples of this). There is also a considerable ammount of melody on this album, which is very well balanced with brutality, making for more complex song structures than on the predecessors of "Spiritual Healing".

Highlights are "Altering the Future", "Spiritual Healing", and "Killing Spree". "Defensive Personalities" and "Low Life" have potential and are essentially good ideas, but they are barred from being as good as they should be due to Terry Butler's and Bill Andrews' skills not being on par with those of Schuldiner's and James Murphy. As with "Leprosy" one can only imagine what these songs would have sounded like with the same line up as on "Human".

"Spiritual Healing" is not a brilliant album, but it does qualify as a good and solid album (if one disregards the imbalance in musical skills among the band members), and, while not a purely tech death metal album as such, it is an important milestone in the history, not just of Death, but also of technical death metal and progressive metal as such.

So, death metal afficionados and others with an interest in progressive/technical extreme metal and progressive metal of the more hard-hitting kind might enjoy this album.

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