Death

Over the course of more than a decade and seven increasingly accomplished albums, Chuck Schuldiner, the architect behind the ubiquitous Death, became a bona fide heavy metal icon. Now widely recognized as the father of death metal (if a single candidate must be chosen, his résumé is about as good as it gets), Schuldiner's singular drive and ruthless creative vision guaranteed that Death would ever represent the cutting edge of the style's development. Indeed, while the savagely raw aggression contained in Death's first three albums proved crucial to spearheading the first generation of death metal bands, the astounding musicianship and increasingly sophisticated songwriting found on their later-day efforts surely influenced even more groups to explore the limits of extreme metal's most progressive outposts. By all accounts a force to be reckoned with on-stage, Death also logged more frequent flier miles than perhaps any other band of their ilk, undertaking numerous far-reaching tours despite suffering from continuous and often acrimonious musician turnover within their ranks. Throughout this long journey and drastic evolutionary curve, Schuldiner was to be the only constant, the effective mastermind behind Death's continually groundbreaking career, and, as proven by his near-canonization at the time of his untimely passing, arguably unequalled in stature within one of rock's most uncompromising style.