Bruce Corbitt’s life was certainly more metal than most. The singer for thrash metal acts Rigor Mortis and Warbeast was stabbed at one of his own shows, watched a bandmate die onstage, and later survived a heart attack. But on January 25th, Corbitt succumbed to a nearly two-year battle with cancer. He was 56.

Corbitt was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May 2017, and spent the last 20 months of his life playing out a public battle with the disease, as he chronicled his many rounds of chemotherapy and struggles with insurance providers on social media. He had been selected for a clinical trial at the end of last year, but entered hospice care earlier this month.

“He was sick for so long here, and recently just started going downhill so fast. It just ripped your heart out watching it,” says Casey Orr, the bassist and sometimes singer for Dallas, Texas’ Rigor Mortis, which he founded with Mike Scaccia and Harden Harrison in 1983. “The fight never left that guy, I gotta say. If I got anything out of all this is, it’s just amazement at Bruce Corbitt, and how he fought.”

Tributes poured in from around the metal world, including from Philip Anselmo, the singer for local rivals Pantera and the best man at Corbitt’s wedding in 2012. “I have so much I could say about Bruce, and I will eventually, but for right now all I can say is I send my love to his wife, his daughter, and his mother, everybody that was close to him,” Anselmo said in a video tribute last Friday. “Over the next few days, just find it in your heart to think about Bruce and his family and his music and his impact on heavy metal and music in general.”

In 1986, Corbitt became the leering, theatrical front man for Rigor Morts. The band were signed to Capitol Records the following year, but Corbitt’s first tenure with the band proved tumultuous, as he was fired after only one album, 1988’s Rigor Mortis, due largely to a falling out with Orr. He later returned to the fold when the band reunited in 2005, singing on its final album, 2014’s Slaves to the Grave.

“He used to be very controversial,” acknowledges longtime band mate Scott Shelby, who played guitar in Corbitt’s later band, Warbeast. “Sometimes he was very opinionated, sometimes he came across as harsh to other people, but he knew what he wanted and he never backed down from that.”

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