Music, like soccer, is a very funny business. Some bands are clinically put together in order to become hits, and don’t; others get together to wreak up some havoc in a garage and end up becoming legends. Such was the case with HellHammer.
Starting off in 1984, this band first brought together singer/guitarist Tom G. Warrior (one of the most charismatic figures of the metal scene) and bass man Martin E. Ain. Both would later form Celtic Frost. Their goal with HH was to make as extreme a brand of metal as possible. And guess what…they made it. «Apocalyptic Raids», their legendary EP and sole work of art, is as fast and dirty as you could possibly get in the pre-Death era. The musicians can barely play their instruments, but that’s OK – the goal is to be cacophonous anyway, so it ends up not mattering.
Warrior, Ain and drummer-for-hire Bruce Day (one of the many that the band had) blast their way through five short tracks, plus the long 9-minute epic «The Triumph Of Death». In the end, the listener is left with a craving for more, more, MORE – but unfortunately, there isn’t any more. HH broke up a few months after having started, and after just two weeks Ain and Warrior put up Celtic Frost, a far more musically evolved band. From that moment on, Warrior painfully denied the sheer existence of a band called HH, and insisted CF was the band to be taken into consideration. Still, this album is proof enough that there was indeed a HH…and that they were very good.
The album begins with «The Third of The Storms (Evoked Damnation)», which gives straight away what the band is all about. Fast, thrashy guitars mix with drums that keep a single pattern throughout the whole song (and indeed nearly the whole record). It’s a fine song, but not the best on this album. But it does get your blood pumping for what’s to come… (3,5/5)
And what’s to come is «Massacra», the best of these six tracks. Again fast and thrashy, it boasts lyrics about «the churches of Hell» and other demonic pleasantries typical of the genre. This is such a simple song that it will be easy for the rookiest of instrumentalists to tab it . It only features two riffs and the drum pattern is imbecilically simple. As for the title, it looks like a misspelling of the word «massacre», and probably is (don’t forget HH were Swiss.) But none of this detracts to what is essentially a crude thrash masterpiece. (5/5)
The third track is the legendary «Triumph Of Death», a 9-minute track in which the lyrics basically consist of a series of growls, grunts and screams from T.G.Warrior. Backing it all up is a churning, repetitive riff that does not change during THE ENTIRE NINE MINUTES!! As you may have guessed, this is not the easiest of listen. Indeed, it can easily induce paranoia or make you want to break something out of frustration (it never, EVER changes. Ever.) Still, it’s one hell of a good track and apparently the main reason HH split. As Warrior says in the liner notes, «where could we go musically after TOD»? (5/5)
«Horus/Aggressor» is next, with a «desert»-type intro giving way to yet another furiously thrashy song. After the slower drums on Triumph of Death, now we are back to the usual thud-thud-thud double-bass assault. Once again, this song has its moments, but overall is no more than average.
The original «Apocalyptic Raids» ended here, but this new version comes with two bonus tracks.
The first is «Revelations of Doom», which despite the title is a song similar to all the others on this record except with a slightly different riff. For my money, it’s the least interesting of the bunch, and really not necessary for the improvement of the album. (2,5/5)
«Messiah» is an entirely different matter. Perhaps the most famous HH song (it was even covered by Sepultura), this doesn’t detract from the usual formula, but boasts a good chorus and nearly manages to achieve «Massacra» calibre. Almost. (4,5/5)
All in all, a painfully one-dimensional album, but also a very good one. If you’re a fan of classic black/thrash metal you can’t afford to miss it. If you can find it, that is…