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After sacrificing "Goats To Azazel", North America's Angelcorpse attacked with the "Hammer Of Gods" in this 1996 debut LP released on Osmose Productions. Many people consider Angelcorpse to be death/black metal but not I said this metalhead. While the death influences and Morbid Angel sound(thanked many times in the liner notes including Trey A. on "Exterminate".) is clearly there at times, I believe this outfit to be closer to speed/thrash/black category. At times musically sounding like Suomi's own Impaled Nazarene, I can clearly see where their black hearts lie towards, sounding nothing like Vital Remains' early work which I consider to be death/black i.e. "Into Cold Darkness" etc. While not a masterpiece like "Exterminate", "Hammer Of Gods" is a likable album and the war ravaged artwork of a medieval battle scene on the cover sets the tone for what lies ahead.
Pete Helmkamp's vocals are cold, ruthless and full of anger while also at times not perfect, are still raging with contempt and emotion, while his bass is definitely audible and terrifyingly fast. This man makes you believe what he screams and the lyrics are crystal clear so you don't need to sit there and use the booklet. Gene Palubicki's leads are fucking insane and in your face, tearing open assholes with riffs a-plenty and maybe exaggerating slightly, just as many solos as there are riffs. In fact, my only gripe with the production which doesn't include the low value of it which I don't mind, is that when Palubicki breaks into solo, the volume goes up, wayyyyyyy up. But his heart is in the right place and they are badass breaks.
Bill Taylor is a talented guitarist and very underrated when it comes to his place on "Hammer Of Gods". His rhythm sections are tight and in sync with Palubicki's, not one complaint here. John Longstreth's drum playing is probably my least favorite of all on here, nothing at all like on "Exterminate" in which he showed what he's capable of. It's not that it's horrible, it just sounds a lot lower than everything else present.
"Consecration" is a bomb dropped on a heavily populated city, the rapture incarnate, the perfect way to open "Hammer Of Gods". Other notable mentions are "Envenomed" with the chorus being Helmkamp's spelling of the title and several ass ripping solos by Palublicki. "When Abyss Winds Return" is vicious and war torn, and "Black Solstice" to me feels rather darker and colder than any song on "Hammer Of Gods". "Soulflayer" is another catchy spine snapper war anthem opening with Helmkamp's insane signature scream, and then comes along the most epic track here, "Perversion Enthroned". From the intro of a Praetorian drum march, you can feel how special this song is, and it's about none other than Caligula himself who is always prime pickings(but not done enough)for metal songs.
The two cover songs, first one being "Burning In Hell" by Possessed and the next being "Pleasure To Kill" by Kreator do not resemble the originals in almost any way but rather have been "Angelcorpsified", done their own way. In my humble opinion, I enjoyed these covers because for once, I didn't have to hear another cover of Venom's "Countess Bathory" and two, these could have been Angelcorpse songs lyrically, if they weren't already created by Possessed and Kreator. If you've never heard Angelcorpse and want to start somewhere, "Hammer Of Gods" is a good place to start or if you come across "Exterminate" pick that up as well. Again, with most bands you can hear the evolution take place if you start off with "Hammer Of Gods" and then listen to "Exterminate". "Hammer Of Gods" is still a decent debut release any way you slice it, and if you enjoy esoteric occult war metal than you will most likely appreciate this.
Pete Helmkamp is surely one of the most overlooked singers in death/black metal field. His importance and skills are to appreciate since the creation of the primitive but quite revolutionary style in Order From Chaos band. At the time, he threw the basements for the future evolution of this death/thrash genre in something called “war death/black”. The brutality and the sheer impact of the compositions were not so common but only with the new band, Angelcorpse, he completely achieved the goal of recording truly blasting and furious efforts. The debut album is called Hammer Of Gods and still remains of the most important stopovers for those who really appreciate this genre.
The production was far rawer if compared to the latest albums and still a bit Order From Chaos oriented but the tracks were already great. What we can immediately notice is the speed of sound. On the previous band, Pete was not that keen on composing truly fast tracks while now the things change. “Consecration” is the great opener of this album and it immediately displays all its fury through blast beats and up tempo parts. The riffage is the classic Angelcorpse one, so it’s in continue balance between the death and black with lots of epic and battling riffs so sustain powerful structures and, sometimes, more melodic guitars solos. The vocals, as you, know are just vicious, raspy/shrieky and totally merciless. Pete is unmatchable in heaviness and evilness.
The production, unfortunately, doesn’t help for the drums but the guitars are always well-audible and the bass is always there to follow this march towards the total annihilation, continuing with the thrasher “Envenomed”. The tempo changes are quite rabid and out of the blue, with lots of restarts. The guitars solos are a mix of fast, shredded parts and incredibly vicious tapping sections with the unmistakable wa-wa distortion. “When Abyss Winds Return” has loads of blast beats and probably it’s the most vicious track here. Everything is concentrated in a short length and the tempo is always fast. The riffage is always alternated between the tremolo picking to be darker and the open chords one to be more apocalyptic and impressive.
“Lord of the Funeral Pyre” has the fast bass drums overtures and this is classical by Angelcorpse. The atmosphere is incredibly apocalyptic and nasty. Once again the stop and go with the blasting restarts are just fantastic and truly evil. The refrain is more recognizable this time and the vocals are obliterating. “Black Solstice” features great bass drums triplet and a manic riffage. The different tempo parts are always on fast succession and we cannot rest even for a second because “The Scapegoat” enters and once again the bass drums are unmatchable in speed. These parts are the ones I prefer because they are unique: the riffs tend to be far more “war metal” and the atmosphere is just terrifying. However, they never forget to add brutality with the blast beats.
“Soulflyer” is far more direct and simple and is good for the death/thrash up tempo beats (to notice the classic, simple and primordial attitude to alternate snare drum beats to the ones on the hi-hat). There are also a lot of solos here by the guitars, more than the normal. “Perversion Enthroned” features drums intro ala “Silvester Anfang” (Mayhem-Deathcrush) but soon the classic death/black makes its appearance in a jungle of blast beats and savage riffage. “Sodomy Curse” ends this album and once again has its power on the open chords riffs and on the dramatic, epic felling that follows. The last part is for whistles, distortions and chaos, accompanying us to the welcome silence of the last second of this furious opus. The best still remains Exterminate but here there’s a lot to enjoy if you love this brutal style.
I must say I'm surprised at some of the low marks given this album. When so many people are justifiably sick of phony trigger drum, crystal clear sounding death metal albums, one would think that material with heart, brains and guts like this would get more support. I was very impressd with this album upon it's release and I still really love it. While it's not as technically breathtaking as Angelcorpse's later work, it has a raw brilliance and sinister aura all it's own. A clear Morbid Angel influence is here, but with more esoteric lyrics and unqiue riff constructs. For those of you who come ot this album fresh from Helmkamp's work with Order From Chaos, you'll find it to be more aggressive and straight-forward musically, but equally dense in lyrical terms. As I mentioned, the full throttle whirlwind tempos of later albums like EXTERMINATE are not quite in effect, but I feel that gives the music a touch more breathing space. "Sodomy Curse," "Envenomed," "Soulflayer," and vicious opener "Consecration" are all ace material. One reviewer commented on a "demo tape" level sound quality. I agree, but I don't find it to be the detriment they seemed to believe it was. The album has a dark and somewhat muffled sound that I find suitable to underground death metal, which this most certainly is. If you're hip to later Angelcorpse stuff, please keep an open mind and check this out. Also note: in '96 true death metal was on it's knees both commercialy and artistically. This album was a beacon of hope for a dying genre.
First off, I'd like to say that even though the somewhat primitive production might not be to everyone's tastes there is absolutely nothing 'sloppy' about this recording. The speed is blistering yet the songs don't get boring as on some... okay... MOST death/black metal albums.
Pete Helmkamp's vocals, while apparently 'sung' in a black metal style, are among the most strong and consistent of all death metal singers and fit the material better than the traditional (and often totally unintelligible) guttural grunts. The fact that you CAN make out the lyrics is, to me, a bonus even though the lyrics are nothing other than standard death metal fare.
This album boasts excellent guitar work from Gene Palubicki, an unsung hero in death metal circles, both in terms of riffs and leads. Definitely influenced by Kerry King and Trey Azagthoth but very competent and they manage to fit within the songs which is no mean feat. All the while, John Longstreth's relentless, warp-speed drumming provides a very solid and tight backing to the whole affair.
While it is easy to compare ANGEL CORPSE to MORBID ANGEL, it's clearly more than just a case of 'hero worship'. ANGEL CORPSE definitely have managed to develop hallmarks of their own.
The only negative point would have to be the production. While primitive, raw or just plain bad production values have found their niche in an ever growing horde of DARKTHRONE and BURZUM worshippers, it's not for everyone. While the levels of the instruments on this album work very well, the instruments individually sound a tad muffled at times. The guitar tends to sound a little 'mushy', the bass lacks punch, and the drums could have done with more definition.
Minor gripes aside, this is a quality slice of death metal and is easily better than a lot of death metal releases you see in this day and age. Worth a look at the very least.
Angel Corpse's debut album Hammer of Gods is flawed, VERY flawed and comes across more akin to a full length demo than a debut album.
For years I never purchased the album because the substandard song crafting was even further shat upon by the fact that the initial production sounded terrible. Unbalanced and thin as well as flat and lifeless. However the re-released version is a nasty (in a good way) beefed up production/mix job with MUCH more reverb and a louder guitar track, however the problem with the vocals being mixed WAY to high is still a cringe worthy sonic flaw.
Moving on; the drumming here is generic and paint by the numbers but done so sloppy that it's almost charming when the guitars leave room for it to breath (not often does this happen-and it's for the better). The kicks have this strange "kick-back" sound that I can only recall hearing on Macabre's Grim Reality session. For a little "inside" information John's drum tracks for Exterminate were all protooled in and none of his own doings, strange how someone so sloppy and unprofessional in one band-can go on and be a drummer for hire who always gets the job done for others!
Guitarist Gene Palubicki is the lone hero on this recording. The beefed up production creates a HOT guitar tone that lacks in bottom end. It almost has a blackmetal-esque tone, a razor sharp, scathing abomination of an unworldly sound-too bad the actual riffs are fairly mindless and bordering on generic, not to mention plain and unexciting. Still though...there is this certain unnamable charm therein.
Vocals are the biggest draw back here. Too high in the mix, just too TOO loud in comparison to the other instruments. This is furthermore hurtful to the overall ambience the album holds because Pete's vocals are far too linear to cause reasoning to mix them so improperly high! On latter releases, his vocal tones and style was not changed in any way but thankfully was mixed lower and given more bottom end. On this release it sounds like he's singing OVER the music being played, as opposed to with it.
Flaws aside, there is something bizarrely charming about it all. There is a certain spark and feel to this that keep it from getting a lower rating. Almost as if conviction beyond the music is keeping them at a higher level than they should have been.
If you have already heard Angel Corpse and are looking into this one to "fill out your collection" musically don't expect anything as special or as intense as the latter material, this is a plain but at times rather vicious excursion into the blending of the better aspects of blackmetal (as in caustic and volatile in it's simplicity, done with LOADS of high end) and the more ravenous and merciless aspects of deathmetal... but again don't expect ANYTHING close to the caliber of even the more forgettable tracks on Exterminate.
It's sloppy, it's contrived and it's almost entirely void of the qualities that made the next two so good. Yet, I feel as if this album is still somehow worthy-in an enigmatic sort of way.
For Angel Corpse fans only.
Now the bonus tracks:
Possessed: Burning in Hell- They played it too fast, not enough bottom end, Pete's vocals are sang WAY too fast and they fudge the solos. BOO!!!! total desecration that I don't enjoy at all. NEXT!!!!!!!
Kreator: Pleasure to Kill- Not as bad as Burning in Hell but I don't care how they "Angel Corpse"'d it! old thrash didn't blast!!!!! I find it SO irritating when modern bands think that old songs need to be faster or have blasts.... Again Gene fudges the solo and makes it into one of his own, which-for this cover works more than it should. Pete's vocals are more so similar to the Kreator style than the Possessed style so, this cover, I dub to be nonoffensive.
This is Angelcorpse's first offering, "Hammer of Gods". In this stage, the musicians weren't fully developed in their songwriting habilities, making this album worse than it could be.
If we compare "Hammer of Gods" with "Exterminate", we will see that the song structures are much more inferior. Most of the songs here follow a pre-determinated pattern: verse, bridge with blastbeats, chorus, solo and repeat. Sometimes, there is a break with a guitar solo and some slower sections to contrast with the predominant speed, but in fact this makes the songs very predictable and boring.
The riffs are not as interesting as those in "Exterminate". Sometimes they lack conviction, although there is some ownage here: The break at 2:46 of "Consecration" is pretty good. The riff at 0:26 of "Envenomed" is great, and it's usage as chorus makes this song very cathcy. "Black Solstice" uses the same strategy with its two first riffs. These riffs are catchy as hell. As for the solos, there's little variation. It's the same atonal stuff that Trey Azaghtoth plays in Morbid Angel. A tiny bit of melody wouldn't hurt.
John Longstreth's drumming is not nearly as intelligent as it was in "Exterminate". It's still decent, but there's little variation: fills, blasts, standard rhythms. It's really amazing how much he evolved in one year. He must have trained a lot.
This is a mixed bag. There are boring songs like "Soulflayer", "Perversion Enthroned" and "Lord of The Funeral Pyre". Those are pretty similar and don't offer anything but high speed and mediocre riffs. "Consecration", "Envenomed" and "Black Solstice" are the best songs here, with their catchy riffs and more variated tempos. The re-released version has two great covers: Possessed's "Burning in Hell" and Kreator's "Pleasure to Kill". The former is executed with much more conviction and passion than anything in this CD, although it's not that different from the original. The latter is a bit different: The standard drumming was replaced by blastbeats and the speed was decreased a bit. The results are great.
Well, this is not as good as what came after it, but there are some good songs. You might want to get it if you already know Angelcorpse, but if you are a newbie, go get "Exterminate". If you get this, get the re-release by Osmose (because of the better production and the covers).