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Would Hellhammer be legendary if they hadn't evolved into Celtic Frost? Probably, but much of the "essential listening" factor of this EP comes from the band's reputation given the occurrence of CF and how hard to come by the original demo tracks are. So what we have here is the only non-demo release from a band that, while never discovering their signature sound, did a whole lot for the metal community.
Hellhammer are odd. Their music is an unproduced nightmare driven by energy alone and defined by frontman Tom G. Warrior's signature vocals and minimalistic guitars. The sound itself is an amalgam of thrash and speed metal with another indefinable element. It was very different to the two other "black" metal bands which existed at that time: Mercyful Fate used falsettos and conventional singing; Venom were closer, but still different. Venom's music was more evil, but these guys seemed to be heavier, a total lack of musical skill directing them to just play fast and hard, while Warrior crafted epic songs better realised in Celtic Frost. This selection of tracks here is pure musical annihilation, never matched.
The three short songs here are great: they leave the band no room to go off on tangents and stick to what they do best, short, powerful, blasting songs. "Horus/Aggressor" isn't bad either, but feels a little odd with the somewhat sing-y vocals and of course those terrible bass drums. It's got a great chorus too: simple shouts of "Aggressor!". More bands should do that. I'd like to talk about the standout cut though: the opener "The Third of Storms (Evoked Damnation)". It typifies the Hellhammer sound with a minimal riff, Warrior's faintly sneery, spitting vocals and of course the band's philosophy: turn everything up to 11 and go for broke. Chaos will ensue as the band burn through everything with their primitive, incendiary style. "Massacra" is more of the same, literally, since the riffs are so similar.
The main issue here takes up a third of the run time: "Triumph of Death". It is a piece which suggests it was written by a five year old, with no cohesion or any form of structure. You know how freeform jazz devolves to just mindless, melody-less musical death? Well that happens here. A bunch of nobodies from Switzerland try to create an epic song but it has no progression, no nothing, and just begs to be fucking shot and put out of its misery. Seriously, remove that stain from music.
The other issue also warrants a paragraph on its own: the production. The production makes it sound like the band members' parts are being suffocated, making it all too dense in a bad way. And the bass drums. OH FUCKING ANTI-CHRIST MOTHERFUCKER WHAT THE FUCK. Those are my comments about the bass drums; I'd rather listen to a drummer playing Lars' St. Anger kit all day over these monstrosities, sounding like the drummer was slapping, I dunno, maybe Vaseline or rubber or something. And bass guitar? Forget it, there's no way on this Earth that you're gonna hear it any time soon. I mean, this production is bad even for the '80s thrash demos of American bands who'd been recorded in their garage by their mum and released that. If this producer was a professional and had a career after this, then I give up all faith in humanity and will devote my time listening solely to Foreigner records.
Other than those bitches, the songs are okay. Definitely worth listening to based on song quality alone, but it all comes down to this: if you want raw emotion and feeling, then this is great. If you want better music, listen to Celtic Frost. Final thoughts: the songs themselves are fantastic, but everything around them is crap. It's not something I'll spin regularly, but it can be fun while it lasts. Listen to it not because of what it is, but what it started, and how different from everything else it is.
There's some worthwhile stuff on Apocalyptic Raids. The main problem is that one of this EP’s songs is just one step above unbearable. This wouldn’t be a big issue if not for the fact that said song consists of almost half the release’s running time, forcing itself to take the role of centerpiece on an EP that would have been good in its absence. The other three songs take aspects that most people would see as weaknesses like sloppy playing, sandpaper-rough vocals, a general lack of technical skill, and horrible production values and twist them into something vibrant and powerful. If only that sort of passionate delivery could have been spread across the whole release, then Apocalyptic Raids would not resemble three gems scattered around a large heap of crap.
Those three gems, in case you weren’t paying attention, are the shorter songs and they’re full of exuberant playing and a vicious punk attitude. Actually, if we’re being honest here, they’re only gems in comparison to ‘Triumph of Death’. Essentially, they’re the byproducts of three Swiss guys blowing off steam by taking out their aggression on their instruments. The riffs and structuring are simplistic and the band seeks to play fast rather than well, resulting in some slipshod but energetic execution as they blaze through these tracks. Despite the numerous flaws in the composition and execution, these are fun, cathartic songs with a bouncing energy that makes up for their amateurish nature. And the greasy tone straight from the dingy garage this release was surely recorded in is charming in its own ugly way. This EP is only essential for Celtic Frost completists but for the rest of us, the three shorter songs are well worth the occasional Youtube listen.
Now for the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. 'Triumph of Death' is such a big part of this release and such a weird outlier that it needs its own paragraph. At 9:23, the track is not only far too long but it also sees the band sticking to none of its strengths. Hellhammer was at its best when the songs were fast and aggressive. This song, however, clearly based more on Black Sabbath's example than Venom's, is slow and not very forceful. It's still got the same roughness and simplicity as the other tracks, but neither of those attributes work in the band's favor at this speed. It also starts with a long, aimless section that treats the listener to some truly horrendous yowls from Tom, who at least manages not to sound like a wounded hyena elsewhere on this EP.
None of these tracks are masterpieces, though three of them do have that refreshingly simple-minded and in-your-face nature that punk and early extreme metal capably deliver most of the time. Even for something in the vein of Venom or early Sodom though, they're just a little too poorly executed and basic as far as songwriting is concerned to stand above most other proto-black metal offerings from this era. Adding to this the fact that half of Apocalyptic Raids is impossible to recommend due to the presence of one gigantic album-ruining song, this EP is sadly robbed of the high quality it could have had.
Razor wire wrapping peels off to reveal an atonal tribute to all things depraved and disgusting. A voice with all the charm of Frank Sinatra's rotted corpse belches death sentences into a subpar microphone, while also testing the gag reflex with vomit-like excursions of the diaphragm. These riffs, or as I refer to them, sequenced patterns of feedback noise, conjure up images of horror and torture in ways only post-pubescent angry Swiss males can muster. The drummer sucks, but this still gets a hundred percent. "Triumph of Death" is obviously the standout piece, with aforementioned puking laden with slow keyless doom style riffage, and chugs on forward like a locomotive from hell.
"Horus-Aggressor" deserves mention as well, the thundering double bass, trumpeting perhaps the most loosely defined "guitar riff" ever created; however, this riff will rip skin from bone. Extremely heavy - just like the rest of the album. Get this or fuck off.
Hellhammer were always a band that appealed to me. I like the idea that a group of bored teens who can barely play their instruments can make an album with the idea of 'being more evil then Venom', and come out with a cult classic. The good thing about this band is that while they are quite bad on their instruments, the songs are actually quite good.
Hellhammer play a pretty cool kind of metal. It's almost punky, it's quite sludgey, and there's some big riffs to be found here. The Third of the Storms kicks things off really nicely. It's fast, got a huge punk feel and has some truely awesome riffing. It's incredibly sloppy... It's quite funny to here the whole band slow down for the chorus, so the drummer can keep up with the double kick, but that makes it all the more endearing to the listener.
Yeah, this is really good! Massacra keeps up the same feel, and there's some huge riffs here. Twenty years or so later, this is still a real unique band. Maybe it's because I haven't heard any Venom, but this sounds pretty original to me, and with the possible exception of Bathory, I don't know any other bands that sound similar.
While the first two songs are indeed entertaining, it's Triumph of Death that's the real out of the box song here. The intro is quite droney and doomy, and while the whole "Im Dyinggggggg" vocals from Tom sound kind of weak, it's still a somewhat freaky and evil start to a song. This song is a masterpiece, simply put, and it's a great example of minimalist, repetitive songwriting that just completely owns you. The relentless tempo and the funeral march of the drums combine to create a truly trance inducing experience. It's really quite astonishing when you realise that this song was made back in '84.. Imagine how intense it would've been back then. It's some quite out of time guitars in places, but that makes it all the more awesome.
We finish with a track that's quite similar to the first two. More punk feel, more big sludgey riffs. Admittedly, the riffs in these songs sound quite similar, particularly the chorus parts, but that's cool. It's still an awesome track that the whole family can enjoy.
This albums been a real pleasant surprise for me. I was expecting sloppily played proto black/thrash stuff, and that's what I got, but it's so damn good! The riffs are massive, and while the vocals do get a bit annoying, they still own. While I wouldn't say this is essential, I would say that it's terrificly entertaining and that most metalheads will thoroughly enjoy this.
I'll start by saying that this album is seriously lacking in anything to make it stand out or make me want to listen to it ever again. I didn't even want to listen to it when writing this, but I made myself because I wanted to make sure that it was fresh on my mind so I would know exactly what I was talking about and wouldn't sound as if I was just going on some rant about something that I didn't even give a chance. It starts with "The Third of the Storms" and to be completely honest, when I heard this it almost made me laugh out loud. There's something about the riff that's played when the drums kick in that made me think of an opening theme from Looney Tunes or something. It just sounded goofy and I didn't know what to make of it at this point. It sounded like sloppy and painfully generic punk, but played by people who were influenced by Black Sabbath instead of punk. The chorus really gets on my nerves because you can hear the entire band slow down because the drummer couldn't play double-bass fast enough. This immediatly leads me to believe that they were all very unfamiliar with their instruments and that this was just something they shit out and didn't think twice about because they were too busy day dreaming about the big rock stars they were gonna be. The solo in this song is particularly awful and upon reading the lyrics I start to feel angry toward the band as if they had stolen my hard-earned money right from my pocket. Tom was never good at soloing, but this solo doesn't make me want to kill myself the way most of his solos in early CF do. The lyrics get progressively better from track to track, but Tom sounds like he is totally bored and falling asleep. Where's the energy? This is what a punk band would sound like if they had eaten too many muscle relaxers. In a word: boring. "Massacra" is a little better than the first track since it's basically the same, but with a better opening and since Tom chose not to solo I can afford to be a little nicer. Not much more to say about that one. Onward to track three... Oh fuck. I don't know where to begin with "Triumph of Death." This is without a doubt, one of the worst songs I have ever heard in my entire life. The opening reminded me of Mercyful Fate's "On a Night of Full Moon" but instead it went nowhere and when the vocals came in I actually turned it down because I was afraid that my mom (I bought this when I was about 15) would hear it and that I would be totally embarassed because it's just that bad. In a way I can respect him for what he's attempting and I'm sure this sounded much better live, but this is so bad that I just don't know what anyone has ever seen in this band. When the verse is over and the riff changes the one that comes in is just about as generic as a metal riff can get and it sounds like the guitar is going in and out of time. To tell you the truth much of this song feels like a simple jam session and nothing more. This is one of those things you would play for fun, but you would have the common sense to never let it leave the rehearsal room. Next. The intro to track four, "Horus" would have been pretty cool, but the drummer fucked that up by getting out of time just before the guitar came in and when the guitar leaves the double-bass... Fuck. I don't know. This sounds so corny and generic. When the verse comes in I always think of some "Ace of Spades" or "Iron Fist" era Motorhead filler-grade songs, but a little heavier and a lot worse. On a lighter note, the chorus riff is actually pretty cool and is the one of the only times on the album that I don't feel like pressing the stop button and chucking the CD and my, by now, very numbed mind into a wood chipper.
Since they are on nearly any version of this you will find nowadays I might as well mention the two bonus tracks, especially since when they come in I always feel a wave of relief roll over me for two reasons. They are 10 times better than all the tracks that make up the actual album and I know that the pain will soon be coming to an end... "Revelations of Doom" is kind of cool, but it still contains absolutely nothing to make me want to change my mind about these guys. "Messiah" is the last track and is the only one I would actually goes so far as to say "I like." I just can't put into words how over-ratted "Apocalyptic Raids" seems. It's one of the only things I've ever bought that made me feel 120% disappointed and that my money would have undoubtedly been better spent on a drugged-up hooker with hep, AIDS, herpes the desire to kill me halfway through. Most of these songs make me think of some of Venom's early outtakes such as "Hounds of Hell" or "Snots Shit," but not nearly as deep. What does it all boil down to? Basically everything that Hellhammer has achieved with release, Venom did 1000 times better, but at least three years before. I'll give them 40 points for taking the effort to write, record and convince someone to release these god-awful songs, but -30 because it has forever ruined the metal world by making it appear acceptable to release and re-release ignorant music. Hellhammer seem like something that was more about image or finding a party play at so they could get free beer, as opposed to anything resembling substance.
“…when you have been down in your grave…alive…”
Hellhammer. The first time I heard the name I just kept saying it aloud to myself. Hellhammer. I kept thinking there has to be some true significance to grasp. Hellhammer. It was a time when a name like this was so primitive, so top-heavy, and so much more menacing sounding than the likes of Raven, Exciter, W.A.S.P., and Running Wild. Hellhammer. Real word or not, I wanted to use this in a sentence in English class so bad. I hadn’t even heard the damn band yet and I was already enamored with them.
I would initially get a dubbed Memorex tape of Apocalyptic Raids from my buddy in school who was feeding me all this stuff. He verified to my relief the band didn’t sound anything like Laaz Rockit or The Rods, and since my Walkman was practically cemented to my body back then, that I’d see for myself soon enough and if anything to be sure to check out “Triumph of Death”. Screw social studies and the Treaty of Ghent, I wanted to hear this friggin’ band. I got about forty seconds of “The Third of the Storms (Evoked Damnation)” in before the teacher got down to his boring business. God, this was like crude oil extracted from Venom’s hide, and the guy’s vocals…Cronos and Tom Araya were as diabolical as they come, but this guy…? It’d be about forty-five minutes before the bell of glory would ring the class’s end.
“…the world will die under the sword of destiny…”
All nostalgia aside, this four-song graven opus wasn’t inspiring rave reviews among zines. Even the smaller, in-the-underground-know ones were calling it something akin to the steam that rises from manhole covers. Truthfully, anyone with an even half-evolved brainstem can hear that the music is written with zero complications and is frightfully simplistic. I didn’t care. AR was its own little world as far as my concerns went. If you hadn’t already heard Venom or Slayer by day one of the ep’s release, the most gutted and acrid vocals were what you were hearing, and if a fantastic production were a living, breathing entity, it would’ve walked over and said “what the hell do you want me to do with this?”
“The Third of the Storms” is actually the first of the four storms featured here, squealing forth with a primal, deep-toned mid-pace and vox that was as gravelly as they was unintelligible. “Massacra” cracks a whip on the velocity, and the memorable chorus with an open-ended riff is the center point.
To prepare for “Triumph of Death” back then was impossible. Discordant guitar notes barely even associated with a rhythm cry and moan like some prehistoric mammal caught in a painful trap, then the real inhumanity starts. With a nocturnal rhythm Sabbath would’ve thought was way too mausoleum-like, Satanic Slaughter a.k.a. Tom Warrior, the mammal’s pained father, unleashes bestial cries of defiance toward anything commercial or loving. Finally an actual beat trudges from the forest of screaming doom as the hollering subsides to actual lyrics that could give master linguists fits, and again the trap is reset and sprung. After 9+ minutes the beast gracelessly dies in a whispering mess, a beloved atrocity for the ages. Is it really a mystery as to why some would dislike this track? And to say the concept for the song as well as its performed extremity is merely a daring endeavor is an understatement if one exists. Let’s face it, “Triumph of Death” is the Evel Knievel of extreme songs even today.
Thudding in with percussion, “Horus/Aggressor” borrows the quicker rate of “Massacra” and surrounds it with the gait of “Third of the Storms”. The chorus’ catchiness enlivens the tune that ends with the fanfare of a guillotine strike.
"...the final chapter is yet unwritten..."
Of course I’d buy the real deal a little later, until then never seeing lovely Sitting Death, the cover painting with the schlong, and always wondering what the hell Tom was grunting about. It's also where I would come eye to eye with the dark, superior glints of Tom’s worded signature, a lyrical rawness that would grow into Stygian prose with Morbid Tales and beyond, and would be the formal catalyst that would urge me to pick up a pencil and do something with it other than throw across the room.
It’s undeniable that Apocalyptic Raids is all of these: basic, pioneering, primordial, catchy, slovenly, bare, haunting, and as cheerless as a dead puppy, and with three of the four tracks not conveyed with the most captivating of songwriting, I believe the ep’s impact would have been much less conquering if “Triumph of Death” had remained mere demo material.
Given a chance to bet on it, I would’ve lost if someone told me this band would incorporate orchestral movements, angelic soprano harmonies, and other avant-garde shadings into their songs in a little over a year. Nevertheless, Apocalyptic Raids sits rightfully on a throne of kings.
As of this writing, the ep is also available on CD with two bonus tracks, “Revelations of Doom” and “Messiah”, both of which can be found on the earlier Death Metal compilation from Noise Records, and even with the pair it still times in under a half hour. The addition of “Crucifixion”, straight from the vaunted Metal Massacre V compilation, would’ve easily found a home, and since we're being charitable, how about some demo crap like, oh I dunno, alert "Sweet Torment"? Or "Reaper"'s grody thunderplod? "Eurynomos" anyone? And how disappointed would grandma be if she couldn't toothlessly croon along to good 'ol "Bloody Pussies"?
Now I ask you, between the Treaty of Ghent and Hellhammer, which do you think has enriched my life more?
...only death is real...
Okay, here goes another try. Hellhammer are one of the few bands who, in actuality, can incorporate an evil sound into their music and not get lame and/or boring. This is like pouring the fuel on the fire, in the sense that Death, Black, and Thrash Metal were all originating around the time of this album. Hellhammer, in turn, took all of these genres and molded them into one dark album called Apocalyptic Raids. Whether a fan of thrash, death, black, or doom metal, this is a must have. Now on to what I was lacking in last time I reviewed, the actual music:
The Third of The Storm is a doomish thrashing classic, one of the best tracks on the CD, and I'm sure all of you who have heard this album can rightfully agree with me. The sound is so raw, yet it is distinct in every way.
Massacra is, eh, a mediocre track. Not my favorite, but definitely doesn't let up on the thrashing. Overall, this song reminds me more so of Venom than any of the other tracks on the record.
Triumph of Death, yeah, this is the one I went on the rant on before hand. 9 minutes and some odd seconds of pure fucking evil. I won't go back into the rant, because it's unnecessary, but... this is one Hell of a song, and I mean that literally.
Horus/Agressor starts off with a drum intro sounding like a battle march, or something reminiscent of one. The fading guitar does fit quite nicely with the drums. The vocals of this song, at points, remind me of a lot of other old school thrash, but then I think, Hellhammer can't, wasn't, and will not be reproduced.
Revelations of Doom, one of my favorites off the album. Slightly in the same tone of Bathory, except the singing sounds something of a more Death Metal style. Definitely a highlight. 2:51 of pure headbanging madness.
Messiah, the closing track, ends this with a fucking boom. A wincing cry at the beginning, dark tone throughout the whole track (who am I kidding... through the whole album)... anyhow, this track was a nice choice for ending, because it definitely ends it with a thrashing bang.
"Apocalyptic Raids" is a triumph. Influential, violent beyond words and blacker than black this CD defines "necro" and "cult" in ways that I can barely begin to put to words. Vile...violent...bitterly recorded...what more could a man ask for? Tom G. Warrior was never more aggressive and motivated as he was here. Sure, the production "bites" (hey, this is "necro" you morons) but the feel is so raw and violent that you can't deny the overall mood and vibe. The playing is competant, and this allows the music to flow with a violence that captured the best parts of what would remain in Celtic Frost, but enhance them with a feeling that was long lost by the time of "To Mega Therion". Double-time-doom-black-metal. Nobody did this better than Hellhammer...
The record explodes forth with the dominating "The Third of Strms" and follows with the meaty "one-two" punch of Massacra. Both tracks hammer along like hell's jackhammers on the inside of your skull. The moodier "Triumph of Death" and the drum-oriented "Horus/Aggressor" also work quite well. That's right folks...there is NO filler here! The best song is saved for being the ultra aggressive "Messiah". Never before did Tom G. Warrior pound along with such aggressive tones. This sadly, suffers slightly from the performance being a little off...but with songwriting like this who can complain? The riffs have yet to be matched.
Hellhammer were a concept too good to last. Thankfully, despite the amount of "demo material" that found it's way too the surface, the band managed to quit the scene before they became a joke and plodded on with the ever-decaying Celtic Frost. For all fans of black metal, dark metal or just plain thrashing hell...this one is for you!
BUY OR DIE!!!!
Grim, kvlt. Possibly the grimmest and kvltest stuff ever laid onto tape. Oh fuck yes... this is just so completely epic and essential and dark and HEAVY FUCKING METAL and ... imagine Venom, but darker. Possessed, but more primitive. Black Sabbath, but rawer. The basic lineage of what metal is and represents runs solidly through HERE.
For being a short little EP, this is nothing short of majestic. Something that harkens back to the beginnings of metal itself, and would be echoed in a thousand later attempts, some more successful than others. The Triumph of Death - the title says it all... a celebration of all that is dark and blasphemous and Satan and krieg. GRAAAHH!!!!!! Twisted vocals channel Hell itself - slow doom crunch turns into a midpaced frenzied beating of the senses - riff after solid riff delivers the assault, with the key "fast" (I use the term loosely) riff being almost a morbid, necrotic refraction of the classic heavy/power crunch riff. Imagine "Megalomania"'s middle section, but played by zombies. Possibly the darkest song ever, with the exception of course of the first: "Black Sabbath" itself.
And the rest is no slouch either... speed metal The Third of the Storms evokes the first Bathory LP and predicts the second with its Venom stylings, combined with the same darker guitar tone that makes THIS be a cut above the other black/speed offerings of the era. Massacra is similar stuff - fast, brutal, cutting. Horus and Aggressor combine into one song - a final closing in speedish fashion - the two first songs, and the last double-song framing the Triumph, speed metal bookends for a doom classic.
If you don't like this, you don't like heavy fucking metal. Plain and simple.