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In the tenth issue (February / March 1985) of the German magazine Rock Hard, the editors printed a reader´s letter of a guy called Uli Hildenbrand. This dude criticized the Rock Hard crew in a harsh way. His reproach was that the magazine neglected black metal, in particular his favourite bands such as Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost. What I did not know was that exactly this angry Uli reappeared later as the guitarist of Poison. In view of his reader´s letter, the credibility as well as the authenticity of his black horde was out of doubt.
"Into the Abyss" is one of the very few tapes that I possess. (To be honest, I never understood the specific romanticism of the tape trading community. And back in the mid-eighties, I needed my whole pocket money for the flood of fantastic albums, Slayer, Exodus, Destruction... guess this topic requires no further explanation.) Admittedly, the purchase of this cassette marked a good investment, because the tracks offered a surprisingly experienced song-writing. The amazingly long pieces exhibited a high degree of complexity. They presented an unexpectedly high amount of breaks without having progressive tendencies or pseudo-intellectual knickknack. Nevertheless, they also did not suffer from repetitiveness.
Despite the massiveness of the gargantuan and extremely raw "Slaves (of the Crucifix)", the opener "Sphinx", naturally equipped with an oriental touch, marked the undeniable masterpiece of the quartet. Its Lovecraft-inspired lyrics were as brilliant as the music itself. The demonically growing chorus came as a celebration of total blackness and crowned this highly atmospheric yet raw and brutal piece. All of its parts fit together very well, maybe with the exception of the guitar solo which added some strange tones. Speaking of strange tones, the sound quality of the demo tape was doubtlessly better than expected. Of course, the rattling drums and the slightly dull guitars did not reach the average level of regular vinyl releases. But, for example, in comparison with the guitar sound of Bathory´s second official album, the here presented guitars did not need to shy away.
The eerie melodies were perfectly complemented by the cruel and inhumane voice of lead vocalist Armin Weber. He played every role in a very good manner. Sometimes he sounded as Satan himself, but he was also able to embody a mentally ill or completely desperate person. Too bad that a black metal career was closed to him. But this statement goes for the entire group. Of course, the comparatively mysterious formation has reached a certain kind of cult status, not least precisely because of its commercial failure and the related underground charm. Nevertheless, I regret that they never had the possibility to start a career like stylistically similar bands such as Sodom or Kreator. "See you on vinyl next time (hopefully...)" was written on the back cover, but this remained an unfulfilled hope. Maybe it is time to send a reader´s letter to a German metal magazine in order to demand the reunion of Poison.
This quite an interesting demo. It clocks in at over 32 minutes, has a solid studio production and yet only contains four songs. When I first heard this I was expecting some droning boredom more akin to Norwegian bands who are the usual suspects of attempting extensive track lengths in extreme metal. As you can imagine, I was shocked to hear some vicious Deutsch thrash.
Poison have progressed a lot since their previous demo releases (which are near unlistenable), going from a Hellhammer worship style into . . . this. It’s a pretty original idea, combining the ferocity displayed in other German death/thrash bands with lengthy song structures and sparse use of atmospheric clean guitars. Now, don’t the wrong idea, the three characteristics I just described would make most people vomit when put in the same sentence. I personally fucking hate it when thrash bands attempt the odd 8 minute ‘epic’ and fail miserably. But that’s because they aren’t used to attempting such elaborate structures. Poison, however, make it their buisness. And they’re fucking good at it.
The opener Alive (undead) exemplifies the Poison sound nicely. Clean intro, speedy thrash riffs, cool headbanging choruses and thrash breaks that utilize a variety of tempo changes. The intro to Slaves (of the Crucifix) is definitely noteworthy, slowly building up into a triumphant classic heavy metal riff. In fact, the whole song doesn’t let up once. Memorable tremolo riffing, those great midpaced sections and the eerie build up half way through that seemingly comes out of nowhere to make this the best song here. The beginning of Spinx is catchy as hell too.
There are some flaws that prevent me from labelling this as a classic though. The drum performance falls flat in faster sections, especially the faster sections in Yog Sothoth where he really needed to learn how to thrash beat properly. The distinct PING PING PING of the ride is annoying, especially considering it’s not even that fast. The lead guitars are nothing to write home about and while I usually let this matter go, some cool leads would have boosted the rest of the music astronomically.The vocals sound awesome, but occasionally sound a bit dragged out over some of the verses. HOWEVER. These are all performance issues that could easily be improved upon with a bit more experience. Had they been able to make a full length the following year, chances are it would have been fucking legendary. Just look at the progress they made to reach this point in the span of a couple of years, it’s easy enough to see.
In closing. This is a very good demo and Poison were not far off of becoming one of the leaders in the German thrash scene. This is definitely worth hearing if you are a fan of good European thrash and early death metal.
Poison was one of the most volatile and potent forces in the thrash underground of Germany, but various misfortunes caused them to suffer a severe case of the 'underachiever'. The band had a wealth of demos around circa 1984, but it wasn't until 1993 that a full length album was posthumously released. Into the Abyss is basically an 'official' re-issue of the band's 1987 demo, and what a fucking demo that was. Put on your kvlt vnderoos, folks, because this was a band who could manifest hellfire with the best of them. Think old Sodom, Slayer and Destruction with brutal guttural vocals...well before most bands were using them, and you've got one remarkably underrated force here that could very well have sprung a million patch encrusted denim jackets with the sleeves torn off.
Into the Abyss features but four tracks in 33 minutes, but there is more than enough versatility here to show a band capable of nearly anything. Each is a self-contained saga, 7-10 minutes in length, and visits a number of thematic poles. "Alive (Undead)" opens with a dirge-like clean guitar sequence which summons up 70s doom nostalgia before ripping into an atrocious riff of brash speed mutilation, while the rhythm section lights up like an artillery battery. "Slaves (of the Crucifix)" returns to the doom intro before busting out close to 10 minutes of thrashing, blustering torment that puts most extreme metal of the day to shame. I love the depth here in the slower, lurching bridge. The warlike "Sphinx" and the morbid, obese Lovecraftian nightmare "Yog-Sothoth" will also have you scratching your temples, wondering why you had never heard of or sacrificed any small animals to the sounds of this band in the past.
Sure, this is a glorified demo, and the production standards are as a primitive reel recording, but fuck that, because Poison extract an impressive dark range of tones that overcome any hesitance due to the clipping or hissing in the mix. This was with ease one of the most brutal and evil bands in all of Germany through the 80s, and it's sad that they didn't get the same shot as a Kreator or Sodom, but at least the album has been made available through re-issues. The version I'm reviewing here is not the latest: Iron Pegasus has a later version called Further Down Into the Abyss with from 2006 which incorporates some older demo material in addition to the core tracks. If you're into old Slayer, Bathory, Sodom, Venom, and Possessed, then you absolutely must track this down. If you're not...well, cyanide is always an option.
Every now and then, I run across something that managed to crawl under the radar. The cult German Black/Death/Thrash band, Poison, was not completely unheard of. Yet in my earliest days of exploring the Teutonic scene, this was passed over in favour of better-known acts such as Sodom, Kreator, Destruction and even Exumer. The Poison demos weren't readily available, so they were ignored. On the one hand, this represents a grievous error; however, on the other hand, it provides the opportunity to go back in time. There are few things as good as discovering old music that one missed out on. Just when you think that you have heard them all, the disappointment fades upon realizing that there are hidden treasures still waiting to be found. Recently, someone recommended that I check this band out and it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.
Poison formed in 1982 and went on to release a handful of demos as they perfected their craft. In 1987, they released the godly Into the Abyss demo, which is a masterpiece of underground Death/Thrash. It all begins with "Sphinx". This epic song starts with a mid-paced thrash riff, building a sense of tension. You can feel that something monumental is about to be unleashed. The song bursts forth with fast riffs and inhuman vocals. The vocal style displays a great deal of variety, as Virgin Slaughter has a range that includes a deeper sound more akin to Death Metal as well as a raspier scream, seeming somewhat reminiscent of Quorthon. Despite the extremity of the music, it is quite complex. There are frequent tempo changes, as Angel of Death's thrash riffs change to slower, doom riffs. Incubus Demon's bass is audible, such as on Slayer's Hell Awaits. And, of course, Witchhammer is proficient on the drums. At a time when the other German bands are streamlining their sound and going for a pure Thrash Metal approach, Poison were busy giving In the Sign of Evil some evil competition.
"Yog-Sothoth" is the shortest song, clocking in just over seven minutes. This one begins with slow doom riffs, creating an ominous atmosphere of dread. After a brief intro, the pace picks up with textbook thrash riffs and fast drumming. The production isn't as clear as one would like, preventing the music from making the true impact that is is capable of. Fortunately, the feeling is conveyed, nonetheless. After a couple minutes, the tempo slows a little as some mid-paced riffs allow for the dark aura to settle into your subconscious. This doesn't last long, as the hellish assault resumes. This song features many memorable melodies. About halfway through, the song slows down and utilizes an acoustic guitar melody as eerie whispers call out from the darkness. This is certainly more evil than what Mayhem was doing around the same time.
The next song is the epic "Slaves (of the Crucifix)". It opens with some interesting melodies, creating an eerie atmosphere while building to something larger. The sound, gradually, gets louder and louder, as the guitars are pushed to the front of the mix. This song features some intense thrash riffs and very fast drumming. Here, the vocals sound close to what Quorthon would accomplish on Blood Fire Death, in some places. After a relentless and punishing assault, the song slows down to wallow at the fathomless depths, doing well to convey a sense of impending doom. This one sounds very much like 80s Black Metal. The track features a few more tempo changes and some incredibly possessed vocals during the closing moments.
"Requiem / Alive (Undead)" concludes this incredible demo. It rises from the murky fog with a somber melody before unleashing its full force. This takes the dark feeling from Sodom's debut E.P. and the vicious assault from Kreator's Endless Pain to the next logical step. Hellhammer influences can be detected, though the musicianship found here is quite superior to that Swiss outfit. A slow, doom-filled pace dominates much of this song, though the tempo does pick up, also featuring killer solos. This song is dripping with a dark and primal atmosphere, tearing at your flesh and devouring your mind. It all ends in a traditional manner, finishing out this brilliant demo.
Into the Abyss is a work of genius. While Kreator and Sodom were getting farther away from their cryptic roots and while the remnants of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, were moving into poser territory, Poison managed to spawn something truly dark and inspiring. For fans of the early work of the aforementioned bands, along with old Bathory, Mefisto and Morbid, this is highly recommended.
Poison were a German band that started out playing sloppy and primitive Hellhammer/Sodom worship, and although the spirit was certainly there in their early material, the substance had not yet reached its full potential yet. I like the early recordings for what they are, and of course, I have nothing but the utmost respect for their historical significance in the growth and development of extreme metal, but it was not until 1986, when they released their Awakening the Dead demo, that their sound had really changed direction into a much more developed death/thrash style. Eeven then, they still had not yet attained the level of mastery they would soon achieve. Later that year, Poison went into the studio to record Into the Abyss (later released in ’87), which is a masterpiece of ripping death/thrash, and with a much more developed and matured sound compared to previous efforts, making their bestial savagery present on their old demos even more effective. It is unfortunate that this was their last recording, but they certainly did not leave on a bad note, as this is one of the greatest recordings that the 80’s extreme metal era had to offer.
What you will find on Poison’s 1987 masterpiece is pummeling and barbaric death/thrash metal with plenty of early black metal elements from their earlier demos. The progress this band had made in less then a year of their previous recording is remarkable, but at the same time, when looking at each demo in chronological order, you see a steady progression in their sound from recording to recording, so seeing the band improve this much should not really be a shocker. The musicianship, composition and songwriting skills, riffing, drumming, and everything in between, had all improved significantly. Luckily, they had enough money at this point to buy some studio time, which helped properly capture the band’s newfound masteries by giving the demo a full studio production job. Although the production is much clearer then their preceding recordings, there is still a thick layer of crust on top of the whole mix, giving it more character then a crispy clean studio job, or just a bigger budget, would have.
One of the most significant changes in the band’s sound is in the riffing. On their earlier demos, the riffing was more in the vein of Hellhammer, demo-era Messiah, and early Sodom, and was far more simplistic then the various riffing styles utilized on Into the Abyss. Here, the riffing is much thrashier, making excellent use of palm mutes, well-placed pinch harmonics, speedy triplets and individually picked notes, rather then mostly using strummed powerchords. These new elements incorporated into the riffing adds enough variation to allow each individual riff to stand on its own and not sound like any of the other ones. The guitars themselves have a crisp and chunky tone to them, sharp enough to swiftly slice a off a limb, and heavy enough to crush the bones therein, and I would not ask for anything otherwise. It is just another element of perfection found in this magnificent demo.
The drums and bass provide a powerful backbone for the guitars to lay their thrashing mayhem over. Like the guitars, the bass has a sharp and thick sound to it, and has enough prominence in the mix to do an effective job of rattling your sub woofer. Witchhammer’s drumming has also gone through a significant amount of improvement from the previous recordings. He has gotten much tighter and never misses a beat, which is much more then what can be said about the earlier demos. There is also much more variation in the tempos and rhythms then before, probably due to the more diverse styles of riffs that the band was now using. He can go from a morbidly slow and crushing DOOOM rhythm to a high speed thrashing frenzy at the drop of a hat, and pulls it off perfectly. And what would be more fitting for this band’s blackened style of death/thrash then a vocalist who sounds savagely possessed by Satan himself? The answer to this question is simple: nothing. Virgin Slaughter’s vocal style is a maniacal, demonic snarl that sounds like a mixture of Morbid Saint’s Pat Lind and Death Fiend/Triumph of Death-era Tom G. Warrior. It is truly a match made in Hades.
This demo is essential for anyone even remotely into brutal, vicious 80’s death/thrash, as well as old school black metal and the mid-late 80’s proto-death metal sound. Everything about it is perfect and one could not ask for anything more (except for maybe another vinyl reissue, or have that 2LP that was released by Iron Pegasus get repressed). On one end, it is a shame that this band does not get more recognition for their role in the development of extreme metal, but on the other hand, their cult status gives me a small sense of self-righteous satisfaction, so I can’t complain.
Perfect. This is just fucking perfect! And unfortunately I wasn't alive in the 80's to experience this amazing underground band hence, missing out on everything. But hey, no use in complaining about one's own age so might as well glorify this magnificent musical masterpiece.
The first 3 Poison demos sounded like pure shit. They were awful. Hellhammer's demos sound like a work of art compared to Poison's. Early Poison really seemed like a Hellhammer worship band with little to no originality. Shit, I wouldn't have minded that but I couldn't get passed the production. On this re-released demo, it all turned around. Acoustic guitar passages were added and these 4 songs are all long for old school black/thrash but easily memorable with tight guitar riffing and drumming (compared to the very sloppy previous efforts) and amazing thrashy riffage.
Alive (Undead) starts out with a dual acoustic guitar passage. Amazing when looking at their previous efforts. A few seconds into the song and a dual thrash assault comes in. The vocals are Tom Warrior-ish but with more shriek into them. What these guys are able to do is at one minute play some very fast thrash then go into doom almost instantly and none of this seems out of place. Pretty fucking impressive for an old school underground band few have heard of and that unfortunately never received a record deal. Screw the Slaughter similarities, this album is pure originality. The vocals are top notch at the chorus. "UNDEAAAAAAAAAAD!" Virgin Slaughter's shrieks are amazing. At 4:50 in comes in a standard old school black metal solo.
Slaves Of The Crucifix comes in with clean guitars and neat background bass work. It all slowly progresses with another guitar coming into a doomy chugging riff that morphs into a thrash attack. The chorus here has amazing echoey vocals "SLAVES.... SLAVES... SLAVES.... OF THE CRUCIFIX!" The intense thrashing riffage, the raw and powerful vocals, and the endless blast beating drums all combine to show pure fucking aggressive old school black metal. Halfway through there is a nice chugging doom break. Intense and atmospheric. Then at 7:36 comes back in the verse/chorus riff with a kickass fucking solo. There are few solos on this album and none of them are impressive, this one is no exception. It’s simple but it’s effective. Fast and blazing and mixes wonderfully with the verse/chorus riff. Before you realize it this 9:37 monster of a song ends.
Sphinx comes blazing in mid-paced slightly melodic thrash riff. The post chorus riff has a nice melodic touch to it and is one of the only times that you can hear the bass. The solo at 5:30 is pretty damn nice. As the title suggests, this song does have slight middle eastern influence in the guitar work. There is very few but you can hear some in the solo (especially in the second solo around 7:20) and in some of the melodic thrashy parts.
Yog Sothoth... sadly the last track but hey, the best was saved for last. The shortest but has the most intense and catchiest riffs. The verse riff is pretty fucking impressive. Fast, furious, with melody. Compared to their other riffs, this is fucking technical! After the verse there is a mid-paced thrashy part which I fucking love. It's so simple yet so brilliant and is the reason for wanting me to listen to this song over and over again. Virgin Slaughter unleashes his top notch vocal performance. Blasphemous shriek after shriek. At the doomy break at 4:41, Virgin Slaughter unleashes amazing torturous screams.
This album is raw, noisy, primitive, blasphemic, thrashy, doomy, brutal, aggressive, etc. This is a perfect representation of mature old school black metal. I find myself listening to this almost as much as I listen to Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Bulldozer, early Sodom and Destruction (which is every fucking day!). Amazing how much power this 32 minute demo had. If only the ignorant fucking record companies gave these guys a chance they would've made more amazing fucking music. I unfortunately never came across downloading anything by R. U. Dead? but I will forever love this demo and only regret is not being there to experience this majestical underground movement. Wake up folks, bands like this will NEVER be around anymore. Sodom, Destruction, Bathory, Celtic Frost and Venom have all changed. Sure they still kickass (with the exception of Venom) but I will always prefer hearing the raw, noisy, primitive, satanic Sentence Of Death than the amazing, impressive, nicely produced The Antichrist. Old school black metal never had a steady foundation and was meant to fall. None of the old school black metal bands survived. They either broke up or changed. There will never be another Mutilator, Sarcofago, or Bulldozer and there surely will never be another Poison. If you were there to experience these moments, cherish them forever...