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An indicator of what was to come - 50%

Deathdoom1992, September 4th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Noise Records (Reissue)

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.