By sonic ritual, the original ghoulish rebirth is codified.
Death metal is a force within the broader metal universe that’s existence is often taken for granted, but roughly 40 years ago it was something that the world had yet to experience. Though one might point to the strides made by NWOBHM outliers Venom’s earliest studio offerings as pioneering efforts that would be pivotal in shaping this sonically dangerous craft, circa 1982 it was still an undefined impression that still laid beyond the horizon when a trio of unlikely misfit musicians from Switzerland identified as Hellhammer would bring its image into view.
Drawing from innovators from the 70s such as Black Sabbath and Motörhead, alongside the previously noted Venom, they would spend the next two years forging a sound that was not really understood beyond a small audience within their own country, but would become the template referred to by every prominent extreme thrash and death metal band from Europe to North and South America, culminating in 3 demos, an EP and an auspicious slot alongside Helloween and Running Wild on the famed Noise Records 1984 “Death Metal” split album before their 1984 dissolution.
For a band that has since become regarded as one of the prime movers of extreme metal, the lack of a proper LP coming into being under the Hellhammer name seems a glaring omission of fate, though one that arguably has been remedied recently with the release of Thomas Fischer’s tribute band “Triumph Of Death”’s debut live album “Resurrection Of The Flesh”.
Tapping Punish guitarist/vocalist/cofounder Andre Mathieu, along with bassist Jamie Lee Cussigh and drummer Tim Iso Wey, Fischer has forged a fold that aptly recreates the typical arrangement that defined the early works of Hellhammer, all the while showcasing a degree of musical professionalism that mirrors his own technical advancement in the decades since, arguably cutting against the amateur nature of the group of young Swiss outcasts that originally penned these songs. Nevertheless, the raw power and intensity that was no doubt jarring to the ears of a typical 80s metal listener has been faithfully recreated, hearkening back to a time where the lines that separates death, black, thrash and speed metal were not so clearly drawn and a more archaic approach to contemplating the moribund than even the earliest strides of Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel would subsequently explore.
Despite being a live recording that draws from three different performances at Houston, Texas’ Hells Heroes Festival, the Dark Easter Metal Meeting concert in Munich, Germany and the SWR Barroselas Metal Fest in Portugal respectively, this album functions in the same manner that a full length studio release with all the benefits of post-production work would, minus intermitted bits of crowd noise and the Warrior reciprocating in a concise yet enthused fashion.
The 12 individual pieces of early death metal history that round out this collection have been ordered in a manner befitting a well-paced LP, while the sonic dimensions of the whole accomplished by the subsequent mixing job is a sheer marvel of morbid consistency. One can’t help but immediately notice the parallels between each one of these old school metallic anthems of inevitability in their newly refined form and the finalized studio handiwork that Death, Obituary, Entombed and Sarcofago would bring to the table to help kick-start their respective scenes, all the while the older influences imported from Black Sabbath and Motörhead remain more pronounced, particularly in Fischer’s blues-like lead guitar work and gravely, mid-ranged growl.
Though not every song in Hellhammer’s humble discography was afforded a slot on this endeavor, the represented body of work present here amounts to one of the more comprehensive ones every to be unleashed. Compact, speed-based crushers like the opening slaughter fest ‘The Third Of The Storms (Evoked Damnation)’ and a substantial volley of similarly styled middle-grounds between thrash and death metal such as ‘Decapitator’, ‘Horus Aggressor’ and ‘Crucifixion’ show no mercy in bringing the high octane factor to bear, bridging the divide between the speed metal strides of 70s Judas Priest and the extreme thrashing fury of early entries by Kreator and Sodom. Meanwhile, the slow creep that accompanies bass-heavy, doom-infused monsters like ‘Reaper’, ‘Blood Insanity’ and especially the gargantuan, 13-minute rendition of ‘Triumph Of Death’ showcases a band that was years ahead of the curve when it came to approximating the death/doom aesthetic. But regardless of how fast the riffs blaze away or how long each sonic entry endures, a consistent sense of triumph befitting the band’s name hangs over every moment.
In nearly every respect, the music that “Triumph Of Death” has resurrected in the likeness of a ravenous zombie is a far cry from what death metal has come to mean. In a world where blast beats and blurring tremolo riffs played at inhuman speeds and in exclusively atonal relations and the voices accompanying them seem less human still, these songs remind of a time where all of metal was united under a single banner, and ultimately the time where most of the important innovations in the genre would occur. To the ears of the post-Cannibal Corpse death metal trustee, let alone those whom have glommed onto the various subsets of the sub-genre that have emerged since the mid-90s, what is found on here might bear a closer relation to the stripped down, working class demeanor that goes with something black metal groups like Darkthrone or Aura Noir would create in opposition to the modern incarnation of death metal. But in the end, this is death metal in its more primordial form, and thusly its purest form, and those with any level of affinity for the type of music that brought new meaning to the concept of memento mori would do well to lend it their ears.
Released By: Noise / BMG
Release Date: November 10th, 2023
Genre: Thrash / Speed Metal / Black Metal
“Resurrection Of The Flesh” Track-List:
- The Third Of The Storms (Evoked Damnation)
- Blood Insanity
- Revelations Of Doom
- Visions Of Mortality
- Triumph Of Death
Triumph Of Death are:
Tom Gabriel Warrior / Vocals and Guitar
André Mathieu / Guitar and Vocals
Jamie Lee Cussigh / Bass
Tim Iso Wey / Drums
Order “Resurrection Of The Flesh“ HERE.
Death metal pioneer, forerunner and progenitor Hellhammer arises anew under the name Triumph Of Death, helmed by original axe-slinger and incantation barker himself Thomas “Warrior” Fischer, unleashing a dozen proto-extreme metal classics from the early to mid-80s in a live context and arguably providing the public with an LP that has been over 40 years in the making.