HELLHAMMER
"Demon Entrails"

(Century Media)

01. Intro
02. Messiah
03. The Third of the Storms (Evoked Damnation)
04. Buried and Forgotten
05. Maniac (re-recorded version)
06. Euronymous
07. Triumph of Death (re-recorded version)
08. Revelations of Doom
09. Reaper (re-recorded version)
10. Satanic Rites
11. Crucifixion (re-recorded version)
12. Outro
13. Crucifixion
14. Maniac
15. (Execution) When Hell's Near
16. Decapitator
17. Blood Insanity
18. Power of Satan
19. Reaper
20. Death Fiend
21. Triumph of Death
22. Metallic Storm
23. Ready For Slaughter
24. Dark Warriors
25. Hammerhead
26. Angel of Destruction
27. Bloody Pussies
28. Chainsaw
29. Sweet Torment

RATING: 9/10

What else can possibly be said about these legendary demos? Even if you're not as convinced as Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain are of their avant-garde visionary genius, it's hard to deny that the tapes preserved here – primitive racket from depressed and morbid teens in a Switzerland bunker – set the metal world on its ear and sent shockwaves through extreme music that are still felt today. Within these barbaric cave-wall scrapings lie the foundations of black metal as we know it, a jolt to hearts already pre-blackened by MOTÖRHEAD and VENOM, as well as a fistful of mud and ashes in solidarity with those on the American continent creating the first stirrings of death metal. Widely reviled at the time as some of the worst shit ever put on tape (especially by many thrown-for-a-loop magazine writers, who later backtracked mightily in an attempt to seem knowledgable), HELLHAMMER's demos, in all their putrid glory, are finally legitimately released after years of questionable bootlegs.

First of all, let me commit blasphemy by saying that you can listen to disc two once, and then pretty much throw it away. The band in June 1983 was, to put it mildly, terrible — anyone who's ever had to sit through their town's worst local bands' demo tapes can already imagine the pitiful Popeye vocals, pork-fisted riffing, overcharged bass obliterating the rest of the instruments, and ideas either blatantly ripped off from their heroes or so close as to make no difference. It's great to hear – once — as a comparison to the other demos, and as the first rusty squawk from the premature and barely-breathing HELLHAMMER. But really, it's bad. You don't so much listen to it as you fight your way through it, like a tunnel full of cobwebs and dirt, and you emerge proud of yourself for having hacked it and in need of a shower.

But do listen to it at least once, just so you can hear the remarkable transformation the band underwent in six short months. Disc one is the "Satanic Rites" demo, recorded in December of 1983, and while it's still only a skeletal hint of what Warrior and Ain would eventually attempt, they've clearly already locked into that sepulchral vibe that can only be described as morbid. You'll hear bits and pieces that made it into CELTIC FROST songs later on (see "Buried and Forgotten" and its talk of "necromantical screams"), and you'll most definitely hear the sickening guitar tone, thudding rhythms and that inimitable Tom G. Warrior rasp/bark/moan that delivers these rudimentary sermons with a ghoulish, impassive flair. It's like punk rock in hell, all blackened bones and clumsy time changes, but it's got atmosphere for miles and naggingly catchy songs. The stuff re-recorded from the June demos sounds like a whole new band, while songs like "The Third of the Storms" and "Euronymous" are flat-out classics, doom-laden metal masterpieces dripping with rotting funeral vestments and sent clambering out of the grave at unnatural speeds. For my money, "Satanic Rites" is better than the "Apocalyptic Raids" tracks that served as the band's official debut.

It's telling that so much of what passed for popular metal in 1983 is looked upon as dated, nostalgic or silly today, but these 25-year-old basement tapes can still send a chill down the spine. Warrior and Ain have an inarguable track record of some of the most important metal albums of the genre's entire existence, and "Demon Entrails" proves that these two alchemists hit their stride fairly early, locking into the morbid vibe even before their own technical abilities allowed them to harness it completely. Disc one, especially, is mandatory listening – not as a history lesson, or some horsepill to be sat through in the name of respect or credibility, but because it's some amazing shit. A quarter of a century later, people are still trying — and often failing — to capture the no-hope, no-budget, no-light aura embedded in these soul-scraping, off-the-rails, bleedingly raw sessions.

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