Here's something that the metal world has been waiting for for over 20 years-official releases of the Hellhammer demos Satanic Rites, Death Fiend, and Triumph of Death. In case you've been hiding under a rock since 1983, Hellhammer was the band that eventually morphed into the legendary Celtic Frost, one of the earliest of the influential extreme metal bands that came into prominence in the mid-1980's. While Celtic Frost helped shape what eventually became both death and black metal, Hellhammer were somewhat of a different beast, closer to the speed/thrash metal, punk, and doom style on Celtic Frost's first album Morbid Tales, early Motorhead, and certainly classic Venom, who were a huge influence on the band at the time. The three demos included here span June-December of 1983, and it's interesting to hear just how much the band improved between the June sessions and the December sessions. For Death Fiend and Triumph of Death, you can expect some extremely raw, almost garage-band type of material, even with the remaster job this is pretty rough stuff. The vocals of guitarist Tom G. Warrior and bassist Steve Warrior are dripping with effects and for the most part pretty awful. In fact, you can hardly tell that it's Tom singing some of these tracks, with all the reverb and muffled distortion he sounds more like a cross between Cronos and Lemmy than what we normally hear from him. His fuzz-laden guitar tone however is instantly recognizeable. Many of the songs on these two demos (which make up all of CD 2) are a mix of speedy punk metal as well as some crushing doom numbers, complete with rumbling bass lines, beefy guitar riffs, and Bruce Day's pounding drum work. If it sounds like a bunch of teenagers put these tunes together, well, that's what it is. While it's all a fun listen, there's nothing award winning here, although highlights include the Motorhead influenced "Hammerhead", the evil & crushing "Triumph of Death" & "Angel of Destruction", and the blasphemous "Power of Satan".
Back on CD 1 (why these were put out of order is beyond me) you have the later demo and last recorded output from the band before breaking up and eventually reforming as Celtic Frost. Satanic Rites sounds almost like a different group altogether, and you can hear the growth that they were going through after only a few short months. In the band at this time replacing Steve Warrior was Martin Eric Ain, who of course remained as Tom's partner in crime for many years and to this day. From the first notes of "Messiah", it's obvious how similar the band were at this point in time to what later became Celtic Frost. Tom's vocals have now taken on that trademark roar, and the arrangements have become less cluttered, more powerful, and the recording much clearer. In fact, you'll hear little bits here and there, some familiar riffs and vocal lines, as some of the parts in these songs later found their way into Celtic Frost classics (check out passages of "Buried and Forgotten" that eventually became "Necromatical Screams"). What's amazing on this demo are the re-recorded songs from the first two demos, namely "Maniac", "Triumph of Death" (which is actually quite awesome here, soaked in huge, evil riffs, feedback, and dark atmpsphere), "Reaper", and "Crucifixtion", which are all given new life and sound like practically new songs. Sure, it's all still pretty raw, but really, the difference between the material on each CD is like night and day. Most of Satanic Rites could easily have sounded right at home on Morbid Tales or To Mega Therion.
It's taken quite a long time, but it's great that this raw, underground collection of evilness is finally released to the masses. Kudos to Tom G. Fischer (Warrior) and Century Media for remastering and officially releasing these legendary demos, which are available in three versions-a deluxe 2 CD digibook set, a bare bones 2 CD digipack, and deluxe LP set. If you've only heard tales of these early 80's extreme metal rarities, now's the time to finally check them out and have them in your collection. This material ain't pretty, it certainly isn't refined, but you can clearly hear how Hellhammer helped shape the extreme metal genre, and provide the framework for what became one of the most original bands on the scene, the mighty Celtic Frost.
CD 1-Satanic Rites demo, December 2/3/4/7, 1983
3) The Third Of The Storms (Evoked Damnation)
4) Buried And Forgotten
5) Maniac (re-recorded version)
7) Triumph Of Death (re-recorded version)
8) Revelations Of Doom
9) Reaper (re-recorded version)
10) Satanic Rites
11) Crucifiction (re-recorded version)
CD 2-Death Fiend & Triumph of Death demos, June 10/11, 1983
3) When Hell's Near
5) Blood Insanity
6) Power Of Satan
8) Death Fiend
9) Triumph Of Death
10) Metallic Storm
11) Ready For Slaughter
12) Dark Warriors
14) Angels of Destruction
15) Bloody Pussies
17) Sweet Torment