posted on 3/2008 By:
Okay, so first off: those scores aren't a mistake. I didn't rate this. I didn't feel that I could accurately apply our scoring system--or any scoring system--to what I had to review here. Some two decades and several thousand imitators later, Hellhammer exists outside of judgment or critique, not because they were really all that awesome, but because there’s a big disparity between their importance and their actual talent. (In other words, I didn’t have the heart to give one of the foundations of modern metal a well-deserved 3 for musicianship.)
Now here's your review:
I think you need to hear this. I absolutely, one-hundred-percent think that you have to hear this. You may not like it. You may never listen to it again. You may hate it outright. But you have to hear it. If you've made it to this website, you're clearly a fan of the hardest edge of metal, and you’re clearly willing to go above and beyond to find greatness. To properly understand the genesis of modern metallic extremity, then--I'll say it one more time--you have to hear this.
Thank you, and have a great day...
I'll elaborate now, if only to hear the sound of my own fingers typing.
Demon Entrails consists of the Satanic Rites and Death Fiend / Triumph Of Death demos, presented in that order, which is in reverse chronology. These recordings have been floating around for twenty years, but it's taken this long for us to get a comprehensive Hellhammer collection. These versions are remastered by the band, but even that sonic revision doesn't make them sound all that good. We're talking the barest bones of recording quality here, particularly on the earlier stuff, which is bass-heavy and distorted and ragged. The Satanic Rites tracks are light-years ahead of their elder brothers in terms of listenability, but all of this is roughshod, even by 1983’s standards.
We all know the historical importance of this band. We’ve all heard their influence cited countless times, their name constantly checked and usually followed with a description of how brilliantly awful they were, how rudimentary and primal. Even with their much-publicized ramshackle nature, you may still be surprised by how unimpressive Death Fiend actually sounds. And yet, despite the atrocious production and the childishly simple songs, what’s here comprises a catalog of almost godlike proportion, a legacy nearly unparalleled in underground music. (To get the full Hellhammer discography, one would also need the Apocalyptic Raids EP, and the fact it’s not included here is more than a minor disappointment. Undoubtedly its absence has something to do with licensing, or perhaps it’s just to make you track it down elsewhere. Regardless, it ain’t here. The error of its exclusion is made all the more egregious by the fact that it’s one of the highlights of the band’s limited output.) For better or worse, love ‘em or hate ‘em or never heard ‘em, this band’s shadowy fingers extend across the spectrum of extreme metal, from Napalm Death to Sepultura to Darkthrone and beyond.
Which is why, if you give even a quarter of a crap about why the bands you like play the music they play, you have to hear this.
Enough history, what about the actual music? The Satanic Rites material is good, closer to Celtic Frost and certainly more enjoyable than the Triumph Of Death songs, the best of which were re-recorded for Rites anyway. (Interesting aside: the song "Triumph Of Death" appears on all three Hellhammer releases, in increasingly slower versions.) Of all of this, Satanic Rites is the only part that I found myself listening to for fun, but for my own enjoyment value, I’d still say Celtic Frost is exponentially better. (I know that’s not a revelation of any kind. “Shock! Gasp! He likes the better band better!”) Nothing here will replace Morbid Tales or To Mega Therion on my list of Great Moments In The Life Of Thomas Gabriel Fischer.
Over in our forums, which you should check out as soon as you’re finished reading this, we’ve had a few recent inquiries as to whether or not Demon Entrails is really worth purchasing. Not to evade the question entirely, but it’s ultimately up to you. Does a history lesson matter to you as much as, say, $20 does? To me, there’s no question that it’s a “yes,” but I’m a historian by nature, and I’m a collector. Thus I’m completely thrilled that Century Media has given me the opportunity to get in one convenient package almost all the Hellhammer I’d ever need—and all the Hellhammer I didn’t already have. Considering that the CD versions of these two releases are bootlegs, rare and expensive, now’s your chance to dig into this band without having to shell out far too much money for something that, most likely, you’re not going to listen to all that often. (Ah, there’s the rub; there’s the million-dollar question… Are you really going to listen to this regularly? Even as the admitted historian and fan of all things metallic, I can’t see myself coming home from a hard day at the office, cracking open a cold Pabst, and throwing on some Hellhammer. Think of it like this: I’ve got some friends who have cool parents, and I’m glad that I know their parents, but who do I hang out with on Friday night?) I doubt this will end up on my Best Of 2008 list, but regardless, it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and even if it only gets played once a year, it’s unquestionably mandatory for anyone interested in the development of our most hallowed of musical genres.
Closing note: my version of Demon Entrails is missing the fancypants book, the whole liners and photos thing that, from what I hear, is pretty damn cool. At some point, I will purchase said fancypants version to see if that statement is true, but until then, you can take this for what it is: someone told me the deluxe edition really is worth the extra $10. (That assumes that you give a crap about photos and liners--there is no additional music for your money.)
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