Hellhammer was more of an after the fact legend than a band; the group released exactly six songs in any official way, and only garnered notice when frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Thomas Gabriel Warrior) formed his next band, the avant-garde thrash act Celtic Frost. This two-CD set, also available on triple vinyl, compiles all three of Hellhammer's self-released and widely bootlegged demo cassettes from 1983, Death Fiend, Satanic Rites, and Triumph of Death. Almost astonishingly primitive, this Swiss trio were clearly taking inspiration from Venom; like that British band, Hellhammer's riffs could be played by a chimp wearing boxing gloves, but they've got the same crunching power as songs by Motörhead, Discharge, and the Melvins, other groups with a keen understanding of unsubtlety. And while the recordings include plenty of tape hiss and the occasional bit of warping, not to mention a bass-heavy mix that buries the drums and (on Death Fiend in particular) Fischer's vocals, this music is a runaway bulldozer, the sound of three pissed-off young men cranking the amps and releasing all their frustration and misanthropy as fast as possible. Lyrically, it's all gore, doom, and demonology, but Fischer's guttural croak is already as convincing an instrument as it would be a year later, on Celtic Frost's debut album, Morbid Tales. It's no wonder Hellhammer's demos have been cited as an influence on pretty much the entire Scandinavian black metal scene, not to mention the young ladies of Japan's Gallhammer. Over 25 years later, this is still extremely powerful stuff, and the lavish packaging (there's a deluxe edition that comes with full lyrics and a booklet full of rare photos) gives it the respect it deserves.
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2