Death SS

Horned God of the Witches

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Italian horror metal founders Death SS have been known to fall into the "so bad its good" category, where recording, songwriting, and even performing deficiencies somehow transcend their normally unforgivable weaknesses to attain an almost mythic, but still unexplainable, parallel existence of some kind. Like a Zé do Caixão horror flick, theirs is the stuff of true cult fans, and, even by those parameters, Horned God of the Witches signifies a cult within a cult, since it collects some of the long-running Italian shock rockers' earliest recordings ever. Organized in chronological order and dating back as far as 1977, early offerings like "Terror" and "Zombie" are, by any measure, simply painful to the ears, and stand exempt from utter scorn only if one takes their honest and youthful enthusiasm into account. But it doesn't take long after that for ensuing attempts like "Black Mummy," "Horrible Eyes" and even the chuckle-inducing "Cursed Mama" to start compiling surprisingly strong riffs and melodies. At their best, these songs won't sound unfamiliar to Mercyful Fate fans, although Death SS never really get as unpredictable or idiosyncratic as the Danish metal legends. Rather, additional highlights like "Murder Angels" and "Profanation" mostly deal in heavy rock occasionally adorned with organs and warbling melodic vocals -- all of which, for all of their evil dispositions, clearly aspire to commercial hooks the likes of which Alice Cooper might have written had he not been wandering his creative wilderness (Dada, Zipper Catches Skin) during the same period. Elsewhere, there's the outright gothic/psychedelic weirdness of "Hanged Ballad," the apposite, seemingly radio-geared efficiency of "Buried Alive," and, towards the end, a clutch of semi-doom workouts like "Night of the Witch," "Spiritualist Séance" and "Black & Violet" -- all making quite the historical and revealing document for fans of the occult and the cult that is Death SS.

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