|Classic Review: Hellhammer - Satanic Rites|
Year released: 1983
Review online: April 20, 2004
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Rated 4/5 (80%) (23 Votes)
This almost makes Venom sound like Dream Theater, musicianship-wise. It's no state secret that the band members barely knew how to play their instruments (if at all), something that would improve during the Celtic Frost years. Some people will say that Hellhammer sucked, some will say they ruled. They're both right. They sure sucked at handling their instruments, but they ruled at somehow successfully creating some kind of dark, destructive and satanic atmosphere out of the total chaos that they managed to get out of their instruments. So essentially, if you stop at musicianship ability, you'll totally hate this. But if you're looking for some in-your-face chaotic, un-ruly metal with no discipline whatsoever, then this is something you'll love.
Not quite thrash, not quite what would eventually become the death metal genre, Satanic Rites is a demo with live recording-type production (this just adds to the chaos, really) that is often seen as the beginning of a new genre, and the band is cited as an influence by many of today's (and yesteryears) extreme metal bands. Quite repetitive in the thrash tradition, but still filled with some "catchy melodies" (for lack of a better word), the music here sure accomplished the band's goal of being more extreme than Venom (another band known for its lack of music-playing abilities... :)) and somehow managed to create some coherence out of this, with the notable contribution of Tom G. Warrior's harsh, low and raw thrash vocals. Hellhammer were the antithesis of good music, yet this still sounds good for those with the ear for this kind of extreme stuff. As I said earlier, this both rules and sucks at the same time!
The closest comparison? Extreme Venom and/or minimalistic raw black metal with thrash vocals. You know where you stand. This is one of those love or hate album that somehow became a classic of extreme metal.
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