Hellhammer – “Apocalyptic Raids”

dB HoF No. 145

Label: Noise Records
Release date: March 7, 1984

At the onset of metal’s second decade, kult was not a choice. Kult was the by-product of poverty, desperation and isolation. The elusive quality sought after by today’s black metal musicians, one that speaks of darkness and conviction, does not come from choice. It comes from hardship. In the case of Hellhammer, that hardship involved abusive childhoods, scorn and a music industry that described them as terrible, noise, shit and worse.

And yet Hellhammer and their chief creative architect Tom Gabriel Fischer, who went on to form Celtic Frost, were imbued with a creative spark and an us-against-the-world spirit that could not be snuffed out by conventional metalheads, greedy label executives or scornful neighbors and peers. Decades later, the bands and labels that mocked Hellhammer have faded from memory. Hellhammer, however, is viewed as the linchpin for the second wave of black metal that started in the early ’90s in Norway. The music and its creators have become part of metal history. But Hellhammer’s early history was so difficult and fraught with rejection that Fischer and his bandmates have only embraced the band in recent years.

Hellhammer started largely in the fertile imagination of Fischer (Satanic Slaughter), who has twice been inducted into our Hall of Fame for his work on Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion. Fischer found creative allies and outcasts for Hellhammer’s earliest lineups, but eventually settled with his longtime creative partner Martin Eric Ain (Slayed Necros, bass) and Bruce Day (Denial Fiend, drums). The road to Apocalyptic Raids involved both fate and fortuitous chance. A friend of Fischer’s father recorded the earliest Hellhammer demos, which ended up in the hands of a German zine journalist. The journalist passed the band’s name along to the fledgling German label Noise Records, and the EP’s story begins there.

While Hellhammer’s short career produced enough songs to merit the Demon Entrails compilation in 2008, Apocalyptic Raids—an EP—is their sole professional studio recording. There are many musical reasons to induct the EP and Hellhammer, chief among them the necro-sound later copied and fetishized in recordings like Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger, Beherit’s Drawing Down the Moon and Burzum’s Filosofem. But the human spirit is an equal part of this induction; the story of Hellhammer’s meager roots and their eventual dominance of extreme metal’s sound and look is the stuff of Hollywood screenplays. Our heroes might be unlikely ones, but they are heroes nonetheless. Hellhammer’s source material is borne from darkness, but their Rocky Balboa drive speaks to what is best in all of us. Despite circumstances that would lead most people to quit music, the members of Hellhammer endured and, in doing so, left a legacy for disenfranchised metalheads throughout the world, from South America to Scandinavia. We humbly induct Apocalyptic Raids, and by extension Hellhammer’s entire recorded career, into our Hall of Fame. Triumph of Death, indeed.

– Justin M. Norton

Got to get more Hellhammer? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on Apocalyptic Raids, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.