06 April 2008

Album of the Week: Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids (1984)

Though perhaps obscure, Switzerland's Hellhammer is nevertheless among the most influential bands in the history of Metal. Their influence on the development of Black and Death Metal is crucial, to say the least. Yet despite their influence, Hellhammer produced precious little recorded material. Aside from a releasing a handful of demos (recently compiled and re-released as the Demon Entrails compilation) and contributing two tracks to the now-infamous Death Metal split LP, 1984's Apocalyptic Raids stands as Hellhammer's only proper studio release.

Containing only four tracks and clocking in at less than twenty minutes, Apocalyptic Raids is anything but a protracted affair. The music is pregnant with underground sensibilities--the production is mediocre at best (though easily listenable), and the musicianship has a distinctly amateurish feel. To put it another way, Apocalyptic Raids sounds like the product of four young (though talented) guys forming an impromptu band and jamming in their garage over the course of a beer-and-whiskey-fueled weekend. In fact, that's probably not too far from the album's actual recording process.

Yet it is precisely this amateurish feel that makes the album so engrossing. Apocalyptic Raids may be raw and primitive, but it is simultaneously organic--there is a soulfulness and an honesty here that I have often found wanting in more polished and better-produced popular music, even if it is "angry" and "violent".

Not long after the release of Apocalyptic Raids, the members of Hellhammer went their separate ways. Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain formed Celtic Frost from the ashes of Hellhammer, which would be equally as influential as their previous project. Apocalyptic Raids was re-released some years later in 1990, with new artwork and two additional tracks (taken from the aforementioned Death Metal split LP). This edition, entitled Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D., is a bit easier to find than the 1984 original, having been reissued as recently as 1999.

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