Review: Deathhammer

Deathhammer Onward to the Pits Hell’s Headbangers

Deathhammer is one of those bands that doesn’t get a huge amount of front line press, but who get name checked a lot by scenesters. This can be a good thing. After all, Von were pretty great even if only about sixteen people ever saw them and the only props they got while they were around were from Kristian “Varg” “Douchebag” Vikernes. On the other hand, one gets the feeling that a lot of times these name checks are all about illustrating one’s own connection to the obscure, rather than intrinsic qualities of the band in question.

I’d been vaguely aware of Deathhammer’s existence for a few years, but had never heard them until recently. Onward to the Pits, which was just released a couple of months ago, is one of those records that really takes me back. Now, you might think that I’m talking about being taken back to the lowball thrash era of the 1980s, when bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Wehrmacht stripped away all the inessential elements in the pursuit of thrashing purity. There is certainly an element of that here, but that’s not really where this disc takes me.

No, to really get to the essence of Into the Pits, I have to go back to my days in 7th grade of sketching pictures from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual on the blank spaces of my peechee during social studies class. It starts with Deathhammer’s logo. I am all for rawness and simplicity, but their logo make’s Beherit’s look like an engraver’s masterwork. The cover of the record looks like the kind of thing you might have found doodled on a discarded program from Gen Con III.

Having seen that, I was really prepared not to like this record. My hackles were further raised by the first cut on the album which occupies a territory about halfway between Bloodthorn and Nifelheim. The riffs are good, but it’s like 80% blast beat, and I kept wondering when they were going to shift to a tempo that could actually keep my attention. This is not to say that it was bad; it was just a little on the boring. From that point, matters improved dramatically. Much of the rest of the album is 1980s style thrash metal, with deathish elements. Some of it kind of sounded like Dark Angel, while at other times they moved into slightly grungier territory, ala Infernö (the Norwegian one) or earlier Aura Noir.

This isn’t the kind of record that you get to the end of and think, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.” But it is aggressive and played with real intensity. It doesn’t try to be anything other than it is. It’s the sort of thing that demands to be turned up loud and consumed with large quantities of beer. They do what they do well, and if you like unapologetic black thrash, you will certainly dig this.

Magadh

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