“Deathcrush” is an extreme listen, there is no debate there. The level of systemic chaos that is exhibited at times on here crosses the threshold between being lethal and being outright ridiculous. I can only begin to imagine how people reacted to it when it first started to be circulated, which I’m sure was comparable to the reaction that people had to BLACK SABBATH’s first album or ALICE COOPER’s first few live gigs playing to a bunch of flower worshiping hippies. But there seems to be a good deal more to this than the extremity of the sound/noise ratio.
MAYHEM’s somewhat auspicious admiration of Conrad Schnitzler is very telling of the peculiar relationship that the genre they helped pioneer has with electronic and minimalist music. Perhaps my own dislike of many of the Black Metal genre’s offerings stems from my inability to enjoy about 90% of minimalist music, let alone its modern tape splicing brethren such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Henry. Nonetheless, the riff approach to Thrash Metal has some similarities to the minimalist sound, although most of my preferred Thrash acts don’t dwell upon one riff for most of a song.
There is some really great music just itching to come out of several of these songs, particularly the intro material that precedes the mad mix of blast beats and tremolo picked chords. The intro to “Deathcrush” is a solid mid-paced Thrash riff that could please NWOBHM and SLAYER fans alike. “Necrolust” is wild enough to make S.O.D. wince, yet still maintains a fair amount of organization. And of course the famed “Pure Fucking Armageddon” lives up to it’s name, basically a crazy barrage of speed and incoherent screams preceded by a somewhat IRON MAIDEN meets PINK FLOYD instrumental prelude in “(Weird) Manheim”. (I have the version where the two are combined)
Despite all this, there are some really serious flaws that drag this into the mud really fast. Although the drum production could stand to be cleaned up a good deal, the overriding issue here is Maniac’s horrible vocals. I haven’t really been too fond of his voice with regards to the other stuff he’s done with this band, but here it’s just downright awful. I’m at a complete loss as to how someone can deride Attila’s vocals for their Gollum-like tinge, yet can also think that this phlegm gurgling, choking on broken glass, collection of shrieks is praiseworthy. Not to mention that the vocal track has so much damn reverb on it that it’s hard to heard any separation between the consonants and the vowels in this shouted mess. I guess the silver lining is that half of the songs on here are so pointlessly profane lyrically, to the point of absurdity, that you’re better off not understanding what is being said.
I do give this band a good deal of credit for creating something original and starting something that has produced a fair share of solid albums, but this brief collection of sounds just doesn’t listen well enough to deserve the lavish praise that many have given it. “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is a better representation of an extreme metal album, while I could best categorize this as a half Underground Punk, half Thrash Metal Crossover release with a real lousy vocal delivery. If you like metal solely for the aggression factor rather than for its intrigue (I don’t), then this is probably worth getting, otherwise stick to their material with Attila and Dead at the helm.
(Online September 7, 2008)