Switzerland's Hellhammer was one of the early bands who set the blueprint for extreme metal. Heavily influenced by black metal pioneers Venom as well as punk, D-beat acts like Discharge, Hellhammer really sounded like nothing else in the metal scene of the early 1980's. Of course, today Hellhammer is widely respected as one of the key acts to have played a role in the formation and sound of many Norwegian black metal bands as well as a myriad of death metal acts.
Even with so many bands paying homage to Hellhammer over the years, the sad irony is that the band was never able to perform live. The metal scene in Switzerland at the time was such that Hellhammer was largely perceived as a bizarre enigma, something to be scorned. With their raw primitive compositions, the band sounded nothing like Dio, Iron Maiden or Switzerland's own Krokus, which were all much more focused on complex musicianship and lush and powerful vocals. Hellhammer featured three teenagers who were just learning to play their instruments and the growls of one very young Tom Gabriel Warrior on vocals.
Finally, some forty years plus years after the formation on Hellhammer, we are finally able to get a record of those classic songs performed live. Unfortunately, however, given the death of Hellhammer (and later Celtic Frost) bassist Martin Eric Ain, a true Hellhammer reunion is just not possible. Instead, Tom G Warrior has put together what he calls a tribute in the form of the band Triumph Of Death. Resurrection of the Flesh: Triumph of Death Live, 2023 is a band hand-picked by Warrior that respectfully and carefully has mastered all of the key songs of Hellhammer's legacy.
The culmination of songs from three shows performed in 2023 (in Germany, Portugal and the US), Resurrection of the Flesh is truly an impeccable live recording. You can clearly hear every snarl and OOGH! that Mr. Warrior is so well known for. Hellhammer classics like "Reaper" sound alive and powerful while staying true to the original formula. There's nothing fancy here, it's the band performing the tunes just like they may have back in 1983.
The standouts on the record are "Massacra" which pummels you with a delightfully grand rhythm section that features a performance on the bass by Jamie Lee Cussigh and on the drums by Tim Iso Wey. Similarly "Maniac" gets your juices flowing with the famed opening guitar riff that has just the right amount of reverb. And favorites like "Messiah" sounded never more alive.
My personal favorite on the record is the song "Visions of Mortality." This is a particularly important track in the history of the band as really represents the transformation from Hellhammer to Celtic Frost. As the story goes, Tom and Martin wrote the song and then realized that what they had come up with was truly different from the other Hellhammer songs. It was more evolved than the existing body of work up to that point. With that they decided to put Hellhammer to rest and form a new musical project which, of course, became the beyond legendary Celtic Frost.
The record closes out with the 13+ minute long "Triumph of Death" which takes the listener through a myriad of unique sounds, riffs and feedback in a cornucopia of sludge. Originally appearing on Apocalyptic Raids EP back in 1984, the cut represents the band's most avant garde work and is a wonderful way to close out the album.
Resurrection of the Flesh is an absolute must own for any fan of Celtic Frost and the earliest years of extreme metal. Think of it as a type of heavy metal rosetta stone that allows listeners to discern the how the integration of punk attitude made its way into the modern extremity that we all can't seem to live without today.