Hellhammer is the ultimate symbol of what black metal should be about: a free exploration of dark phrasal music at the hands of a twisted mind. Typically it was not only the chromatic movements between sections which defined the music of Hellhammer but the linking between them, whose effect was great because individual sections were in fact proper tonal areas. It was their sensible juxtaposition, which gave the music its unique flavor. Furthermore, the maniac howling of Tom G. Warrior added the final touches of a music that was to set the example for an enactment that resembled an entrancing ritual more than it did a simple, mundane hedonism and biker metal, which had been the rule until that point.
The most is made from a music of one guitar and one bass playing mostly in unison, backed by a drum set, with the guitar diverging into soloing mode without a ‘rhythm guitar’ to fill in the void. This at once allows the rumbling bass to come through and lends the music a dynamic texture that sees the single guitar slide between one role or the other as the most natural thing. Fast and simple speed metal riffs combine with dampened heavy metal grooves and other, more dance-like rhythms, so that the overall combination spells out dementia, madness. The drums are adequate and add the ‘battle-drum’ effect to the whole, completing the trinity of storm, death and aggression that constitutes the spirit of the release.
“Here is a third storm risen from the race that hath broken
on the royal House and run its course. The first beginning
was the cruel misery of children slain for meat; next came the royal suffering of a man, when murdered in a bath perished the war-lord of the Achaeans: and now in the third place hath come a Preservation? or am I to say, Ruin? Where is the fury of Doom to find accomplishment? when shall it be lulled at length to rest and cease?”
This musical expression makes Apocalyptic Raids into veritable hymns to super-human, in-human forces, completely devoid of moral quandaries or remorse. Independently of what the artists themselves might say, they often really are just a conduit for greater forces who subject them and their talent. The simple but powerful statements which we hear in the phrases of Hellhammer are often embodiments of questions shouted into the void, or even long and confused indagations in the form of semi-improvised passages —feats that were to be echoed in the early solo improvisations of Trey Azagthoth, later to be butchered and driven into the mud in the name of ‘technicality’ and ‘progress’.
A music about everything and nothing, about being in worship of Death and the mortal throes through which we exist and struggle in ‘life’ to the very end, Apocalyptic Raids is transcendental indulgence: for the momentary, yes, but for the instant as a window to eternity, breaking the spell that divides life and death. Anchored in the language of its time yet free and chaotic enough to the point of being unidentifiable with any style except its own abuse, we may identify here that striving, that forging, that building for eternity that is not trapped in the mere style of the day, and so it is not just for today or yesterday, but for all time to come.
“For were it not Dionysus to whom they institute a procession and sing songs in honor of the pudenda, it would be the most shameful action. But Dionysus, in whose honor they rave in bacchic frenzy, and Hades are the same.”
—Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος, On Nature, CXXVII
While Bathory The Return shows us a strength in form and mythos in words, Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids opens up doors of creation, letting all manner of demons in to the listener’s consciousness with the music as vehicle. That is to say, Hellhammer is the sharper of the two swords, the one with an active power to inspire and provide the keys to dark creation and times, rather than being trapped as a monument to form. In this music, we find ourselves now in a strange land, now in familiar ground —Tom G. Warrior transitions between these as if it were the most natural thing, in his own language. Open the gates, play Hellhammer, create variations from the seeds and mutate, distort, carry forth. Let darkness possess you!