Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Heaven and Hell Records

Hailing from Columbia, Tennessee, HexenHammer (which is German for ''Malleus Maleficarum'') was a underground speed/thrash band that was active in one form or another from 1987 until at least 1992. "Underground", which is an appropriate enough title for this release given the cult-lie status of this band(!), was originally the title of a 4-track demo recording that this proto-black metal band (or would it be blackened thrash?) released in 1990. This recently-released CD collects that obscure (and highly sought-after by fans and collectors alike!) demo as well as another 4-track recording session that the band made in 1992. Unfortunately my promo copy does not include the two bonus tracks from that session, "Committed" and "The Cutting Edge", but I'm more than happy to report the great news of this re-mastered collection and in the process I'm also going to take a stab at explaining the important place that this archival set holds in the history of extreme heavy metal and proto-black metal. Re-mastered by Jamie King at The Basement Studios in Winston Salem, NC, "Underground" was culled from the best material possible. The album's disclaimer makes note of this and therefore I'm going to make note of it. After all, "Underground" was originally recorded on 4-track and from the sounds of things even that was a very humble experience! Taking that into account the music here is not bad at all and, frankly-speaking folks, I've certainly heard much worse. Hell, I'm heard some supposed modern-day recordings that are not as good as this! My guess is the only people who will complain about the sound of this collection are the sorts who like to find something to complain about anyway! No needs to name names as these people are EVERYWHERE these days and it's not going to get any better anytime soon I fear. But, I digress. We're hear to talk about HexenHammer and this (long thought lost) collection of raw speed/thrash. Lead by lead guitarist/vocalist Ronnie Dean ( a maniacal singer and musician who is the sole original member to appear on both sets of demo recordings on this collection) and (from the looks and sounds of it) originally appearing live under cover of hooded masks, HexanHammer's sound was a lightening streak of metallic frenzy across a blood-red sky! There's no other real way to describe it! While technically more thrash than death metal, HexanHammer nonetheless drew it's strength from the likes of Venom, Slayer, Bathory, (early) Celtic Frost, Death, (early) Voivod, and (early) Sepultura. Those would seem to be the key sources of influence although we can't rule out everyone from Motörhead to Pentagram either! The things is you have to remember when this band first formed and when these recordings first came out. "Underground" was originally released in 1990 after all. That was when the thrash scene was still in full-swing and bands like HexenHammer were starting to come into there own and experiment with elements like death and extreme metal. Tape trading was all the rage so it's no wonder that "Underground" gained the legendary status that it did! At the time I was still in high school and living in the small town of Mantua, Ohio. Even though I was neck deep in tape swapping and devouring anything and everything BRUTAL THRASH  (especially stuff that would have been as seemingly evil and mysterious as this lot was!) I sadly never heard of this band the first time around otherwise I would have hunted this demo down! It was only some years later I heard the rumors. Those rumors proved true as "Underground" fits that era well and for fans of the old (thrash/death metal) tape-trading days this limited-edition CD should bring back the same kind of great memories that I have! For youngsters though this collection should serve as an example of extreme metal's roots and why it's important to gather up these recordings before they are lost to time. While you can pick up the digital copy of "Underground" here I would not settle for anything less than the full-length CD with the bonus tracks. Additionally the CD features new artwork and a expanded booklet with never before seen photos! It's a fitting tribute to this cult band that for whatever reason never made it past the demo stage of it's career.

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