THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of band appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!
Though there are only about eight recordings that’ll prime you for a greater understanding of Poison‘s place in extreme metal’s underground history this time around we’re treated to a band who were so inspired that they (almost) never put out a demo tape or a rehearsal that was less than a solid half hour of ideas. The quality of the earlier records will test you as much as the earliest demos from Slaughter, Hellhammer, and Necrovore etc. but make no mistake these German pioneers of satanic speed metal, blackened/thrash and their own brand of death/thrash insanity were never self-conscious about the obnoxious noise they created. This is the type of band that took heavy metal to a new level of extreme and we begin with a brand of herbicide that kills starting with the roots. Hey! I’ve done my best to research as much as I can but please feel free to message me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment if I’ve left out anything vital or gotten something horribly wrong!
|Title [Type/Year]||Sons of Evil [Demo/1984]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
Formed as a trio in the southern heart of Germany, Baden-Württemberg, in mid-1982 between two fellows named Angel of Death (guitars) and Virgin Slaughter (vocals) this heavy metal band would come fully to life in 1983 with the addition of Incubus Demon on bass guitar and a short-lived appearance on drums from “Ingmar” who’d be replaced by Witchhammer by the time their first demo tape, ‘Sons of Evil’ in 1984. The argument for the impetus of extreme metal should be void pretty quickly after scouring Metal-Archives for formative bands such as this, who’d clearly put in the time with tapes from Amebix, Venom, Slayer, and likely Hellhammer. Did I mention it is a 45 minute tape? Holy shit does this drag but there is a lot of it and they show an incredible range of pace and attitude within the variation we’re given.
A history of punk rock, heavy metal, and probably a lot of beer lead to this point and this live recorded tape couldn’t be a more ragged mash-up of extreme music interest at the time as well as a pronounced inability to carry a tune. These guys were described as ‘bestial death metal’ in zines for good reason and for all intents and purposes this is a horrible fucking racket. Vocals are loud in the mix, shouted and peaking, drums are impossibly distant and the guitar tone sounds like a bucket of water thrown into a pool full of boiling oil. It’d seem this was the perfect precursor to the black/death metal of South America to come soon after and to be sure Sepultura was at least three steps ahead already with ‘Bestial Devastation’.
|Title [Type/Year]||Bestial Death [Demo/1985]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
I haven’t necessarily suggested just how shock ‘n fuckin’ satanic these guys were for their time though they surely had more extreme peers on paper the bar was set high and they intended to crash through it. The second demo from Poison is the first strike of actual extreme thrash metal that could be arguably considered death/thrash or just straight up first wave black metal. Why the ambiguity? These genres weren’t agree upon and established norms yet in 1985 and you could twist my arm either way. “Satan Commands” is incredibly heavy as the drums blast in but Poison always had a bit of an obsession with horror soundtrack-esque metal “dirges” like “Wake the Dead” which couldn’t be considered black metal but rather an extreme doom riff from a death metal attuned band. It all has a sort of jammed heavy rock feeling in between the growls and heavy thrash riffs. The sound quality is terrible no matter the version but clear enough that you’ll understand the bands intentions as well as clearly hear progression in both songwriting and general technical abilities. Early Poison has always been an experience of context for me as it’d be their final two years as a band 1986-1987 that defined their capabilities and eventual disillusionment.
|Title [Type/Year]||Live Terror [Demo/1985]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
Here’s another rough quality release, an entirely skippable tape, and this time it is largely songs you’ve already heard on previous tapes. This is often placed before ‘Bestial Death’ chronologically but this is false as that tape was released in October ’85 and this was recorded in November of that same year and features some newer songs. At this point you’re a trooper if you’ve sat through each of their three tapes as even the second demo was about ten minutes too long for its own good but the last two years of the band’s life would bring their best work yet.
|Title [Type/Year]||Awakening of the Dead [Demo/1986]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
Strangely enough, this would be one of the first demos I’d collected on a thrash (and death thrash) rampage that’d convince me to warm up to certain styles of bestial and war metal from back in the day. This is inhuman and completely extreme for its time and serves as the still raw culmination of the first two years of the band’s songwriting and tour-blasting through their local scene. Here we get the most brutal version of “Satan Commands” yet, a version of “Wake the Dead” that’d evolved past its old Venom riffs quite a bit, and liner notes that thank Messiah, Destruction, Mayhem, Outrage and give a fuck you to Tyrant from their area. I personally love this tape because it really does compile the best ideas the band had up to that point and gives it a nasty, fucked up Hellhammer-meets-Messiah lunge that feels extreme despite how bumbling the tape quality is. I love the rever/echo of the vocals (think Blasphemy, early Vomitor, Beherit, etc.) and the general stomping nature of these versions. What I don’t appreciate are the tape-filling live tracks, but not a big deal considering we’ve got a full 40 minute tape here that should feel like an ancient war metal advent.
|Title [Type/Year]||Into the Abyss [Demo/1987]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube [Original Demo not ’93]|
Thinking this band sucks? Too primitive? Too noisy? Well, the original version of ‘Into the Abyss’ was recorded in 1986 and sure it was somewhat raw compared to its 1993 re-master/official release but it was the bands first recording in a studio. That is right, if you clicked on those other tapes and didn’t realize they were all tape deck recordings from rehearsals, practice spaces or venues well… They were! This tape was to be the big bang that’d get them a record deal and it did. Roadrunner Records would include Poison as the closer for the first edition of their Teutonic Invasion compilation series: Rock Hard Presents Teutonic Invasion Part One and a deal would be in the works. It appears they put too much stock in this and should have spent their time improving these songs and shopping them to a label like Noise instead, the deal with Roadrunner (Roadracer then) would never happen as the times were changing quickly. The band split up as a result after having put five years into something that just wasn’t happening. For very few people this is the ideal version of ‘Into the Abyss’ because it preserves the raw and frantic sound of Poison but really it only preserves the tape hiss and the 1993 version of the tape is generally superior in my opinion. The music? Pure death/thrash metal and could be reasonably considered one of the best 80’s death metal tapes. Today we might call it blackened death/thrash and compare it to a band like Ares Kingdom.
|Title [Type/Year]||…Simply Dead [Demo/1990]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
Damn! Uli Hildenbrand (aka Angel of Death) had finally figured out how to riff beyond 1986 so it was a total fuckin’ shame that Poison had ceased to exist in 1987 and he’d likely thought so too because he’d soon form the precariously named R.U. Dead? and take Poison‘s sound to a full-bore death/thrash metal extreme. If you think Poison’s ‘Into the Abyss’ is underrated groundwork for both death metal and black/death well, strap in for the rush of R.U. Dead? as that wild psychopathic spirit clips in at double speed. ‘…Simply Dead’ isn’t even the best shit this group came up with but I wanted to showcase that Poison were down but lived on through another band worth digging up. Think of this like the Slaughter to Strappado transition in that they’d gone full death metal but the thrash was still a vital part of the structure of these songs. In fact a cover version of “Sphinx” is included along with a reworking of “Alive (Undead)”. There are no full discography compilations from this band that I’ve found and the compilations that exist are shit, too rare, or the tracks aren’t chronological and most only include 1-2 tracks from this tape. It rules! Vocalist Gero Schmitt left the band to sing on the first Fleshcrawl album and he absolutely PUKES on the first two demos for R.U. Dead? so don’t miss it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Into the Abyss [Full-length/1993]|
|Rating [4.5/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
For whatever reason, and my apologies for not reading up on the interviews this time around, the sole studio recording from Poison in 1986 sat around for six years before it was given a full master for vinyl and released by Midian Creations on 12″ LP in 1993. The genius of this band might’ve been apparent in 1987 but this master, this damn master really unleashed the spirit of the band into something palatable but still very grotesque. It doesn’t help that this was a pretty limited pressing and it was expensive as hell (original press still goes for ~180.00 USD) until Home Taping Cruelties released new versions in 2013 and the venerable F.O.A.D. Records re-released this along with a demo compilation not to long ago. These versions are all still fairly limited but much more affordable. I couldn’t think of a record more deserving of its ‘after the fact’ renaissance and though the appreciation is limited to the underground I think that is damned appropriate for the type of fucked up death/thrash these guys were making back in the mid-to-late 80’s.
‘Into the Abyss’ was certainly unique for the insanity of the performances, the heaviness of the guitar tone, the twisted winding riffs, and the kill-fuckin’-everything attitude but what’ll stand out first is the extensive multi-part songs that range from seven to nearly ten minutes. I personally look to an album like Funereal Presence‘s ‘Achatius’ today and see that malevolent spirit conjured in the wake of this sort of record but obviously this had manifested as death/thrash metal and the appeal of this record is the brutal post-primitive death/thrash hell that it creates. This version of ‘Into the Abyss’ is mandatory listening and easily one of the more exciting releases of this feature. Beyond this point there isn’t much to write on about besides the persistence of R.U. Dead? through about 1998 and then the formation of The Real Massacre and eventually One Past Zero both of which featuring Hildenbrand as a key member. Heads up, One Past Zero is pretty smokin’ stoner metal/doom stuff, hits hard!
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