Fischer, Tom – Only Death Is Real-An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and Early Celtic Frost (Book Review)

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Reviewed: November 2011
Released: 2011, Bazillion Points
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: JP


The ultimate story of Hellhammer, loaded with gorgeous visuals.

I bought, read and enjoyed Tom Warriors autobiography, ARE YOU MORBID? many years ago. Earlier this year when I read that a Hellhammer book was coming out, my initial thoughts were one of mild skepticism. What more could be said? I mean, the band Hellhammer was around for about 10 minutes had a couple of demos and an EP. Sure they were great, ground-breaking releases but a whole book dedicated to that? I wasn’t sure where they could go with it, based on the fact that a lot of the information was already published, by Warrior himself, in 2000. How wrong I was! In addition to this review, I’ve decided to write a review of ARE YOU MORBID? this month as well. In hindsight, by revisiting ARE YOU MORBID? I realized how much more of the Hellhammer story needed to be told.

ONLY DEATH IS REAL-AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF HELLHAMMER AND EARLY CELTIC FROST: 1981-1985 is a phenomenal piece of work on all levels. This morbidly gorgeous hard-bound coffee table book is a heavyweight, even for Metal publishing! 280 pages of blackness! It’s so black that even Blackie Lawlesss and Spinal Tap would be proud! The whole thing is black and white; as in, white text on glossy black paper and black and white photographs. The first scrap of colour doesn’t appear until page 265! Even then, the very few colour shots tacked on the end are mostly the band posing, with black makeup, dressed in all black leather, at night. None so black…

I can see why perhaps the local Swiss villagers might have worried about these ‘weird’ kids with long hair in black leather running around at night waving axes and knives, and holding upside-down crosses, skulls and torches and so on. There are many, many photos the band out at night in full battle-gear. I can only think what the local farmer would think when he saw what was going on in his normally idyllic cow pasture after Midnight! Admittedly there are some potentially controversial photos of mock murders, mock suicides, rituals and flirtations with National Socialism (not the band, some followers) but these important photos serve to demonstrate how critical Hellhammer were in developing the grim and necro archetypes that have become so wide-spread in extreme music.

Speaking of black, Warrior really did have a grim childhood which naturally became a part of his personality. The part about his mother being an absentee smuggler turned crazy cat lady seemed to explain why Warrior turned out the way he did. And why he created the music he did. The text describes all aspects and phases of the bands early development. No stone is left unturned. Even Bernard Doe’s infamous review utterly slagging TRIUMPH OF DEATH is reprinted in it’s entirety. Three dead rats and a bag of blood vomit indeed! All the book is laced with quotes, anecdotes, stories of the good old days of home-made and traded rehearsal cassette tapes and more. Everything and I mean everything you ever wanted to know is laid out for all to see. I thought the evolution of the logo was cool to look at.

This purchase is absolutely mandatory for all Hellhammer/Celtic Frost fans as well as fans of extreme music in general. In addition to this review, I’ve decided to write a review of Warriors first book and autobiography, ARE YOU MORBID? this month as well. Free free to check out my review of the companion book (essentially Part II) to the bands legacy.

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Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Publisher: Bazillion Points
Pages: 280