When an album starts with a song called Rabid Maniac Force, you had better hope it has more than enough thrust to live up to the levels of demented chaos the title suggests.
It bodes well that Deathhammer have a 13 year track record consisting of several albums of deranged and blackened thrash metal.
Also, that the Norwegian duo make a point of distinguishing themselves from those who fleetingly dip into the fluctuating blackthrash trend. For Sadomancer and Sergeant Salsten this music is a way of life. While they describe themselves as having aged like a fine wine, they also pride themselves on the legacy of their early, exuberant energy and their commitment to carrying this forward.
Observant Darkthrone fans will have seen Deathhammer’s name emblazoned on the jacket worn by the character on the front of their F.O.A.D. album. An album that actually provides a good comparison to the raw and energetic riffs set down on Chained To Hell.
Taking all of the above into consideration, it’s a reassuringly triumphant experience to press play and hear the first of these tunes explode from the speakers. The obvious priority here has been to capture the live energy of a brutal performance. The opening song clamours from the speakers as the riffs almost seem to trip over themselves in their urgency to be heard. Among the immediate raucousness a shifting of the dynamic is introduced via a midway gallop that demonstrates the album is not entirely about punching the listener in the face with a wall of sound. To emphasise this point, there is a tight rhythm guitar over the final verse and a surprisingly melodic solo.
Satan’s Hell clatters in with more of the same. The riffs are almost indistinguishable from what has gone before until a phased guitar pricks up your ears and leads the way to a brief Viking sing-a-long.
It soon becomes clear that for all of its blackened, punk vigour, the simplicity of this Chained To Hell is deceptive. These additional, occasional moments of melody really start to prove that there is more to Deathhammer than simple, thrashingly aggressive metal. Where a song like Black Speed Inferno establishes itself with a robust d-beat there is also a surprising flair for an uplifting guitar line that embellishes the cacophony just enough, without sweetening it too much.
As the album continues, the band appear to develop this a bit further. Threshold Of Doom is the most focused the band have sounded thus far and there seems to be a more measured delivery seeping into the performances. However, that is not to say – as Tormentor proves with its frenzied, snapping rhythm – that the band won’t still have you frothing at the mouth and banging your head.
The first break in the intensity comes via Into The Burning Pentagram, which is an instrumental showcase for some truly evil guitar playing. The riffs here are given a bit more space to breathe and there is a creeping doom aesthetic that comes from the inclusion of a tolling bell and ends with the despairing sound of flames engulfing the music.
Deathhammer list Sodom and Destruction as important influences. They cite 1985 as an important year due to both these bands having released their influential debut EPs. On the strength of the title track I’d say that Venom were another important reference point for this band. The filthy tone and rattling drums of Chained To Hell could quite easily been lifted from the Newcastle band’s 1982 debut and on this track specifically, the vocals are tempered to a more consistent, tortured roar that reminds me of Cronos.
The band’s passion of heavy metal music is completely apparent on this record. By retaining all the rough edges and spontaneity of what appears to be a “first takes,” live-in-the-studio effort Deathhammer have captured the sheer rush of adrenaline one would feel inside the mosh pit. However, what lifts this from sounding like a throwaway garage offering and ensures some deeper attention is their inspired moments of creative musicality. While they often casually buried them underneath all of the crazy energy, they are occasionally pushed the forefront. The Chuck Shuldiner-esque, dual guitar harmonies on final track, Evil demonstrate this point perfectly, providing a suitably rousing excuse to raise the horns before a climactic, breakneck thrash through the album’s final bars.
In conclusion, this is a deliciously rampant album that feels like it would be best served with a side order of debauchery. While I’ll give this a hearty recommendation, I’ll take no responsibility for any mischief that ensues. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
Sergeant Salsten: Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Sadomancer: Drums, Guitar, Backing Vocals
01. Rabid Maniac Force
02. Satan’s Hell
03. Black Speed Inferno
04. Threshold Of Doom
06. Into The Burning Pentagram
07. Chained To Hell
Track Stream & Order Link