Let me just start off by saying: wow, what a great title that is!
Yes, of course for those of you in the know, that is indeed the title of a very cool retrospective book on all things Tom Gabriel Fischer (aka’ Tom G. Warrior as he is known in the Metal world). Only Death is Realis an illustrated history of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost circa’ 1981-1985. This book covers pretty much everything you always wanted to know about this innovative Swiss group.
Being a [hardcover] coffee table book, you can expect a lot of rare photos and interesting tidbits. But I think this book is more than just a decorative book. “It is a book for anyone who has dedicated his or her life to Metal and who still perceives the element of rebellion in this form of music,” Fischer said. “It is a book that provides a rare, lavish and very candid glimpse at part of the birth of modern Extreme Metal. “It’s a book for anyone who can relate to being a true outcast and finding his or her path through the friendship and intensity that metal has always been able to provide.”
I don’t want to leave out two other key members. Bassist Martin Eric Ain, who helped Fischer put the book together along with contributions from drummer Bruce Day.
The book, which was released last year  also features an extensive appendix that includes some unique Celtic Frost and Hellhammer items, including old demo covers, logo ideas other misc. design concepts etc. There are lots of interesting items to feast your eyes on! In a nutshell, it’s a great book.
But this post is not specifically about the band(s) or even the book itself. It’s about a page in the book and it’s contents—a page in time if you will. Let us focus on the following excerpt.
From page 109 of Only Death Is Real.
*click to enlarge
Notice that Whiplash was one of the few fanzines worldwide who received the very first Hellhammer demos —only two of which made it to these shores! I would like to personally thank Brian Lew (and Sam Kress R.I.P.) for not only being the inspiration for 50% of this article but also for creating and putting out the Whiplash zine’ back in the 80′s and for the detailed documentation that Brian has done for the 80′s Metal scene for so many years.
Brian is also responsible for the Xeroxed fanzine called ümlaut, which was a Bay Area zine’ that was launched in the early 90′s and covered everyone from Metallica to Sonic Youth. I take great pride in my Vault of treasured Metal items, but hats off to Brian and all things ümlaut, as they are one of the very few blogs out there in Metal land who are able to “one-up” Demolish on a regular basis!
I especially like the full circle retrospectives such as the recent Procreation of the Wicked post, where he writes about a recent Triptykon show in Cali and get’s to finally meet Mr. Tom G Warrior in the flesh after all these years. Check out the excerpt below.
Brian: “Do you remember the ‘zine Whiplash?” Tom G. Warrior: “Of course I do…” B: “That was my ‘zine..” T: “Are you Brian?”
“Did you hear that? That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. To say that I was left speechless by that conversation would be a complete understatement… The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways, man.” – Brian Lew
For those who were actually paying attention to what I wrote above, you will recall that I stated Brian’s article was responsible for 50% of the inspiration for this piece. So what about the other half? Please go back and re-read the excerpt above from page 109 of Only Death Is Real…
Ah, I see you peeped the first name on the list—Alex Gernandt, who I happen to be corresponding with as of late for a special retrospective article on him. So the timing of this post from Brian struck me as odd or perhaps a case of “perfect timing” and or some sort of strange [nostalgic/cosmic] synchronicity perhaps!
Either way, Alex, who was a founder of the German fanzine Shock Power was also among the very few to receive an original Hellhammer demo and package. Alex had casually mentioned the encounter with all things Hellhammer + the Frost a while back via email correspondence but it did not really “sink in” until I read the book with my own [four] eyes!
Pic Martin Kyburz
Tom G (Grave Hill bunker) Switzerland 1984
It always amazes me how I can seem to remember every riff on every Metal or Thrash album that I own. Or the fact that so many people carry around other such precious Metal knowledge and history and are also able to retrieve said knowledge at the drop of the hat. Tom “G” must be one of those cats as well says Alex: “Yeah, I got the big book–Only Death is Real and I am amazed at how good Tom Warrior’s memory is. I think it’s great he told his story as it really happened.”
Times were much different back when. There wasn’t a band on every corner playing Thrash (or simply “Speed Metal” as it was once called), let alone Black Metal. As a matter of fact “Death Metal” wasn’t even coined yet! But there you had Hellhammer, a band whose humble beginnings would arguably become the blueprint for Black/Death some years later.
I asked Alex if he could take us back to that time and give us a little nugget. “Sure, at that time, mid 1983, we were always looking for the heaviest bands around—like Tank, Raven and Venom for example. Metallica was about to come out, and then there was this Hellhammer demo.”
Alex G. circa 1985
“One day, I got a call from a Berlin rock label by the name of Noise/Modern music. The guy asked me what the heaviest unsigned band was. I told him: “Hellhammer from Switzerland” and gave him a contact. This led to the first ever record deal for Hellhammer… I was 17 then” states Alex. Wow, how would you like to be the one who gets to carry that Metal memory around for your entire life!
For all the folks who can relate or would like to have their own copy of this amazing book [with amazing photos and stories] from the one and only Tom G. Warrior -a true Metal legend if there ever was one, go here now!
*Thanks again to Brian for the inspiration and to Alex for sharing his valuable time and memories! Stay tuned readers, as [with a bit of luck] we might have more special in-depth articles posted about these two gentleman in the future!
It was a dark and rainy day one Friday afternoon in 1988. I was rather hastily going through my Demolish workload when I received an unexpected phone call. I did not recognize the voice on the other end but they immediately identified themselves as the National Publicity Coordinator for K-Tel Marketing. As soon as I heard the name K-Tel, my mind immediately thought of the wacky records thatK-Tel used to sell on TV. I am not exactly sure what it was called but I think it was some Loony Tunes kids record or something very close. So I am thinking to myself, they must have the wrong number and or why in the world would they be calling an (unknown) underground Metal Fanzine way out in the Midwest?!
So when the voice told me the reason for calling I almost crapped my pants. You want to see if we are interested in interviewing WHO? VENOM, after a long pause—was that like a trick question or something? Hell yes we would be interesting in speaking with the UK “Black Metal Gods“! So, as this obviously came out of nowhere and at a time when I was already getting in way over my head with the zine’ (and for the fact that we were already trying to slim-down Issue #1), I was certainly not going to turn them down and miss a once in a lifetime chance to interview these legends.
So I set it up and proceeded to tell some of our staff writers to see who wanted to take on this assignment. The first to enthusiastically respond was fellow Metal fan (and up n’ coming writer) Steve Fulton, who was eager to test the “new” VENOM waters. I will be the first to admit that I am certainly no VENOM aficionado nor am I into the “Black Metal” scene but I do like a few of their songs. I like “Warhead” with its slow, evil heaviness the best.
Due to my age I kinda’ missed most of the beginning of the NWOBHM and it seems that VENOM started to get noticed towards the end of the NWOBHV scene as well. I am not entirely sure if most Metal fans even include VENOM in this “genre tag”, as they are a bit more “black/speed metal”, but I suppose when they were formed by Mantas in 1979 in Newcastle, England that they were already preparing for their Black Metal domination!
Fast-forward to 1987 and we have VENOM preparing to release “A Calm Before the Storm” (Filmtrax) and without original founding member/guitar Mantas as well. Reputed to be the originator of Thrash Metal, they remain one of the meanest, dirtiest and loudest Metal bands around. Following the departure of Mantas, VENOM have regrouped by adding two new dynamic and talented guitarists—one from London and one from Los Angeles.
With VENOM it seems that you either love em’ or hate em’ with no in-between ground. I must say that these two new members have added some much-needed life and energy to the band. Gone are the older arrangements and somewhat sloppy playing of the past and in their place we find a much more focused direction and a fiery double-guitar attack. Cronos is still contributing his signature growl and powerful vox while Abaddon’s drums are as powerful as ever!
In October 1987, VENOM embarked on a sell-out tour of Japan and a major world tour is planned for 88′ taking in the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom and various Eastern Bloc countries.
“Calm Before the Storm” was produced by Nick Tauber (Toyah, Marillion, Deep Purple & Spear of Destiny) and features eleven tracks, all of which were written and arranged by VENOM themselves. Recently released in the UK by Filmtrax, the album seems to be rather well-received and is garnering much enthusiasm and excitement from their fans and critics alike. KERRANG Magazine gave it a KKKK1/2 and Mike Exley over at Metal Forces a glowing 95 rating (an essential buy—ed).
*click above to play “Gypsy”
With faster double bass drumming on tracks such as “Gypsy” and “Under a Spell” and the more melodic + catchy tracks such as “Beauty and the Beast” and the solid title track “Calm Before the Storm”, the boys should be able to shrug off a few more of the naysayers on this fine release!
It doesn’t seem like the themes and or song topics have changed much—especially in the song “Black X-Mas”,with lyrics such as:
“Black Xmas – Devils Eve
The whispers in the breeze
Black Xmas – Devil’s wine
The river bleeds in time”
click above to play “Black X-Mas”
*I especially love this song’s funny/drunken ending—complete with bottles breaking and silly banter from Cronos.
Or in the hilarious lyrics of“Muscle” with the “All I wanna’ do is open you up wide and put some great white muscle in between your thighs”! On the break we even get Cronos doing some jazz “scatting” and this number has another funny ending with a funny voice laughing and saying “she love’s me”. —CK
So, you have acquired two members, how did you go about selecting them?
CRONOS – “Well, basically what we did was, we set up some rehearsals and auditions for a lot of guitarists to see if they could sort of blow us away! We had a lot of auditions obviously and a lot of kids came down. They were all like Mantas clones though! They could play about three riffs or something and that’s all they could hit out. Jimi met Abaddon in a bar in Newcastle and over a drunken conversation Abaddon invited him to come down and have a jam if he felt like it. Jim’s a jazz man, he plays a lot of jazz riffs. Basically he can play any kind of music you can think of. So we brought him down to the studio, he set up his guitar, plugged in, and away he went! I tell you, this guy can wail.”
“All these kids came walking in who are all like James Hetfield rip-offs.” ~Cronos
“Immediately me and Abaddon went whew-weeee-what is this?! This just blew Mantas away completely. We brought the American guy (Mike) over from Hollywood. You can tell by his big mouth [laughing]. He came down to the rehearsals and worked straight away. I mean he had the attitude. We gave him a bottle of our local brew and got him a bit drunk and away he went. It was obvious from the start, as soon as these guys walked in that they were gonna’ get the job.
Venom + Beer = METALLICA?
We didn’t want a Mantas clone as he was influenced by the likes of Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and bands like that. He was never influenced by bands like Metallica and all these kids come walking in who are all like James Hetfield rip-offs.
We had to choose someone like Jimi (and Mike), somebody who was influenced by the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, you know—somebody who had a bit of style and class about them. So once these guys started playing, it was without a doubt, we had to keep them because of their attitude and style. The sound of these guys guitars is immense“!
In what ways do you think this new album has changed from your previous efforts?
CRONOS – “Well, I think the biggest difference between this album and all the rest of the VENOM albums is the fact that what we’ve done is taken a big pile of mud and we’ve cleaned it up. We’ve got something that’s sharp, distinctive and really tightened into a serious direction. The old VENOM sound was very thick and “doomy.” You could never make out some of the things that Mantas was playing. There were some great riffs going on but you could never hear what it was all about. It was a really thick, “tech-type” of mushy sound. We were under the influence that a big, thick mushy guitar sound was a loud guitar sound. I mean, you always learn from your mistakes ya’ know. When Jimi C. and Mike H. came walking in with a real crisp sound without any distortion on it, it made VENOM louder and it even made it heavier! The whole thing is very distinctive and with a bite to it. So I would say the biggest difference between “Calm Before the Storm” and all the rest of our albums is that this album has a serious direction and it bites”!
What inspired you to call the album the “Calm Before the Storm”?
CRONOS: “There were a few different reasons. It was basically down to Jimi and Mike when we recorded our rehearsals. We started playing some of the new songs and getting them worked into bits and pieces. Then we decided to learn some of the old songs and we got them to learn songs like “Seven Gates of Hell”, “Black Metal”, “Warhead” and songs like that. When we started playing some of these songs it was like, wow, this is so heavy. It actually made the old VENOM, sound calm! It made it sound weak. When you listen to the new stuff and then you put on an old album, the older material doesn’t seem to have the intensity like now. So we called the “old” sound calm and that was the basic joke within the band. We decided this new stuff has to be “the storm”. When we go into a song, you hear 1,2,3,4 and then everybody starts and it is storming! The old VENOM is the calm and this is the storm, so that’s how we came up with that.”
So Jimi, how has the band and the new experiences with VENOM met your expectations?
JIMI: “Oh, it’s wilder than my greatest expectations you know! It’s like I walked in there with a piece of sh** copy guitar and now I’ve got more guitars than I can play. Everybody wants to give us guitars and stuff like that. I couldn’t really foresee what I was going into with VENOM. I didn’t know if I would be hanging out with the guys in a bar or running around in cemeteries looking for virgins to rape! And let me tell you—I’ve done both, and a lot more. There’s all kinds of stories, it’s like the big VENOM initiation, like being held from the 26th floor of a Brazilian hotel by your ankles over the balcony! And let me tell you that Brazil looks like a different country when your hanging upside down!”
“They found out I had a fear of heights and they said screw it, we’ll cure you.”~Jimi Clare
I guess it kind of gives you a whole different perspective [laughing]…
JIMI:“It’s kind of like the rock n’ roll thing, I mean, over here (in the U —ed), it is larger-than-life. I mean, we DO the things that people say they don’t, but they do!”
Tell me about some of your touring plans to promote the new LP.
CRONOS: “As soon as we get back off of this promotional tour, we’re gonna’ go straight back into rehearsals, which we’ve already started. Then it looks like were gonna’ be starting off in Russia. We’re gonna’ be taking some warheads in Russia!! Then we will be going up into Poland and Spain. As far as America is concerned, we’re gonna’ be there at the end of June. Hopefully we’ll be down in Indiana! We wanna’ do every state that we can. We’ve talked to our agency and we just want to go everywhere to play!”
what a show!
*click to enlarge flyer
I hope so too, and lastly, since you are considered the “The Black Metal” gods by some, can you please tell the Demolish readers what do you think makes VENOM different from any other Thrash or Black Metal bands?
CRONOS: “I think the big difference between VENOM and every other Thrash Metal act or Black Metal, Death and or Speed Metal is the fact that VENOM are influenced by completely different things. You take the standard Thrash Metal acts today and they all seem to be influenced by other Thrash Metal acts. I mean, it’s being said that everybody started off after VENOM started. So everybody is obviously influenced by what we are doing. We are totally influenced by the most bizarre things. Now it’s getting even more bizarre! These two new guitarists are listening to the most obscure sounds you have ever heard. Me and Abaddon have always listened to some old types of music and then last week I went out and bought the new CHER album! We get our influences from the most obscure bands and sources. We listen to absolutely everything. But when we get down to rehearsals with the new songs, it’s got to be VENOM at the end of the day. We wouldn’t try to do a cover version of “This Must be Paradise” or something and I am sure that DAVID LEE ROTH couldn’t sing BLACK Metal either!!!!”
“Last week I went out and bought the new CHER album!” ~Cronos (1988)
*There has been a revolving door of members and it gets kinda’ confusing since the above post…
Basically, their fifth LP Calm Before the Storm was not very successful [career-wise] and after they completed their tours, they broke up. Cronos and the two “new” guitar players decided to move on and formed a new band called CRONOS. Now being “drummer-less”, they recruited Chris Patterson to complete their lineup and released Dancing in the Fire in 90′ and also Rock n’ Roll Disease in 91′.
Reportedly a 3rd album was recorded but was never released.
Meanwhile, drummer Abaddon (Anthony Bray) was left all by his lonesome and was somehow able talk Music For Nations into a deal to put out a another new VENOM album via Under One Flag. Abaddon hooked up with various Atomkraft members and recorded Prime Evil in 89′, Tear Your Soul Apart in 90′, Temples of Ice in 91′ and The Waste Lands in 92′. As far as I know, unfortunately none of these were commercial successful and basically their label vowed to never release anymore VENOM albums!
Of course Abaddon didn’t have any problem releasing various compilations and live albums through 1996.
In 95′ the classic VENOM lineup was reunited and they played the headlining spot at the Waldrock Fest. and put out an (EP) and then another LP in 97′ and one in 2000 through SPV Records. And then finally Hell was released in 2008 with a different lineup.
For all rabid VENOM fans check out their 4-disc box set, which includes all of their best songs with a bunch of live stuff, demos etc.
Another Venom shirt + beer!
*Venom Update art and black faces from KERRANG! & Update info partially compiled from VENOM Wiki
*This is another very rare [unpublished] interview originally conducted in 1988. Please note: in order to transport you directly back to 1988 we will continue to keep the language in the posts “present tense” even though this is 2009.
*I will be featuring more heavy, underground bands in future posts, so please make sure to stay up-to-date. You can do that by:
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