Let’s face it, sinner—when you die, you will be judged, and, more likely than not, your soul shall be cast forever into the eternal pits of Hell for an existential torture the human mind cannot even begin to fathom. But before you get there, you must traverse the parking lot, and it is almost as bad as the Main Event that waits ahead. Every spot is full, that asshole with the Mercedes is taking up three spots so that no one gets anywhere near his precious ride, and what’s more, Ticketmaster charged almost as much for admission as they did for the damned eternal parking pass.
As you make your way into Hell, the smell of a musky club fills your nostrils; the sweat, smoke, sweat, booze, sweat, and booze-sweat is almost enough to cover the faint smell of urine that appears to emit off of every fixture (and occupant) in the joint. Miller Lite is apparently the only beer on draft, and it’s as warm as the aforementioned piss. The dreadful tunes of Faster Pussycat are playing over the P.A. as the band sets up, and then it hits you: this really is Hell. A faint hum comes from the stage, interrupted by the sharp pop and crackle as Deathhammer plugs in.
The band jumps off with “Rabid Maniac Force,” a blitzkrieg of riffing insanity. Known for relentless aggression, breakneck speed, and a seemingly bottomless supply of bullet belts, the German thrash scene of the early 80’s has always proved to be a singular muse for the band that pays off in spades. Deathhammer have tapped into the era well, and Chained To Hell is no exception. The signature shrieks of the band are second-to-none. Seriously, how they do that across a career spanning over twelve years and still manage to retain their voice is beyond reason. The riffing is a mix between fifths and little bits of noodling that construct a sense of primal melody across the song, powered by fingers set ablaze with the very fires of Hades.
A tribute to the local venue follows in the form of “Satans Hell,” which wastes no time plundering through your ears as a dismembered head flies past your face. The pit is getting a bit out of hand and management steps in to control the situation for insurance purposes—in the form of a massive hooded executioner wielding his axe at random to break up the surge of violence from the crowd. Amongst the chaos it is hard not to notice the band is tearing its way through “Threshold Of Doom,” the triplet-based riff breaking its way through the tireless drum blasts has a way of catching attention without regard to what’s going on around it, even masking the screams of Stryper’s genital mutilation occurring simultaneously in the adjoining room.
Deathhammer have not stopped. No talking between the songs. No “How you feeling tonight, Hell,” or “Thanks to Steve for booking the show tonight,” or “Merch is over there in the back with the tour ghoul.” Full metal possession has occurred and kicks into high gear on “Tormentor,” which, while it could easily have been written by Kreator (formerly known as Tormentor) for Endless Pain (which features the track “Tormentor”), it is in fact not written by Kreator for Endless Pain or any other Kreator/Tormentor release. The conjoined vocals crying out the song title in unison bleeds heavy metal power into your ears as you can’t help but clench invisible oranges due to the heaviness occupying the air. Sharp spears ascend from the floor over targeted participants as the Great Impalement Of The False And The Weak begins. The souls of the wimps are left obliterated while the devil’s dandy riffs pump iron blood through the hearts of the strong for a definitive highlight of the album.
The closest thing Deathhammer get to a break the entire time is the somewhat interlude-like instrumental of “Into The Burning Pentagram,” which fittingly builds tension as the floor inexplicably bursts into flames. Deathhammer remain unfazed by this and rip through the final tracks, including the title track and closer, “Evil.”
Deathhammer can always be counted on for a quality, inspired homage to the European thrash scene of old, encompassing the styles of Kreator, Destruction, and Exumed into their own brew of evil, hyper-aggressive thrash rooted largely in speed metal riffage. The album’s production is handled well in creating a sound that reflects the recording techniques of the glory days while benefiting from modern methods to create a clear and distinctive capturing of the band’s essence.
The bastard offspring of Lucifer have delivered again to bring an enjoyable, adrenaline pounding slice of thrash metal to the masses, despite whatever Hell may be going on around them at the time.