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Sons of Evil (1984)
 

Released in 1984, Sons of Evil is the first demo recording from the malevolent and sinister German entity known as Poison. The sounds contained on this demo tape are not for the weak, by any means. As primitive and barbaric as a Stone Age gang-rape, this tape is possessed by total darkness and evil. This evokes the kind of hellish feeling that Venom feared to toy with and that Hellhammer simply was not capable of conjuring up.

Musically, this runs the gamut from morbidly mid-paced to intense and somewhat insane. It bears no real similarities to any of their German counterparts, such as Sodom, Destruction or Kreator. The slower parts sound very reminiscent of Hellhammer, with one very important exception: this is darker and more evil than Mr. Warrior and his cohorts ever could have hoped to be. The vocals of Virgin Slaughter are exactly what Tom should have been doing on releases such as Satanic Rites. Possessed and maniacal, at times, his demonic voice actually accentuates the dark mood of the music, rather than detracting from it. As for the rest of the songwriting, this is like a war on the senses. Primitive and violent in nature, the riffs saw through you while the drums pound your skull into oblivion. It is almost difficult to believe something so bestial and grotesque existed back in 1984.

The terrible production is one of the only real setbacks. It is not as though the sound does not fit the music, as it really does. The problem is that the material could have had much more of an impact with a proper studio sound, even if it was still raw and unpolished. The sound is on the same level as the Death By Metal demo, from Mantas, and makes the old Venom and Bathory records seem like they were done in high-dollar facilities. This is still able to be enjoyed, though things get muddled during the faster parts. It is interesting to imagine what Poison would have sounded like, had they recorded in a studio, rather than in their garage.

Sons of Evil is a monstrous offering from a band that had truly tapped into something dark and aggressive. This is what Hellhammer should have been striving for. As rare as this recording is, one must take it however it can be obtained, so do yourself a favour and seek this out now.
 
(2 Dec. 2011)

 
Bestial Death (1985)
 

Bestial Death is the second demo from the German Black Metal band Poison. Released in October 1985, this recording actually seems to show some attempt at cleaning up the band's sound, a little bit. Much like the rest of their material, the end result is very rough and primitive. This demo is interesting just to hear the evolution of these songs, despite the fact that the definitive versions would appear on Possessed By Hell, the November 1986 rehearsal tape.

The production is still poor, but not as raw as on Sons of Evil or those that follow. There is a claustrophobic feeling about this, lacking the space, reverb and echoes that characterize some of the other recordings. In particular, the vocals give the impression that Virgin Slaughter has the mic halfway inside his mouth, rather than just somewhere nearby. Even the guitars and percussion bear a sort of restrained quality, as if they are restricted and unable to exercise their full power. It is not too bad, but none of this reaches the same level as the later versions.

The songwriting seems a little more crude and one can tell that these tracks were still works in progress. The vocal patterns, often, are unnatural and not exactly as they would turn out later. The playing is a little sloppy, at times, and the songs just don't flow as well as they do on the recordings that come after this. Some basic structures are already in place, but it all comes off as a lot more crude than one would expect. It sounds as if the songs were still rather new, at this point, and still had some way to go.

Bestial Death is not a bad release, but it is not the greatest starting place for those new to Poison. This may be more due to personal preference than anything else, but this demo is a couple steps behind the likes of Sons of Evil or even Into the Abyss. By all means, give it a listen, but it would not be at the top of my recommendation list.
 
(5 Dec. 2011)

 
 

1986 was an important year for underground Metal. Many will immediately think of such albums as Reign in Blood, Pleasure To Kill, Obsessed By Cruelty or Morbid Visions, to name a few. However, none of those releases came close to the pure evil and dark feeling of Poison's November 1986 rehearsal tape, Possessed By Hell. Recordings like this sent most bands packing for the surface, haunted by nightmares and the knowledge that they were incapable of producing something this hellish and black. While many of the First Wave bands were cleaning up their sound and moving on to pure Thrash Metal, Poison was unleashing the type of hideous Black Metal that could have only come from the very depths of Hell. This was at a time when even Mayhem were more concerned with writing songs with lyrics about splatter and gore. This obscure German band was possessed by the will of Satan, himself, and brought to the mortal realm his diabolic message.

Possessed By Hell is as raw as it gets, while still being clear enough to be discerned. The music is incredibly dynamic, which may surprise some. At times, it races along at a frenetic speed, while other sections slow things down and add an aura of morbidity. The faster parts are enough to give Bathory a run for their money, and yet the quick tempos never become an excuse for sloppiness. The mid-paced riffs cannot escape comparison to Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, and yet this is so much darker and more serious that it makes Tom Warrior's musical projects seem like joke bands. Angel of Death exhibits far more skill with the axe than some might expect, upon first listen. True, from the first moments of "Satan Commands", one may get the notion that this is going to be far more simplistic than it turns out. Virgin Slaughter's vocals are one of the real highlights of this recording, as he sounds absolutely possessed, though more demonic than human, and the utter malevolence can be felt as the venom spews from his mouth. The screams near the end of "Wake the Dead" are enough to send chills up your spine and to freeze your heart. This is so far beyond what anyone else was doing at the time, and the influence can be heard some years later, in the early work of Mütiilation. The bass playing of Incubus Demon plays a fairly prominent role, at times, with various moments where certain lines stand out from the rest or actually take the lead for a bit. Witchhammer's drumming is consistent and never goes beyond what is needed, which is a great thing considering that a lot of people were beginning to get too overactive by that time, showing off what they could do instead of sticking to what the song required. The songwriting demonstrates the ability to create a dark atmosphere by actually putting a lot of thought into the arrangement. Some tracks take their time to build up, moving along at a funereal pace and imbuing the listener with a sense of tension, then unleashing a lethal assault with intense passages that go right for the throat. It is remarkable, in a sense, since some of the material gives off the impression of being improvised, as if this was a mere jam session, yet everything is timed just. This makes the most of every opportunity to forever steal the light from your eyes, dragging you to a deeper level of Satan's dominion. The listener is tormented with feelings of doom, fear, terror and total hopelessness on this epic journey through the Kingdom Below.

The sound quality is not bad, at all, for a mid-'80s Black Metal demo. Being a rehearsal, one might expect a very poor sound, especially if acquainted with a lot of the Moonblood tapes. However, as raw and grim as this is, the production really suits the material and allows for everything to be heard, pretty well. The guitar sound is rough and sharp, though a bit heavier during the slow parts. The drumming is clear and precise and is high enough for everything to be heard quite well, yet it does not really distract from the rest. Occasionally, the cymbals are too noticeable, but this is a minor complaint. The guitar could have been slightly higher in the mix, but it is still loud enough to have the desired impact. The vocals are rather up-front, which really helps to accentuate the maniacal performance and the overall tenebrous and Satanic atmosphere of the recording.

Possessed By Hell is absolutely essential, not just for fans of Poison, but for anyone into the First Wave of Black Metal. This is probably the most evil thing to be spawned in 1986, and kills just about everything that came before. While a lot of bands wore spikes and wrote lyrics about Satan and Hell, this band seemed to be genuinely corrupted by some wicked force from the underworld and sought to spread damnation and hopelessness to the pathetic mortals. All those who so much as claim to be fans of Black Metal are urged to seek this out, at once. It may be too much for some but, then again, those people should hang themselves anyway.
 
(5 Dec. 2011)

 
Into the Abyss (1987)
 

Every now and then, I run across something that managed to crawl under the radar. The cult German Black/Death/Thrash band, Poison, was not completely unheard of. Yet in my earliest days of exploring the Teutonic scene, this was passed over in favour of better-known acts such as Sodom, Kreator, Destruction and even Exumer. The Poison demos weren't readily available, so they were ignored. On the one hand, this represents a grievous error; however, on the other hand, it provides the opportunity to go back in time. There are few things as good as discovering old music that one missed out on. Just when you think that you have heard them all, the disappointment fades upon realizing that there are hidden treasures still waiting to be found. Recently, someone recommended that I check this band out and it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

Poison formed in 1982 and went on to release a handful of demos as they perfected their craft. In 1987, they released the godly Into the Abyss demo, which is a masterpiece of underground Death/Thrash. It all begins with "Sphinx". This epic song starts with a mid-paced thrash riff, building a sense of tension. You can feel that something monumental is about to be unleashed. The song bursts forth with fast riffs and inhuman vocals. The vocal style displays a great deal of variety, as Virgin Slaughter has a range that includes a deeper sound more akin to Death Metal as well as a raspier scream, seeming somewhat reminiscent of Quorthon. Despite the extremity of the music, it is quite complex. There are frequent tempo changes, as Angel of Death's thrash riffs change to slower, doom riffs. Incubus Demon's bass is audible, such as on Slayer's Hell Awaits. And, of course, Witchhammer is proficient on the drums. At a time when the other German bands are streamlining their sound and going for a pure Thrash Metal approach, Poison were busy giving In the Sign of Evil some evil competition.
"Yog-Sothoth" is the shortest song, clocking in just over seven minutes. This one begins with slow doom riffs, creating an ominous atmosphere of dread. After a brief intro, the pace picks up with textbook thrash riffs and fast drumming. The production isn't as clear as one would like, preventing the music from making the true impact that is is capable of. Fortunately, the feeling is conveyed, nonetheless. After a couple minutes, the tempo slows a little as some mid-paced riffs allow for the dark aura to settle into your subconscious. This doesn't last long, as the hellish assault resumes. This song features many memorable melodies. About halfway through, the song slows down and utilizes an acoustic guitar melody as eerie whispers call out from the darkness. This is certainly more evil than what Mayhem was doing around the same time.

The next song is the epic "Slaves (of the Crucifix)". It opens with some interesting melodies, creating an eerie atmosphere while building to something larger. The sound, gradually, gets louder and louder, as the guitars are pushed to the front of the mix. This song features some intense thrash riffs and very fast drumming. Here, the vocals sound close to what Quorthon would accomplish on Blood Fire Death, in some places. After a relentless and punishing assault, the song slows down to wallow at the fathomless depths, doing well to convey a sense of impending doom. This one sounds very much like 80s Black Metal. The track features a few more tempo changes and some incredibly possessed vocals during the closing moments.

"Requiem / Alive (Undead)" concludes this incredible demo. It rises from the murky fog with a somber melody before unleashing its full force. This takes the dark feeling from Sodom's debut E.P. and the vicious assault from Kreator's Endless Pain to the next logical step. Hellhammer influences can be detected, though the musicianship found here is quite superior to that Swiss outfit. A slow, doom-filled pace dominates much of this song, though the tempo does pick up, also featuring killer solos. This song is dripping with a dark and primal atmosphere, tearing at your flesh and devouring your mind. It all ends in a traditional manner, finishing out this brilliant demo.

Into the Abyss is a work of genius. While Kreator and Sodom were getting farther away from their cryptic roots and while the remnants of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, were moving into poser territory, Poison managed to spawn something truly dark and inspiring. For fans of the early work of the aforementioned bands, along with old Bathory, Mefisto and Morbid, this is highly recommended.
 
(28 Apr. 2009)

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