Far, far off, on the left hand path of the great metal graveyard, lies an inverted cross bearing the name of Antichrist. (Not to be confused with the seven other Antichrists listed on MA — it’s a busy job, apparently.) The band was woefully short-lived, surviving only for only three years after their 1983 release of Slaughter in Hell. Despite their short career, Antichrist has one of the oldest and most decrepit tombstones in the entire black metal necropolis. Antichrist had all the anti-Christian verve and groundbreaking ferocity of Venom, but with an added flair for catchy songwriting that should have propelled them to the fore of proto black metal.
It’s very easy to forget how unprecedented and horrifically transgressive vocals like Gerhard Fitting’s are on Slaughter in Hell. In 1983, only the slimmest minority of metal bands in the burgeoning extreme metal scene used harsh vocals approaching anything that we would consider normal today. So don’t take Fitting’s pained yowls and gravelly growls lightly — they were matched only by a precious few proto BM outfits and particularly maniacal punk groups.
Under the mutilated guitars and frenzied screams of Slaughter in Hell pulses undeniably groovy melodies. The bass is very strong — much stronger than any second wave black metaller would ever allow — and drives songs like “Deathlite of Eternity” and “Roses of Evil” with a Maiden-esque gallop. The melodies are rarely very complex, and sometimes their upbeat catchiness stains something like jubilation; but don’t be fooled. The record is still awash, front to back, in proto black metal intensity with its trademark atmosphere of horror. Laugh if you want at the piercing shrieks of “Lucifeeer!” in “Roses”, but the overall tone of the record is still abrasive and dark.
A good example of this atmosphere can be found in the title track, which is also by far the most interesting track on the album. Slaughter in Hell is generally very well-executed Venom worship, but “Slaughter in Hell” is a two minute pit of satanic chaos that basically amounts to experimental noise. Wildly separate from the almost sing-along first track, the title track is an all-out assault on the ears, challenging what can reasonably be called music. An earsplitting screeching occupies most of the beginning — it’s unclear if it’s a very distorted guitar or someone performing the Cruciatus Curse on a hoarse parrot — while a soft guitar riff plays on in the background, as if nothing is wrong at all. Guitars approximate a construction site. In the distance, sirens. Brief sections of something approaching melody are delivered in the form of ultra-fast tapping solos back when that was still quite an impressive feat. It’s weird, it’s challenging, it’s borderline unlistenable, and it’s really, really cool. Perhaps most importantly, this nifty little song (outburst?) shows that Antichrist are far from a knockoff band of a genre that was way too niche to have imitators already, but instead a serious effort from talented musicians who wanted to create exciting, new, and challenging music. It’s a lot to take in today, but in 1983 it must have been a very tall order.
So take a listen, if you will. There’s something here for almost anybody. “Deathlite of Eternity” for those who prefer a more traditional heavy metal sound, “Trident Assault” for those who prefer ridiculous guitar trickery, “Slaughter in Hell” for goddamn weirdos, and plenty of proto black metal running through each track to satisfy (the) Antichrist. The first wave of black metal is often overshadowed by its towering second cousin, but the black metal bands of the early 80’s are just as important to the black metal bloodline.