The Birth of a Blasphemous Genre: Dissecting the “First Black Metal Album”

by Patria

In the annals of heavy metal history, few subgenres have sparked as much controversy and intrigue as black metal. Emerging from the underground scene of the early 1980s, this extreme offshoot of metal embraced a sonic and ideological rebellion against the norms of society, embracing anti-Christian themes, raw production values, and an unapologetic aggression that shook the very foundations of the music industry.

While the origins of black metal can be traced back to the pioneering efforts of bands like Venom, Bathory, and Hellhammer, there is one album that many consider to be the true progenitor of the genre – Deathcrush by the Swiss trio, Hellhammer. Released in 1984, this seminal work laid the groundwork for the sound and aesthetic that would come to define black metal, leaving an indelible mark on the genre’s evolution.

The Hellhammer Mystique

Formed in 1982 by Thomas Gabriel Fischer (vocals/guitars), Steve Warrior (bass), and Bruce Day (drums), Hellhammer emerged from the thriving underground metal scene in Switzerland. Drawing inspiration from the raw, uncompromising sounds of Venom and Motörhead, the trio crafted a brand of extreme metal that was both primitive and unrelenting in its sonic assault.

Their debut release, the Apocalyptic Raids EP in 1984, offered a glimpse into the band’s dark, nihilistic worldview, with lyrics that delved into themes of Satan, death, and the apocalypse. However, it was their first full-length album, Deathcrush, that truly solidified their place in the annals of extreme metal history.

Deathcrush: The Genesis of Black Metal

Released in May 1984 through Noise Records, Deathcrush was a sonic onslaught that defied all conventions of traditional heavy metal. From the opening notes of “Massacratic Execution,” the album’s first track, it was clear that Hellhammer was not interested in compromising their vision or adhering to any preconceived notions of what metal should sound like.

The production values were raw and unpolished, lending the album a gritty, visceral quality that perfectly complemented the band’s unwavering intensity. Fischer’s raspy, guttural vocals sounded like the incarnation of pure evil, while the riffs and drumming were an exercise in unrestrained aggression.

Lyrically, Deathcrush was a descent into the darkest recesses of the human psyche, exploring themes of violence, satanism, and the occult with an unflinching directness that was unprecedented for the time. Songs like “Satanic Rites,” “Revelations of Doom,” and “Triumph of the Nomad” were visceral explorations of the macabre, delivered with a level of conviction that left no room for doubt about the band’s sincerity.

The Unholy Trinity: Riffs, Vocals, and Drums

At the heart of Deathcrush’s groundbreaking sound were three key elements that would become hallmarks of the black metal genre: the riffs, the vocals, and the drums.

Fischer’s guitar work was a masterclass in dissonance and aggression, with riffs that seemed to defy the constraints of traditional tonality. The jarring, atonal melodies and chromatic chord progressions created a sense of unease and discomfort that perfectly complemented the album’s dark themes.

But it was Fischer’s vocal delivery that truly set Deathcrush apart from its contemporaries. Abandoning the high-pitched wails and operatic flourishes favored by many traditional metal bands, Fischer adopted a guttural, rasping style that sounded like the embodiment of pure hatred and malice. His vocals were raw, unpolished, and utterly captivating in their intensity, lending an air of authenticity to the album’s nihilistic themes.

The drumming on Deathcrush was equally groundbreaking, with Bruce Day unleashing a barrage of blast beats and furious double-bass drumming that would become a hallmark of the black metal sound. His performance was a tour de force of endurance and technical prowess, laying the foundation for the genre’s signature breakneck tempos and relentless intensity.

The Legacy of Deathcrush

While Hellhammer’s tenure was short-lived, with the band disbanding in 1984 after the release of Deathcrush, their impact on the metal scene was indelible. The album’s raw, uncompromising sound and unflinching embrace of darkness and occultism would go on to influence countless bands in the nascent black metal scene.

In the years following Deathcrush’s release, bands like Bathory, Celtic Frost (formed by Hellhammer’s Fischer and Martin Eric Ain), and Mayhem would take the blueprint laid down by Hellhammer and expand upon it, refining the sound and aesthetic of black metal into a fully-fledged subgenre.

Today, Deathcrush is regarded as a seminal work in the history of extreme metal, a testament to the power of artistic vision and the unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of what music can express. Its influence can be heard in the sounds of countless black metal bands, from the raw, minimalist compositions of Darkthrone to the orchestral grandeur of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir.

Controversy and Condemnation

Of course, as with any genre that challenges societal norms and embraces taboo subject matter, black metal has not been without its fair share of controversy and condemnation. The genre’s association with Satanism, anti-Christian sentiment, and, in some cases, acts of violence and criminality have made it a frequent target of moral outrage and censorship efforts.

Deathcrush itself was no stranger to controversy. Upon its release, the album drew the ire of religious groups and conservative watchdogs, who decried its graphic imagery and lyrical themes as blasphemous and offensive. Some retailers even refused to carry the album, citing concerns over its potentially corrupting influence on young listeners.

Despite these challenges, Deathcrush and the black metal genre as a whole have endured, their very existence a defiant middle finger to the forces of conformity and censorship. For fans and artists alike, black metal represents a form of artistic expression that refuses to be bound by the constraints of societal norms, a sonic exploration of the darkest corners of the human experience.


In the end, Deathcrush’s significance transcends its status as a mere musical artifact. It stands as a testament to the power of art to challenge boundaries, push creative boundaries, and give voice to the darkest and most primal aspects of the human condition.

While its raw, uncompromising sound and controversial themes may not be for everyone, there is no denying the album’s profound impact on the evolution of extreme metal. It paved the way for countless bands to explore the outer limits of sonic expression, inspiring generations of musicians to embrace their darkest impulses and channel them into works of uncompromising artistry.

For those willing to dive into its unhallowed depths, Deathcrush offers a visceral, cathartic experience that remains as potent and provocative today as it was nearly four decades ago. It is a true landmark in the annals of heavy metal, a work that forever altered the course of the genre and left an indelible mark on the fabric of underground music.

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