Band Info
OriginZürich, Switzerland
Genre(s)Black metal, thrash metal, death metal
Label(s)Noise, Century Media
Associated ActsCeltic Frost, Triptykon, Apollyon Sun{{{9}}}

Hellhammer was an influential extreme metal band from Switzerland, active during 1981–1984. They are regarded as a key influence on black metal,[1] and one of the founders of death metal.[2] In June 1984 Hellhammer ceased existing, changing their name into Celtic Frost by the hand of two former members.[3]


Inspired by the music of Black Sabbath, Venom, Raven, and Motörhead,[4] guitarist/vocalist Thomas Gabriel Fischer (a.k.a. "Tom Warrior"), bassist/vocalist Urs Sprenger (a.k.a. "Steve Warrior") and drummer Pete Stratton formed Hammerhead (later Hellhammer) in early 1981.[5] Although Fischer was also "blown away" by the first two Discharge records - Why? and Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing - he "was not into punk at all."[6]

After the exit of Stratton and drummer Jörg Neubart (a.k.a. "Bruce Day") joining in the ranks on autumn 1982, Hellhammer attempted to find proper rehearsal spaces, which proved difficult due to either exceedingly high rents or unavailable studio hours.[7] In June 1983, the group recorded their first demo tape, Triumph of Death, for a mere $70.[8] Despite being embarrassed by the end results, Hellhammer shipped their demo to a number of heavy metal magazines, such as Great Britain's Metal Forces; critical response toward them was generally favorable.[9] Although rejected by the labels they sent tapes to, the band eventually caught the attention of newcomer Noise Records.[10]

Steve Warrior had been replaced by former Schizo bassist Martin Eric Ain, a change which marked the beginning of a serious and radical transformation in the band's music and lyrics. These changes were ultimately responsible for Fischer's and Ain's increasing perception of being limited within the confines of the purposely primitive Hellhammer vehicle. On May 31, 1984, Hellhammer disbanded, and on June 1 changed its name into Celtic Frost.[3]

At the dawn of the next decade Noise Records released a new version of Hellhammer's debut, retitled Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D. This re-issue was augmented by two tracks off the Death Metal compilation, which was "something we always wanted to, even back in '84", claimed Tom Warrior. This re-release also came with a new cover design done by Martin Ain.[11]

In November 2007, Tom Gabriel Fischer announced that the original master tapes of Hellhammer's demos (Death Fiend, Triumph of Death, and Satanic Rites) would be released as a 2CD/3LP package, titled Demon Entrails, in February 2008 with new liner notes on the complete history of Hellhammer, unreleased photos and artwork, and all tracks remastered personally by Tom Gabriel Fischer, Martin Eric Ain and Steve Warrior. The album was released by Prowlin' Death/Century Media Records.

Additionally, Tom Fischer has released a book titled Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost 1981-1985, which documents the early days of the said bands in great photographic and written detail.


Although its former members felt proud of Hellhammer's legacy by the end of the 1980s, that was not always so.[11] In fact, Tom Warrior feared that his prior commitment to Hellhammer could hinder the future of Celtic Frost. A 1985 Kerrang! review summed up his worst fears: "The truly execrable Hellhammer may now have turned into Celtic Frost but still suck on the big one."[12]

Other metal publications were also skeptical of Hellhammer's musical endeavor. Metal Forces, for one, absolutely loathed the group; that started a long-lasting feud between that zine and Warrior, which kept Celtic Frost from playing in England for a couple of years.[12] Rock Power was not fond of Hellhammer either - they considered it "the most terrible, abhorrent, and atrocious thing 'musicians' were ever allowed to record".[13] In fact, they were "receiving miserable reviews everywhere", Warrior concluded.[3]

Regarding the controversial status of his former band, Thomas said:

Way back in 1984 and 85, when Martin Eric Ain and I recorded Celtic Frost's first two albums Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, Hellhammer lasted on us almost like a curse. Even though Hellhammer was the very reason we had thought over our goals and conceived the Frost, HH's left-overs kept being mighty rocks in our way. Many voices saw Frost as the same band with just a name-change. The lack of musical quality in HH made it almost impossible for us to get an unbiased reaction for Frost. To make a long story short, it almost killed all our work and dreams.[11]


A four-track 12" EP, Apocalyptic Raids, was released in March 1984. At the time, it was regarded as one of the heaviest and most extreme records produced. By then, the band had already broken up, but the recording was one of the original black/death metal recordings, and spawned a legion of imitators, playing doom metal, thrash metal, black metal and death metal. Both Fischer and Ain later teamed up again when forming the seminal Celtic Frost in summer of 1984.

Countless Hellhammer cover versions by numerous underground bands exist. The better-known Hellhammer covers were done by the bands Napalm Death and Sepultura, both of whom covered the Hellhammer song "Messiah".[14][15] Fischer's post-Celtic Frost band, Apollyon Sun, also re-worked that song.

Band's membersEdit




Year Title
1983 Death Fiend
1983 Triumph of Death
1983 Satanic Rites

Studio releasesEdit

Year Title Notes
1984 Apocalyptic Raids EP

Compilation albumsEdit

Year Title
2008 Demon Entrails


  1. Rivadavia, Eduardo. ((( Hellhammer > Overview ))). Retrieved on May 9, 2008.
  2. Fischer (2000), p. 78.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fischer (2000), p. 80.
  4. Fischer (2000), pp. 62 & 64.
  5. Fischer (2000), p. 65.
  6. Bennett (2009), p. 34.
  7. Fischer (2000), pp. 65 & 66.
  8. Fischer (2000), p. 72.
  9. Fischer (2000), p. 73.
  10. Fischer (2000), p. 75.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Warrior, Thomas Gabriel (1990), Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D. (Script error), Berlin, Germany: Modern Music Records, p. 2 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Gregori (2003), p. 11.
  13. Doe, Bernard (December 2007). 'Death Fiends': A Short Biography of Hellhammer. Century Media Records. Retrieved on May 10, 2008.
  14. Rivadavia, Eduardo. ((( Leaders Not Followers, Pt. 2 > Overview ))). Retrieved on May 9, 2008.
  15. Loftus, Johnny. ((( Revolusongs > Overview ))). Retrieved on May 9, 2008.


  • Bennett, J. (2009). "Procreation of the Wicked". In: Mudrian, A. (ed.), Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces (pp. 31–47). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
  • Fischer, T. G. (2000). Are You Morbid? Into the Pandemonium of Celtic Frost. London: Sanctuary Publishing Limited.
  • Gregori, D. (2003). "Thrash Metal or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". Terrorizer 108: 10-14.
  • Hellhammer (1990). Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D. [CD]. New York, NY: Futurist/Noise International.

External linksEdit

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