Hexenkult: The Early Years
By the early ‘80s I had moved on to some harder music like AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Motley Crue. In 1986 my second obsession hit – horror movies. This was when I first saw George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and I became a full-fledged gorehound. Sorry for the rambling, but I like adding some background information to reviews of music, movies, and books that were/are important to me and also others reading this review who grew up during this same era, with similar interests, may be able to relate. Now this brings me to my discovery of Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”. Thrash metal was still very young, and I hadn’t heard any of it yet. Death metal was in its infant stages, with this album being considered one of the first death metal releases (at the time I wasn’t even aware of this newly emerging genre). But with my tastes changing to more extreme fare, I was ready to hear something harder than Ozzy and Motley Crue. While perusing the cassettes in the heavy metal section of my local music store, the title “Scream Bloody Gore” caught my eye (having recently been a convert of horror movies as I stated above). The cover-art also stood out (more on the artist later) with a skeletal zombie seated on a throne flanked by three other skeletal zombies, all clothed in monk’s robes and raising chalices. A quick look at the lurid song titles (Infernal Death, Zombie Ritual, Denial of Life, Sacrificial, Mutilation, Regurgitated Guts, Baptized in Blood, Torn to Pieces, Evil Dead, Scream Bloody Gore) and this sealed the deal for me. I plucked down my money and went home to have my ears blasted by a racket they had never before been subjected to. After a couple listens it still proved to be too much for me. I was getting accustomed to the music but it was so harsh, and I couldn’t understand most of what the vocalist was saying. I took it back to the store and convinced them to let me trade it in for something else. I had heard of Metallica but never heard there music before, so I decided to go with their latest album, “Master of Puppets”. After listening to this a few times, I was hooked, and this would lead to my next obsession – thrash metal. I would soon discover Anthrax, Megadeth, Overkill, Testament, Exodus, Celtic Frost, Venom, and Slayer. The moral of this story is you gotta learn to crawl before you can walk. By the beginning of 1989, I had become well versed in thrash and decided to purchase “Scream Bloody Gore” again, as well as Death’s second album, “Leprosy”, which had come out in ’88. Now I was ready for it! And I loved both albums. This was about the time that death metal was poised to set the underground metal scene on fire. Within no time I was deep into bands like Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Obituary, Entombed, Cannibal Corpse et al.
As far as “Scream Bloody Gore” is concerned, I consider it an extreme metal classic. It established themes that would continue as death metal progressed. The horror movie theme and gore-obsessed lyrics would become a staple of many burgeoning death metal bands (with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Carcass taking the extreme gore content even further). This horror/gore themed metal mixed with another extreme metal genre known as grindcore, would form its own subgenre – goregrind (got all that?). Death would continue the gore theme, but to a lesser degree, on their second album “Leprosy”. By their third album, ”Spiritual Healing”, they had dropped the gore theme altogether in favor of lyrics about socially relevant issues and philosophical views. Death was formed by guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and he would remain the only constant member throughout the band’s existence.
The rest of the line-up on “Scream Bloody Gore” includes Chris Reifert on drums and John Hand on rhythm guitar. This is the only Death album they appeared on. Chris Reifert would go on to drums and vocals for death metal band Autopsy from 1987 to 1995 and then death metal/grindcore band Abscess from 1995 to the present. He’s played drums in other bands as well including The Ravenous and Doomed. I have no idea what happened to John Hand.
As far as the sound on “Scream Bloody Gore”, it’s pretty raw and the production is not as “full” as later albums would be. However, this is not a negative aspect in my opinion – I like the raw sound, and you can still hear the complexity and melody of the song arrangements that Death is known for. This sound would progress through their subsequent albums and spawn another subgenre of death metal known as progressive death metal (defined by these complex arrangements and melodic song structures). “Scream Bloody Gore” was produced by the legendary Randy Burns, who produced many important metal albums from bands such as Possessed, Dark Angel, Megadeth, Nuclear Assault, and Kreator. All the tracks on “Scream Bloody Gore” are strong. I never skip any while listening to it, but some stand-out tracks include Zombie Ritual, Denial of Life, Mutilation, and Regurgitated Guts. Regurgitated Guts being a tribute to Lucio Fulci’s film City of the Living Dead (also known on video as The Gates of Hell for those of us who grew up in the US in the ‘80s). Check out some of the lyrics: “Suicidal preacher hangs himself/Unfaithful servant goes straight to Hell/When he returns your life will end/Down from the skies maggots descend/Least expecting his horrible face/Your decayed guts you soon will taste/Unholy feeling grows deep inside/Choking on your guts you open wide/Regurgitated guts/Satisfy his needs/Regurgitated guts/Now you’re gonna bleed”. Ah good stuff! And the lyrics to the title track Scream Bloody Gore seem inspired by Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator: “Decapitated head licking your cunt…”,”Intestinal guts taking their hold…”,”Controlling the minds of the bloodthirsty dead…”,”Inject the reborn terror…”,”Orders to destroy, rip and tear apart/Wishing for the end, your death is just the start”. The CD version of “Scream Bloody Gore” includes two bonus tracks, Beyond the Unholy Grave and Land of No Return, that were not included on the original LP and cassette release. Beyond the Unholy Grave is from their 1985 demo “Back from the Dead”, and Land of No Return is from their 1986 demo “Mutilation”.
The excellent cover art for the album was done by Edward J. Repka, who would also do the cover art to Death’s next two albums as well as albums by Megadeth, Possessed, Dark Angel, Atheist, Evildead, Ludichrist, Biohazard, Uncle Slam, Necro, Toxic Holocaust, Misfits, and NOFX to name a few.
Repka and Vincent Locke are two of my favorite artists for metal album covers. Locke did the artwork for many of Cannibal Corpse’s album covers, and he’s a comic book artist/illustrator whose work includes the original Deadworld comic.
In closing, this album is a must for those who want to hear the origins of death metal; along with Hellhammer’s “Apocalyptic Raids” (1984), Possessed’s “Seven Churches” (1985)(two releases that are also important to the first wave of black metal); Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions” (1987); Necrophagia’s “Season of the Dead (1987); and Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness (1989).
Death - Scream Bloody Gore (1987) Rating:
"Early Death Metal Classic"