Death SS – Zombie/Terror (7″ Single)

It's fun to slay at the YMCA
It’s fun to slay at the Y.M.C.A.

Considering the huge impact Italy has had on the world of horror movies since the 60s, it’s hardly surprising that the first Italian Heavy Metal band was steeped in the sepulchral atmosphere of the graveyard. Death SS were formed in 1977 by guitarist Paul Chain (the “Death”) and vocalist Steve Sylvester (The “Vampire” whose initials also provided the “SS” of the band name). The band was rounded out by guitarist Claud Galley (The “Zombie”), bassist Danny Hughes (the “Mummy”) and the superbly-monikered Thomas Hand Chaste (the “Werewolf”) on drums. If the Village People ever went Hammer Horror they would probably end up looking something like Death SS.

Although they toiled in obscurity, Death SS still managed to release demos and some privately pressed singles. The Zombie/Terror 7” is the earliest of those singles, an extremely rare release that has now been exhumed and reissued by Svart Records. A-Side Zombie is a 1979 demo version recorded at a rehearsal and B-Side Terror is a rough live take from 1980. Both are horrible, crudely performed and even more crudely recorded. But an inspired and creative magick cuts through the sonic fog. Naively simple but ominous riffs are topped with chiming, ethereally spooky guitar melodies and the vocal hooks in both songs are immediate and melodic enough to endure Sylvester’s cheese-grater vocals. The ugly rawness of the production and singing also strengthens the dark, occult atmosphere: a method that many Black Metal bands would make a virtue of years later.

You could draw style connections via the Italians from Killer-era Alice Cooper through to the Black Metal genre but Death SS don’t really sound like anyone else. Their otherworldly eeriness, melodic nous and the murky, macabre shroud of sound makes for a darkly seductive listen that I’d strongly recommend to fans of occult/horror-themed Metal. Superior versions of both these songs can be found on the essential The Story of Death SS 1977 – 1984 compilation so newcomers should start there. But for existing fans this single is a great opportunity to own more of this obscure band’s rare and early work and to hear their first lumbering steps from beyond the grave.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

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35 thoughts on “Death SS – Zombie/Terror (7″ Single)”

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. The comp is well worth checking out. If you’re buying it make sure it has the song Inquisitor on it. They has been a vinyl reissue recently that switched some tracks around. So if it doesn’t have that song on it, avoid!

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    1. Yes, they’re still around although I read mixed things about their later stuff. They actually split up in 1984 and then the singer reactivated the band. But it’s just been him and various backing musicians ever since. I’ve only got stuff from the original band but I wouldn’t mind checking out more. The guitarist Paul Chain looks like he’s done some interesting stuff since too, including an album with Lee Dorrian of Cathedral.

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      1. You can’t go wrong with the Story of Death SS 74 – 84 comp. It’s great. I’ve got a few singles too but that’s about it. Of the post-split albums “In Death of Steve Sylvester” seems pretty highly regarded so I’d like to get that one soon.

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    1. They don’t get a lot of coverage here. Definitely pretty underground. I can’ t remember where I first heard about them but they’ve been on my radar for quite a while now. I only started buying stuff in the last year or so though. A couple of shops near me started stocking their stuff otherwise I might not have bothered.

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  1. Leave it our HMO to dredge up the underground of the underworld!

    Listening to that youtube track and wow it’s rough, they sound like a garage band of amateurs. I know it’s a demo, but you’re right, that adds something to it, makes it even creepier than if it was perfect.

    Also, I love the first shite photey’s tagline. Only one problem, they have one too many guys to do a proper YMCA while they’re slaying.

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    1. No, they need the extra dude: the hairy guy – sorry, the “Werewolf” – to do the slaying so the rest of them can do the hand movements and hang out with all the boys.

      Yeah, it’s hella rough. Hard on the ears but it does all add to the atmosphere. I think this is probably the two worst sounding songs they ever put out though. Their stuff gradually got a little easier on the ears… but only just!

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      1. Haha fair enough, but it’s interesting to me that gay dudes only need 4 guys to tear it up, but the black metal kids need 5… Hahahahaaaa

        I don’t have a problem with bad production on demos. Hell, even on albums. GBV made whole albums on their boombox in the basement, still great. Lots of my old punk bands put less than full effort into sound quality on a lot of their releases, and who cares? Exactly.

        That comp you were discussing sounds cool.

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      2. Oh I haven’t got a clue. I couldn’t care less about the Village People. There could be a whole Village of them, it wouldn’t phase me, to be perfectly honest! 🙂 I was just yapping as usual.

        Good music wins out. Amen to that, brother!!

        ALSO: Was watching an episode of Elementary last night, and they featured the music of Carcass, Goatwhore and Artificial Brain. Made me think of you. 🙂

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