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Death Ss Biography

Last updated: 03/14/2003 10:25:57 PM

biography by Beppe Riva

Born from the strangest chapters of underground, exploring heavy music themes that draw substance from medieval esoteric myths and legends. Carrying to extreme consequences the dark colour of gothic reverie as no one had ever dared to do in Italy, Death SS, at least in origin, was a sort of chimerical offspring, a phenomen to observe with awe and fear of their eerie activity; engaged in the production of spectral demos as in "Horned God of Witches" (circa 1981).

In the evil and hostile effluvium are already recognizable the authentic occult lords of the emerging Italian heavy metal scene, otherwise frequently derivative. The sign of a strong personality was deeply rooted in Death SS sound, the malign and menacing voice of Steve Sylvester, much too extreme for the times, anticipated clearly the radical tendencies of contemporary black metal extricating itself in the bizarre labyrinth of densely set riffs, infected by anguished vibrations, created by the innovative guitarist, Paul Chain, who would be recognized (fifteen years later) as the "experimental master of doom". And then that atmosphere, where the sun seldom penetrated to sweep away the soria of shadows ("Terror", "Murder Angels", "Zombie",...) that imprisoned the listener in the asphyxiating confines of blind walls riddled by icy cracks. The atmosphere is the determining factor, because the definitive criterion of authenticity is the creation of precise sensations able to arouse an indefinable sense of fear, or even a sense of contact with supernatural entities, in the beginning Sylvester and Chain had actually approached elaborate forms of ritual magicl perhaps for this reason the music of Death SS possessed a feral mood, a sense of unhealthy corruption found, limited to this aspect, only in the best works of Darkthrone, "black" apostles of the Great North.

But to theorize the cosmic horror pursued by Death SS an ultra-heavy sound was not enough and, with a strong inclination to necrophilia, the band staged a realistic Grang Guignol that contemplated authentic relics purloined from "The Garden of the Dead". Moreover, the scene conceived by the lugubrious Sylvester included the presence of the musicians masked as monsters of horror tradition.

This device allowed the group, formed in Pesaro in 1977, to rotate a number of performers around the two leaders before reaching a stable order - the classic line-up formed by Sylvester (the Vampire, vocalist), Chain (Death, lead guitar), Claud Galley (the Zombie, rhythm guitar), Danny Hughes (the Mummy, bass guitar), and Thomas Chaste (the Wolf-man, drummer).

The use of disguise and heavy make-up is not new to rock, enaugh to think of Kiss, Alice Cooper or the seminal Rocky Horror Picture Show, but absolutely new is the macabre style )far from the taste of the above examples) that Death SS staged with malicious conviction. In their live show the band is truly frightening, the most famous concert of the time (April 1980) as support act of "Gaznevada" (well knons exponents of Italian new wave), intimidated the 3000 spectators in Pesaro's palasport, dismayed by the launch of verminous meat on the front rows!
In that same period the uqintet's fame grew, thanks only to the underground circulation of various demos, newspaper articles and a partecipation to "Gathered" (1981) an early compilation of new Italian rock produced by the magazine Rockerilla. Death SS presented the original version of "Terror", a classic of horror music, inimitably chilling and dramatic: more than enough to recognize them as the authenic founders of the "Satanic" music/image combination. Hellhammer/Celtic Frost (the leader, Tom G.Warrior, was a fan of the italian band), Mercyful Fate and the Norwegian Black Metal current in the 90's will exploit the devilish masquerade invented by Steve Sylvester.

The singer himself diapparead from the scene, absessed by the magics arts, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown on the eve of the debut EP "Evil Metal", so-called in honor of the "negative" philosophy that until then had animated the band. Although the record was produced, it was immediately withdrawn due to faults in recording that did not keep it from vecoming a much sought after collector's item.

Under the guidance of Paul Chain, Death SS recorded "Black & Violet" for the first italian metal anthology, "Heavy Metal Eruption" (1984), but at this point the guitarist declared that the metamorphosis into his new project, Violet Theatre, was complete.

Chain decided to leave behind an exerience he considered even cursed, and his first EP bears the eloquent title "Detachin' from Satan".

This record is the prelude to an intense solo activity in the ambit of dark experimentation, culminating in a prestigious collaboration with Lee Dorian of Chatedral in the '95 album "Alkahest", but fire smoulders under the ashes of Death SS and flares again with the issue, by the will of Chain himself, of the posthumous album "The Story of Death SS/1977-1984", a collection of historical demo tapes of the band.

Moving to Florence, Sylvester re-forms the band with expert musicians of the local metal scene (members of Sabotage, Shabby Trick, Machine Messiah...) and resuscitates the ghosts of the past, impersonating the demon Baphomet on the cover of the first album of the new course, "In Death os Steve Sylvester" (also the most diffused interpretation of the signature Death SS).

The disc reviews the songs that fed the legend of the original line-up, reprocessing them in the light of the typical metal sound of the mid-'80. The music, however, continues to offer a varied scenario where the charisma of Death SS re-emerges in the restoration of lugubrious atmospheres, "tales of blood" developed by a precise riarrative logic. The album is an immediate success, cataputing the band to the top of the national heavy metal charts, and the following 12" picture disc, "Vampire", inaugurates a new orientation ahead of its time: in fact the '90s were dominated by the celebration of cult bands of the early '70s. Death SS begin, in '89 by paying homage to the dark masters Black Widows with efficacious version of "Come to the Sabbath" and, above all, "In Ancient Days, revisiting its suggestive contortionistic architecture. These will be followed by covers of Atomic Rooster, High Tide, Uriah Heep, and even the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar", proof of the profound interest that ties Steve to that golden age of rock music.

Again the line-up of the band changes, revolving around the central role of the vocalist, but Death SS increase their commercial success which places them firmly at the head of the national metal scene. In addition to the typical styles of the "champions of fear" "Black Mass" features an innovative title-guide that amalgamates pseudo-symphonic parts, samples and a sombre gregorian chorus. The moment seems favorable to export the band abroad and, with a new record deal, Death SS begin work on the latest recording with the expert producer of the German label Noise, Sven Conquest; the third album, "Heavy Demons" is the most professional, not only for sound effects but for the extravagant look of the musitians achieved by film studio make-up artists. Even the famous English actor, Oliver Reed, recites in "Walpurgisnacht", and the new more accessible repertoire stands comparison with the Death SS classics: but once again fate seems to conspire against the band whose name is rejected by European distributors who mistakenly associate it with the contemporary neo-nazi movement. Steve is forced to rebaptize the band, "Sylvester's Death" to avoid any possible connection, and under this moniker is issued the live album "the Cursed Concert" that suspends the recording activity of the band in '92.

Two years later the vocalist records an eclectic solo album, "Free Man", in which he rediscovers his "doom" roots, recomposing in some tracks the historic line-up of Death SS withPaul Chain who wil wollow him in the Mediterranean Monsters of Rock Festival in which Sylvester features as main attraction. The rumors of refoundation of the original line-up, more insistent with the issues of a box with four singles is limited edition, "The Cursed Singles", are not enough to infuse new life in the implacable persecution of the past. Nevertheless, Death SS do not intend to abdicate their role of ambassadors of darkness. "Horror Music/The Best of Deaht SS" is the first step to relaunching the group: 19 songs entirely remastered among which the new versions, interpretated by Steve, of "Chains of Death", the unobtainable "Evil Metal" and the above mentioned "Black and Violet". With the new label, "Lucifer Rising", and the support of the ambitious distribution of "Self", Death SS will delve into their morbid reserves of nightmares also in the second half of the Nineties.

(here ends Beppe Riva biography, the remaining part is by Darkanar)

After 5 years of silence, it's in 1997 that was released the next album "Do What Thou Wilt", a concept with modern sounds quite differents from the old style, built around the life and the writings of the famous magus Aleister Crowley.

This disc see again a change of the line-up like the guitarists Emil Bandera and Felix Moon.

In 1998 they played at the italian festival "Gods of Metal" showing one more time their incredible theatrical and technical live performances.
One year later there is another change of line-up, Anton Chaney (drummer) and Kaiser Sose (bass player) join the band, while Emil Bandera (guitars) and Oleg Smirnoff (keyboards) still stay.

This new formation also see a quite radical change of Death SS look, and now on stage they seem terrifying cyberpunk monsters. It's in February 2000 that finally they released the long waited album "Panic" where one more time Death SS find new sounds also using electronics and they express "Horror Music" ever in different ways but with their classic and unique style. An important mark of this album is the prestigious presence of the poland director Aljandro Jorodowsky (who made important cult movies like "The High Mountain", "El Topo" and "Santa Sangre") that we can listen in the superbs dark intro and outro tracks of the disc.

In the following Panic Tour, Death SS shows one more time to be able to create dark and terrifying atmospheres and they re-propose old classics like "Terror", "Chains of Death", "Vampire" and the immortal "Come to the Sabbath" of Black Widow for the joy of the fans.

That's all.. for now!