"Sons of Evil" LP (FOAD 082)
Moments of musical invention and originality are rare, and usually fleeting. Few are captured for posterity. Innovators tend to exist in isolation, often without resources. By the time their originality has been recorded and circulated, it is typically no longer original but rather has become part of a wider current, which it both manifests and symbolizes. The best example is The Ramones. To listen to their very earliest recordings, before the first LP, is to hear something innovative and alien. And yet as brilliant, incredible, earth-shattering, and memorable as the first LP is—way better in nearly all respects than those early recordings, such as the 1975 demo—it was already recognizable as part of a new wave, called "the New Wave" by some, of musical invention they had themselves partially spawned.
As a result, I listened to Poison’s “Sons of Evil” with a measure of surprise. Although the band explicitly took influence from Venom (the Ramones of black metal, right?), Motörhead, and Black Sabbath, Poison combined these influences in 1984 (they started two years earlier) to produce an exceedingly raw, unpolished, immediate, violent, and disturbed form of metal. This strange demo, which mixes faster proto-noisecore (seriously!) with heavy scrapings of doom, set a blueprint for so much metal that would come after it, at least a year or more before the rest of the world had caught up to it. Yet it was largely lost to history. Of course some deep Continental ‘bangers knew about this material, but it would be a mistake to suggest that the formula developed here was the formula other bands used. (See, however, the Hellhammer demos, of course, as well as the recently unearthed Køtsen demo from 1985, on vinyl as of December 2015.) The formula would develop later on, though likely without knowledge of this obscure work. The formula needed more time in the laboratory before it could really take hold. And Poison actually perfected it a few years hence.
The band recorded what is for my money (no, seriously, I have the money if you want to sell it to me!) the finest metal record produced in Europe, “Into the Abyss.” It is lapidary in its multidimensional heaviness, fully realized in every way. The thirteen songs on “Sons of Evil,” however, sound like a different band. Rather than the confident, methodical patience of “Into the Abyss,” this recording exudes reckless urgency. Still, the pieces of the later Poison puzzle are present on this deranged recording. It has the feel of the invention of a new idiom, tentative and rough-hewn, without all the particulars mapped. The doomy parts evoke dull ache. The fast parts evoke acute pain. Tying them together is the madman ranting of one Armin Weber, sounding like reprobate priest who has glimpsed Satan’s works in his own mind. For such a brutally primitive recording, the band exhibits quite a bit of range. To make some sense of this recording, an interview in the liner notes tells us that it was recorded at full volume in a stone-walled basement. No shit.
Perhaps the reason I like this bizarre and ugly demo so much is that it resembles material from South America more than anything else in its primitive urgency. Unsurprisingly, Mystifier would cover a song from this demo (“Leather and Metal”). At times, in the squealing leads, I also hear what must have been one influence on late 80s Medellín. In this case, I will leave the chronicling of the direct linkages to others who know the history better than I do.
Although there are numerous bootleg releases of Poison to be found, this LP, released by Italy’s FOAD, has the band’s permission. It shows. The sound reproduction of an admittedly pissraw recording is nonetheless clear and loud. The included booklet is great too, with reproductions of old ephemera. As a missing piece in the history of the rawest and most brutal metal, this reissue is crucial. Most listeners will cover their ears. That is the point. At a time when little seems extreme anymore, and everything is predictable, this record comes along to remind us that once upon a time innovation and extreme urges went hand-in-hand. The difficult circumstances that would produce a recording too extreme even for most outsiders are impossible to imagine today, but the connectivity that makes it possible to quickly put this record in the hands of the few who will truly appreciate it is, I suppose, a good thing.
Also, dig the drum solo.