“Burn For Peace” 7"
I first learned of Hellhouse in a reprint of an Agathocles (AG) interview from the later 90s that appeared in the infamous Skiteater fanzine. When asked if there are any 80s metal bands that Agathocles would like to do a split with, founding AG member Jan dropped a long list of obscure bands, including Hellhouse followed by the comment “most extreme 80s band ever!!!!! Just imagine Mortician playing in the 80s.” Part of me was very intrigued (most extreme 80s band ever?), but part of me still recalled my early teenage years spent as a metalhead and couldn’t shake the fact that Mortician was pretty much considered a joke in the death metal scene. At the time I didn’t pursue any search for material by the band, and I wasn’t yet in contact with Jan. As it turns out though, Jan wasn’t far off. This is some extreme music. (Strangely enough, the person who ended up sending me a copy of the Hellhouse demo on a mix tape was the same person who indirectly prompted me to establish contact with Jan. Eternal thanks Mr. Seanocide!)
The demo is extremely primitive and extremely, uh, extreme. The production is quite lo-fi, but not all that bad all things considered. The most noticeable aspect is the use of a drum machine. I can’t think of too many extreme metal or hardcore bands that used drum machines in the 80’s, so the lack of real drums makes the demo stand out. Also very prominent are the extremely loud and totally insane vocals. For a reference point, think of the vocals on the first two Nunslaughter demos, but harsher. The demo reaches speeds that were very fast for 1986. Parts of the demo are definitely as fast as, if not faster, than Napalm Death’s “Scum” LP, which wasn’t released until 1987.
The only info given on my dub’s accompanying sheet of notes, which came directly from Jan AG, was “HELLHOUSE (USA)—‘Life After Death’ demotape (1985)” along with the line “Sorry, no titles.” In late 2005, the demo was bootlegged onto a one-sided 7" with the different title “Burn For Peace.” Unfortunately, though, on this 7" one song is cut and a few of the songs seem to be out of order when compared to my copy of the demo. No titles are included on the 7", but the Encyclopaedia Metallum website lists titles for the six songs on the demo: “Kill Your Mother,” “Meat Cleaver,” “Rape Your Mother,” “Crucified,” “Rage,” and “Impaler”. Three of the songs from the demo appear (in very sped-up versions) on the obscure compilation tape “Grind Finale” released by Rigid Records (who would eventually release records by bands like Assück and G-Anx). On this comp tape, the songs are titled “Lick My Inards,” “Disembone,” and “Guts”. Which titles are correct? Until someone digs up a cover for this demo, your guess is as good as mine. It’s unfortunate the sleeve of the 7", which could have resolved the mysteries, is so ugly and devoid of information.
Encyclopaedia Metallum lists the date for the demo as 1986. When I asked Jan about this he replied that he received the demo in the spring of 1986, so to me it seems reasonable that it could have been recorded in (probably late) 1985. The demo was also spread around under the name Hellish Torment, most likely due to a mislabeled copy of the demo being circulated in the 80s tape-trading scene. Finally, Jan told me recently that Hellhouse was supposedly a project by a member of the New York hardcore band Straight Ahead. This information was provided by Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth) during his recent visit to Agathocles’ rehearsal space in Belgium. This claim seems believable to me and also should seem so to anyone who’s heard (the pre-Straight Ahead band) NYC Mayhem’s “Mayhemic Destruction” demo, as the guitar tone, playing style, and some of the riffs even, from it and the Hellhouse demo are very similar.