Black Metal post 1990 leaves me cold, and not in a good way. It is neither black enough nor metal enough and rather than the ultimate outsider art it set out to be it has become just another music trend for dilletantes to obsesses over before moving on to the next scene. Emo kids in day-glo headbands sport Burzum t-shirts and corpse paint is no longer a talismanic channelling of the dead but a tired joke. But it was not always so. In the 1980’s Black Metal was a term of contempt and something far far beyond even the mainstream of metal, which was itself on the margins of society. These where the days when Venom were regularly voted the worst band in the world in the annual Kerrang readers poll – the same mag that slagged Slayer, VoiVod, Celtic Frost and Bathory’s early albums before suddenly remembering around 1986 that they’d liked them all along – just in time to pump the mid 80’s thrash movement for every penny.
There are always bands who get left behind. Who now remembers Voor or Black Shepherd, and although terms like “primitive black thrash” are thrown around by people too young to own a cassette player it is rare to find something that actually lives up to it’s boasts. And then there is Poison. If you want to know where modern Black Metal gets it’s fascination with the Cult of Incompetence look no further than Poison. Modern Black Metal tries too hard to perfect a sound that bands like Poison got by the sheer fucking bad luck of not being very good musicians, having access to poor quality studios and releasing their material on cassette. Just as Venom probably wanted to be Judas Priest but never quite learned the chords Poison never quite managed to rise to the standard of Lant/Dunn/Bray. This is seriously primitive blackened thrash metal, the wailing leads aping King/Hanneman like an imbecile child trying to sing a hymn, the riffs lost in layers of fuzz and the ghastly vocals mixed with all the lumpen horror one would expect of a cheap studio in Ulm in 1984.
Given the influence that bestial 80’s German metal had on the Latin American scene it comes as no surprise to find a fan site to Poison hosted from Brazil. Maybe the brutality of those early recordings from Sodom, Destruction and Kreator spoke to something in the Latin make-up that the North American and UK bands could not. Maybe it was their blasphemy, aggression and violence. Maybe the sight of Testament dressed in five pairs of matching Reebok basketball boots just looked a bit fake. Either way Poison were an evolutionary dead end. Their sound did not progress or develop, it stayed locked in the past and remains the sonic equivalent of being flogged by a rusty bulletbelt. For when Hellhammer is too weak and you really do want something buried by time and dust.