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Sunday Old School: Death SS

Heavy metal has been linked with Satanism practically since it was born. The genre's long standing fascination with the man downstairs, the occult and blasphemy has made it a target for religious groups, politicians and any religious leader who wants a spot on the local news. Of course, such accusations have usually been dismissed outright by the bands and fans of the genre, but sometimes these people actually find a band with Satanic links, such as today's featured band, Death SS and their singer, Steve Sylvester.

Sylvester, whose real name is Stefano Silvestri, a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, formed the band in the town of Pesaro in 1977, along with guitarist Paolo Catena and eventually recruiting Daniele Ugolini on bass and drummer Tomaso Castaldi. The group used many elements of horror and macabre theatrics to create a terrifying stage show, which went on to influence many black metal artists. Though they lasted for five years in their initial run, the band did not release a full length album, managing only two demos before Sylvester left the group and was replaced by Bologna native Sanctis Ghoram, who appeared on the EP, "Evil Metal" in 1983 before the group parted ways the following year.

Three years after their dissolution, Catena (better known as Paul Chain,) released the compilation record, "The Story of Death SS. 1977–1984," which was met with relative success. Following this, Sylvester trademarked the Death SS name and moved to Florence to create a new incarnation of the band, who released their debut full length album, "...In Death of Steve Sylvester" in 1988. The record was received very well and consisted mostly of old Death SS tracks re-recorded, as did the sophomore album, "Black Mass," which hit the shelves the next year and once more earned the band some solid reviews.

After a string of singles, the band released their first album of all new material, "Heavy Demons" in 1991. Fans were very pleased with the record but the band themselves decided to change their name to Sylvester's Death, due to concerns about the impact of their moniker in Germany. Under this name, they released their first official live album, "The Cursed Concert," as well as a home video, which drew controversy due to the topless woman prominently displayed on the cover. In time however, the group reverted back to the Death SS name and released their fourth album, "Do What Thou Wilt" in 1997 through Sylvester's own record label, Lucifer Rising.

Death SS's return to full length records allowed them to build their reputation back up and continued to do so with the release of another live album, "Il Ritorno Degli Occulto" in 1998 before the group partnered with producer Neil Kernon, known for working with the likes of Judas Priest and Rush, for their next album, "Panic." The record was partially recorded in the United States and was released in 2000 and featured some songs included on the singles and EPs that led up to full length, which was followed in 2002 by "Humanomalies," notable for its inclusion of the Rolling Stones cover, "Sympathy for the Devil."

Following a four year break between albums, Death SS returned with "The 7th Seal" in 2006. It was the last to feature the industrial sound the band had been experimenting with since "Do What Thou Wilt." It was announced soon after the album's release that the group had decided to call it a day and had decided to perform a series of "farewell" shows, including appearances at such festivals as Headbanger's Open Air in 2008.

As is the case of so many bands however, Death SS came back in 2012, with a new album appropriately entitled, "Resurrection" being released in 2013. Since then, the band has released two EPs and a split with fellow Italian black metal forefathers, Bulldozer and continue to perform live. It is not yet known when or if Death SS will return to the studio for their next slab of sonic Satanism, but they will always be an important band in the development of extreme metal, one which all adherents should know the name of.

Death SS - "Zombie"

Death SS - "Horrible Eyes"

Death SS - "Heavy Demons"

Death SS - "The Way of the Left Hand"

Death SS - "Let the Sabbath Begin"

Death SS - "Sinful Dove"

Death SS - "The Darkest Night"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Death SS"

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1. LARDASS writes:

Great write up on a criminally underrated band. Shame that more people aren't aware of them.

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Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks man, glad you liked it!

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