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Sunday Old School: Black Death

It's funny how bands can create a legacy for themselves, especially if they've only released one album. The Sex Pistols are probably the most famous example of a band which only released one (proper) album but their influence is still heard in music today. There were renowned groups associated with the grunge scene who went on to be regarded highly after one studio effort too such as Mother Love Bone and Temple Of The Dog, while side projects such as Nailbomb from Sepultura's, Cavalera brothers and Fudge Tunnel singer Alex Newport, as well as Control Denied from Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner also have become cult favourites. Today's article will look at another band who only managed one album before breaking up, though in their time, they were able to gain mainstream attention and even be credited with opening doors for black musicians in rock. That band was named, Black Death.

Black Death began in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977, starting out as a trio comprising of guitarist Greg Hicks, bass player Clayborn Pinkins and drummer Phil Bullard, before recruiting vocalist/guitarist Siki Spacek (real name: Reginald Gamble.) In 1979, before the musicians had even recorded a demo together, Pinkins was murdered by gunfire and the group began recruiting a series of bass players, eventually settling on Darrell Harris. They made their first recording together in 1981, which included the song, "Outcast," a track which was to earn heavy airplay on a local college radio show hosted by Brian Sergents.

After recording a second demo which was never released, the group recorded a third, from which two songs were featured on the "Cleveland Metal Compilation" album. Their appearance on the compilation garnered interest from record labels and eventually, Black Death signed with Auburn Records, through whom they released their self-titled debut album in 1984. The record contained seven songs and came with a second 7" vinyl that comprised of the songs, "Here Comes the Wrecking Crew" and "Retribution." Its initial run was limited to only two thousand copies, which has made it a valuable collectors item over the years, but more importantly, the music was received very well by heavy metal fans, several of whom have cited it as an underground classic of American metal music.

The band developed a strong fan base, particularly among African American metal listeners who were inspired by an all black heavy metal group. Despite their growing status however, Black Death disappeared without releasing another album, having decided to disband in 1988 after several lineup changes. The members went on to form different musical projects, perhaps most notably Mandrake, which featured Siki Spacek and Phil Bullard and frequently performed Black Death material.

Following the tragic passing of Bullard in 2008, Greg Hicks decided to put together a new version of the band in 2009, featuring members of Destructor and Angel Corpse among others, though this would last only for a year. The rights to the name of Black Death was disputed by Hicks and Spacek, with each attempting to carry on the name of the group in different ways before settling their differences and sharing the rights to the name. Though it seems improbable that any new material will surface from Black Death, fans will be interested in hearing the upcoming re-release of their debut, the release date of which is expected to be revealed soon and they will always have a place in the hearts of old school heavy metal fans who knew that music knows no colour.

Black Death - "Night of the Living Death"

Black Death - "The Scream of the Iron Messiah"

Black Death - "Streetwalker"

Black Death - "Black Death"

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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