Death SS – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Armageddon” (High Roller Records)
Battle Helm Rating
A cult band if there ever was one, Death SS was formed by Steve Sylvester (aka Stefano Silvestri) and guitarist Paul Chain (Paolo Catena) in 1977, combining elements of theatrical horror rock as influenced by Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown’s occult shock rock and proto heavy metal. Despite changing trends over time, Death SS have largely remained true to their style and loyal fans, with most of their albums being released on Sylvester’s own label, Lucifer Rising. Indeed, coming 5 years since its predecessor, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Armageddon” was released last year but also caught the attention of High Roller Records, who wanted to give the album a wider international exposure, and deservedly so, given how good the music was. With a solid line up behind him, including keyboardist Freddy Delirio who joined in the mid 90s, Sylvester’s talent is etched across the 13 tracks here that have a breathtaking range from the band’s own renowned ‘horror music’ to goth, electro rock, modern metal – and even a whistling ballad! With Al De Noble’s superb guitar driving the fluid melodies on ‘Hellish Knights’, the drums and bass provide the heavy back beat over which Sylvester’s high vocals and screams lead up to the catchy chorus. After a demon cacophony intro on ‘Slaughterhouse’, the pumping groove courtesy of Bozo Wolff’s classy kick drum beats immediately grabs as the guitars add their grimness although Delirio’s keys provide their own light hearted touch to ensure it’s not all doom and depression. ‘Madness Of Love’ brings on the goth big time with its suave new wave beat, while Sylvester’s deep, dry vocals add the final touch to this darkly romantic track, while ‘Promised Land’ with its hard electro beats brought back memories of White Zombie on this strong dance track, although Delirio’s organ and Noble’s fiery rock n roll guitar definitely gave it an identity of its own. In complete contrast was the acoustic ballad of ‘The Glory Of The Hawk’ which was reminiscent of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ in its melancholy, although here presented with occult lyrics and even more exquisite guitar from Noble. Closing with a power rocker in ‘Forever’, Sylvester shreds his pipes along to the heavy riffs and pounding drums, although the ever present classy melodies and a catchy chorus show that despite their seeming brutal name (which in fact is a contraction of In Death of Steve Sylvester), there’s plenty of beauty here too. With bands like Lordi and Powerwolf attaining success and owing more than a nod to Death SS, Sylvester and his band must surely deserve much more themselves….