Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Italian Wave of British Heavy Metal

 Over here in Italy there's a very good magazine called Classix Metal, that devotes itself to writing about 80s Heavy Metal of all shades. It's essentially a well-produced fanzine (which is surely the only way to describe a publication that has a nine page Raven retrospective or an article on Mausoleum Records). Still, it's all the better for it, meaning that it's enthusiastic about its subject matter and doesn't take itself too seriously.

In a recent issue there was an article that traced the history of Heavy Metal in Italy. This was interesting to me, as I don't normally associate sunny, Mediterranean countries with Heavy Metal (I'm trying to think of what could be the Italian version of Birmingham - Turin? Not quite the same).

One thing that struck me was that a lot of the Italian bands had names that would make the UKIP proud: Gunfire, Spitfire, Royal Air Force, Steel Crown and my personal favourite - Drunkards. It's an often overlooked fact how NWOBHM bands promoted British culture abroad - well, if you can call wearing a sleeveless Union Jack shirt promoting culture. Nonetheless, the net effect was that in the 80s, there were a raft of European Metal Bands being formed who had names straight out of the Warlord or Victor comics.

Having said all that, the band that really made an impression were the tastefully-named Death SS. The band were active from the late 70s until the late 80s and seem to have been a cross between Alice Cooper, Kiss and Scooby Doo Where Are You? You can see a picture of them from 1980 below (I scanned it directly from the magazine as I didn't fancy putting "Death SS picture" into Google).

And in case you're wondering - and I know you are - the Mummy played bass.

Still, everybody needs to move with the times (even a band with songs called Zombie Terror and Black Mummy), and as the 80s progressed Death SS, like so many other bands, weren't immune to the increasing popularity of Hair Metal. Look at the photo below from 1988.

Def Leppard meets the Wolf Man! Even the Mummy had a soft perm. The faun seems to have turned into a badger, too.


  1. Scary to relate Death SS were still on the go in 2006, when they very kindly sent me a CD.

    It's almost as they they wanted me arrested. Gits.

  2. See, that's why I wish I were a Music Journalist - you get all that cool music for free. I'm curious what the mummy looked like in 2006, but still not curious enough to put Death SS in Google.

    By the way, one of these days I will write a post about a metal band that you have never heard of, even if I have to make them up.

  3. Death SS is available on Amazon!!! I will purchase something soonest. And dont worry about searching for Death SS on wont get arrested ... probably ;-)

  4. I have a split cd featuring two bands: Satanic Warmaster and Gestapo 666. It's pretty rough, sounds like it was recorded on a cheap tape recorder by guys who got their instruments last week! ...But there is something almost quite good about the enthusiasm that comes through the chaotic noise of songs (?) such as: Ancient Womb of Evil & Gestapo of Satan!!!

  5. Is there really a band called Gestapo 666? I swear, there must be a Death Metal Fridge Magnet set with words like "666", "Satan" and "SS" and bands just name themselves by selecting a couple of magnets by random.