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Poison (Ger) - Into the Abyss

This is not the glam metal band. This Poison was a proto-death metal band from Germany. Named after a Venom song, they formed in the city of Ulm in 1982. Over the next five years, they recorded a slew of demos. In 1987, they participated in the Teutonic Invasion Part One sampler LP from Roadrunner Records. They were hoping the label would sign them so they could release their full length Into the Abyss, which they had finished recording just a few months earlier. Unfortunately for them, Roadrunner turned them down in favor of Violent Force and Paradox. Discouraged by this turn of events, they broke up. Into the Abyss sat around collecting dust until Midian Creations picked it up in 1993, who then gave it a remaster and a proper release. It received two re-releases after that, first by Home Tape Cruelties in 2013, then by F.O.A.D. Records in 2019.

Poison took what Venom created and made it even more extreme. The production has a dark and grimy quality, as if it came from some long forgotten cave. Despite this, the bass work of Andy Krampute can be heard very well. Then again, this was back when most metal bands actually cared about that instrument. Drummer Alex Gilliar plays a lot of d-beats that draw influence from Slayer. These are broken up by slower rhythms. He also includes plenty of fills. Most interesting of all are the proto-blast beats he plays. Keep in mind that this was recorded just a few months before Napalm Death released Scum.

Vocalist Armin Weber performs hoarse growls that sound like a more brutal version of Venom frontman Cronos. They're done very well and are certainly far more extreme than what most others were doing around the same time. He also performs screams that are more influenced by German thrash metal. The guitars are handled by Uli Hildenbrand. He proves his skill and ingenuity by playing palm-muted riffs that are much more sinister than what his contemporaries were playing. These passages are made more interesting with the inclusion of numerous arpeggios. Many of his riffs and chord progressions are still rooted in thrash metal, and even here he shines by making them thoughtful and catchy. My favorites are those on "Slaves (Of the Crucifix)." And then there are his solos, which are eerie, dissonant, and make the music a lot more atmospheric.

The songwriting is also something to behold. Most extreme thrash metal bands back then kept their songs rather short, but not Poison. The shortest song on here is a little over seven minutes long. Every track is an epic, but they keep the experience from getting repetitive with constant tempo changes and a wide variety of riffs that always know to show up when they are most needed. One minute they're playing infernal thrashing riffs and the next they're playing slow dirges. Despite these changes being so sudden, they somehow feel natural.

Imagine if this album had actually been released in 1987. Imagine how influential it would have been. Imagine what this band would have made if they had stuck together. Alas, such thoughts will forever be speculation. What is clear is that Into the Abyss is a fantastic piece of metal history that deserves to be preserved. If you're a fan of the old and obscure, then you owe it to yourself to listen to this.