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OLD TESTAMENT? TRY OLD SCHOOL! ISRAHELLBANGER TAPE LABEL RELEASES UNHEARD GEMS
Metal has always been a global phenomenon, spurred in the early days by tape-trading and interpersonal connections crossing over borders, continents and oceans. Were any trve sanctifiers of the Stamped Addressed Envelope granted a glimpse into a future where aerodynamic machines serve as portals allowing instant access to unreleased Taiwanese thrash demos, they’d probably refuse to believe such utopian prospects. Same people mainly whinge these days about how easy everything has become, and peculiarly enough, they have a point. Even without considering the value of a reward when arriving in the end of a quest that involves the dimensions of time and space, what many – both war-torn veterans and an increasing number of youngsters – miss is the aura of the object. So no matter how grateful we are for having music available to the literal snap of our fingers, we mourn the loss of the tangible, totemic experience of having the sounds we love placed in a box we can stare at and literally worship. This has nothing to do with consumerism: to make the dissertation short, the difference is that these objects have aesthetic, artistic and symbolic value. The problem with capitalism was never with objects per se – but with the sickening surplus of blatantly unnecessary ones.
Thus, the Indiana Jones-esque quest for precious items from faraway lands resumes. Enter Israhellbanger, a new-ish Israeli (duh) distro/label/zine founded and run by Ukrainian-born Sergei Pismeny who immigrated with his family to the unholyland at the age of nine, in 1996. You got the maths right, a 23 year old hell-bent on early thrash, death, black and trad metal and saluting the ’80s by releasing time-capsule-perfect local bands such as Hangman, Betraytor (not to be confused with ’90s Israeli thrashers Betrayer) and Morbid Tendency – on audio cassette tapes! Drool indeed! This is augmented by running a physical print zine, Evil’s Best, in all its A5 black & white glory and the endearing trappings of zine culture, 92 pages crammed with interviews with bands local and international.
“I found two outlets who still manufacture tapes,” says Pismeny, “and working with them was dodgy, my first release was held up a month and when I tried to sort out the second it took months just to get a quote…obviously there are kids who don’t even recognise the format, but I had people aged 15-40+ purchase them. Age is just a number.”
“I got addicted to the sound of drums/bass/electric guitar at the age of 4-5, through my old brother’s Soviet Rock tapes, but I discovered Iron Maiden’s music thanks to my classmate at the age of 15 and that’s when I started to explore the world of metal. I started the fanzine in the summer of 2008. It started as a combination of boredom during the later period of my military service and the desire to expose the local folks to good underground metal bands I’m into, since hardly anyone here knows about what lays beyond the mostly mediocre releases of the major labels nowadays. Since there’s no other metal-oriented fanzine here in Israel, I can say that I fill in some empty space…”
While a tiny secret universe of utterly kvlt releases already beckons at fans of the scarce and hard to find courtesy of Israhellbanger, it is their forthcoming release that will titillate hordes of grave robbers – a long-thought-lost 1986 demo by the born-to-be-kvlt Bestial Death’s equally kvlt-on-arrival tome entitled ‘Suicide Of The Immortal’. The Neanderthal thrash comprising it as filthy, mangled, and low-fi as it comes, complete with full-treble cymbals, distorted-due-to-going-into-red vocals, and riffs and solos resonating with basement stench.
“I heard about this ‘ghost’ demo from my friend Adir from Golgolot and one day discovered that Salem’s bass player Michael has a copy of it to this day, so he helped me contact one ex-member and supplied the necessary materials, and once I got to hear this demo myself – it was clear that we must release this stuff!”