Fire And Steel

Sigurđur Nicolaison (bs), Steinţór Nicolaison (git, voc), Jóhann Richardsson (dr)

format: LP Side A:
  1. Fire And Steel
  2. Evil
  3. Heroes In Black

Side B:

  1. From The Grave
  2. Our Time Is Coming
  3. Cut You Down
  4. Flames Of Hell

year: 1987
country: Iceland
label: Draconian Records
#: 666
insert: no
edition: ?
rarity: 10/10


Well, there's just no competition to the title of The Ultimate 80's Black Metal Rarity, folks. The number of known copies of FLAMES OF HELL's mythical "Fire And Steel" album currently in collections throughout the world can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Boxfulls of Yellow Goats, Deathcrushes and various Colombian deathmongers are likely to turn up on your path to this unholy grail of dark & evil naughtiness and it may be wise to prepare yourself for the very likely possibility that you will never even see a copy with our own eyes. Digital copies are slowly getting into wider circulation though, and anyone investing enough time and effort should eventually be able to explore the legend for themselves. But why waste the time before first consulting your favorite Metal reviewer?

I really did my outmost to keep expectations at bay before finally getting to hear this album on CDR (no, I don't own it yet - yes, it's a bigass want!), but we all know how impossible that is, don't we? My first reaction was therefor 'stunned but awkwardly disappointed'. Fukking 'ell!! This is some weeeeeird shit, maaan... Wow. Hm... It certainly takes a while getting into. It's the bloody vocalist-dilemma once again. The comparison to Count Grishnak (sic?) of BURZUM I heard long ago was a bit too close to target I'm afraid. Imagine a demented, mishmash clone of the Norwegian twat, SABBAT-era Martin Valkyre and Tim Baker of CIRITH UNGOL. Said bands also spring to mind musically, but more than any others, HELLHAMMER is without a doubt the band of which they bare the most resemblance. Apart from the howling vox the guitar playing is another unique characteristic of theirs. The way Steinţór's playing goes from thunderous, malevolent riffing to noisy soloing overturns plenty of ideas of how you normally construct a Metal song. One wonders what a 2nd guitarist could have done to their sound. The faster songs have a slight MOTÖRHEAD-vibe to them, especially "Back From The Grave", but it's clear that FLAMES OF HELL weren't out to create a 'good time rock'n'roll feel' on their album. It's their Doom-songs, "Our Time Is Coming", "Flames In Hell" and "Heroes In Black" that's the most interesting. Especially "Heroes.." which is the only song I'd call really great, reminding me a bit of BLACK HOLE, but with a totally different attack. A truly dark, powerful and majestic piece of noise and a great way to end the last 10 minutes of your next Doom Metal mix-tape. Regarding the album as a whole, I can't really sympathize with the one's who call it crap nor with those who call it brilliant. Sure, it has potential, but plenty of flaws too, so therefor it will remain a curiosity rather than a classic in my book.

The beautiful centerpiece on the front cover was drawn by the third Nicolaison-brother, who was also the man behind Draconian Records. This label was actually an off-shot from the French-based brother's book-publishing company, the vessel he used for publishing his art. Another curious anecdote I've come across is the story of how the album was recorded. Apparently it was produced in a studio located in a YMCA building. When the head master of the building came by and heard the 'vocals' being recorded he not only banned the band from ever returning, but also evicted the studio from their facilities. (Christians - can't live with 'em, can't throw 'em to the lions...) Stories like this certainly begs the question of 'who the fuck were these people?!' in both bold and italics. Luckily I've come across a unique witness account by the drummer of Icelanders SOLSTAFIR:

"The Nicolai brothers are definitely the most strange persons I have ever met. They all look very much the same (and have done so since the 80´s, although they are all around 40 years old now), with long black hair, always wear leather coats, white shirts, black pants and almost knee high SS boots. They are very much into occultism and satanism. /.../ I think no one knows them well. They are truly mysterious. Jóhann (or Jói Motörhead as he is called) is a very different person. He came from the late 70´s - early 80´s punk scene, but looks like a fairly normal person today..."
In conclusion, the most fascinating aspect of old forgotten, deathlike bands like FLAMES OF HELL, PARABELLUM, GRAF SPEE, REENCARNACION etc are the way they play around with and diversify our preconceptions of the old-school Black Metal sound. It would be interesting to hear a new band taking a few influences from these sickos rather than the predictable BATHORY/MAYHEM/C FROST/SARCÓFAGO rip-offs we're seeing far too much of nowadays, wouldn't it?

Thanx to Peter Ott for the cdr, photos and additional info.

Listen to this record here. (provided by the Vibrations Of Doom webzine)

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