Damn The Machine – by David E. Gehlke

The Story of Noise Records

Ah, this book really and truly is a thing of beauty and joy forever! It really does do what it promises, telling the fascinating tale of Noise Records in great—but always engrossing—detail.

Noise’s artists are still relevant today. Whilst in the excellent Steamboat Music in Limerick recently, I noticed the Celtic Frost reissues selling well, which proves that Noise were ahead of the curve and remain relevant. A cursory glance at Noise’s roster: the aforementioned Celtic Frost, Voivod, Kreator, Hellhammer, Sabbat, Tankard, Watchtower, Skyclad… Gives a mighty indication of the musical majesty and muscle of Noise.

Noise mainman Karl-Ulrich Walterbach had a sometimes strained relationship with his bands and this is handled fairly by David Gehlke in his book. In fact, David doesn’t shirk any subject. For instance, Skyclad/Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier and Walterbach didn’t get on well, and both parties are allowed their say in the book. Walterbach, in particular, does not speak well of Martin. For my own part, I know Martin, and I have always found him to be a kind, sensitive generous soul; he once gifted me signed copies of Sabbat’s albums, and it must also be stated that he is a truly superb lyricist. Those first two Sabbat albums, now so influential, are amongst the greatest British metal albums ever. (I would love it if some enterprising label released their early demos, and flexi-disc on CD and vinyl—it would be a splendid thing! It would also be great if Andy Sneap and Martin would settle their differences; life is, as they say, too short!) As to Skyclad, just look at the whole folk metal scene. (I would to see their albums all get deluxe reissues on CD and vinyl as well.)

It is impossible to describe just how wonderful a job David Gehlke has done without writing a review that is at least as long as his extensive book. It is taking willpower to resist sharing endless quotes with the readers! I can only pick a few personal highlights.

The coverage of Celtic Frost is superb, from the highs of albums like ‘Morbid Tales’, ‘To Mega Therion’, and ‘Into The Pandemonium’, to the absolute nadir of ‘Cold Lake’. It is very interesting to read about this in context: Frost had been emotionally and financially hammered at this point (Frost-hammered as it were!). Again, Karl and Tom Warrior did not get along.

Great credit is given rightly to the artist Andreas Marshall who did some great work for Noise.

Anyone reading this should be aware of the importance of Voivod, a band who truly have had a huge influence on the genre we love. It was sad to think of the loss of Piggy, who was alive when the great records Voivod made for Noise were recorded, but great that in his music he still lives. The book includes a great reproduction of artwork Away did for the World War III event, and of course, he has contributed a stunning cover to this book. (In some parallel universe, there is justice, and Voivod are bigger than Metallica. I was sad to note that Faith No More and Soundgarden supported Voivod on the ‘Nothingface’ tour; who would have imagined how things would have turned out for poor Chris Cornell, may he rest in peace.)

Of course, Helloween were a huge influence on what is now termed power metal, and had things gone differently, they could have been the next Iron Maiden. I think their sense of humour worked against them, which is a shame.

It’s also great to read about bands like Coroner and Watchtower, who, whilst not having the high profiles of some of the aforementioned bands, nevertheless were most worthy.

A great strength of ‘Damn The Machine’ is it makes you want to check all these bands out!

So, could we ever see another label like Noise? I think not. In those days fans and bands had a more tangible relationship. The fans bought their heroes’ music and supported the bands, enabling them to build up a profile, and take other bands out with them. Now, so-called ‘fans’ illegally download the music of bands they profess to ‘love’. This is why there will be no more Dios, Metallicas, Soundgardens, Black Sabbaths, or Iron Maidens, because the poor unfortunate bands trying to come up won’t be able to even make an existence, never mind a success. Every illegal download is a nail in the coffin of the music we love. (I once spoke of this to my friend Crin of Godreah Records: he wondered how long his record company could exist for, and we both remembered the days of actually getting letters from bands we loved. Who would write an actual physical letter now? I actually recently found some Away, by coincidence, had written.)

I must also praise the huge collection of photos in ‘Damn The Machine’. It would be worth purchasing the book just for these alone.

To conclude, I cannot recommend this book enough, and I also recommend you check out many of the great bands featured therein… preferably on vinyl!

Iron Pages

Deliberation Press

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Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).