Tom G Warrior: “We put so much fanaticism into Hellhammer, it’s nice to know it wasn’t wasted”

The day Kerrang! meets up with Tom G Warrior in London is part of a full-circle coincidence. In the early-’80s, as a teenager he saved what money he had and made the trip from Switzerland to the UK. It was something of a pilgrimage, to the buzzing hub of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, on which he would avail himself of seven-inch singles and records from the most exciting musical movement on the planet at the time.

On said trip, he also picked up two early issues of Kerrang! – like the records, unlike anything easily obtainable at home at the time. Excitedly, he took them back to his hotel near Paddington railway station, thrilled with his haul.

Four decades and change later, now 60, Tom is sat in more or less the same postcode, now reflecting on the earliest part of his career to that very outlet, from the offices of BMG records, by proxy linked to many NWOBHM bands. By complete accident, his manager has booked him into the exact same hotel.

“It’s a very strange coincidence,” he smiles. “All these things – the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Kerrang!, then and through the ’80s, that trip to London – it was all so important when I think about it. Getting those records, those magazines, being somewhere with a music scene, was very, very important and inspiring.”

Tom today stands as one of underground metal’s most celebrated and important figures, and rightly so. With Celtic Frost, he and his bandmates pioneered so much of what would become foundational for the whole of extreme metal to follow, bringing a sense of truly rule-breaking ambition to a scene that had yet to truly embrace such hard sounds. With his current band Triptykon, he remains a singular talent, both in his musical ideas, and the depths of morbid darkness with which he is able to imbue it.

It is Hellhammer whom Tom is here to talk about today, and their excellent new live album, Resurrection Of The Flesh, played under the banner of Triumph Of Death. Existing from 1982 to 1984, the band – eventually comprising Tom, late bassist Martin Eric Ain and drummer Steve Warrior – were like nothing on Earth at the time. With the frenzied roar of Motörhead and UK punk bands like Discharge, a touch of the NWOBHM thrill of Iron Maiden and Venom, and the darkness of Black Sabbath, plus a visual image that had the appearance of Lovecraft characters, they were instantly recognisable as extreme. This reflected their surroundings – “problematic” is a word Tom uses to describe their young lives at the time – and the music on their Satanic Rites demo and utterly essential Apocalyptic Raids EP is harsh, dark and morbidly thrilling.

The shows Triumph Of Death have played over the past few years represent the first live performances of much of this music. Before they morphed into Celtic Frost in 1984, Hellhammer were so shunned that gigs were impossible. Indeed, the shift to Frost as they became more proficient was to begin a new chapter away from their roots. In the years since, they have found a place as one of the most important bands in metal history, and in recent times have been asked, as Triumph Of Death, to revisit and honour this music live for the first time.

“It’s hard to believe that a record company has brought me to London to talk about Hellhammer’s music for a record they are putting out,” he reflects, “because at the time none of us would have believed it if you told us.”

But it’s happening. And with it, one of the slowest-blooming bands in metal history are getting the respect, recognition and good treatment they deserve.