I have been a constant companion of the label since 2002. The first few years were simply incredible. All these years Mr. Cobb has always surprised me with unique tunes that no other label releases like this. Julian always manages to inspire me with different styles and beats.
"Somewhere in the middle of all this Deathcchant caught the attention of sections of the notoriously snobby UK dance music press, chiefly Thomas H. Green of DJ Magazine. Not only did Green review Deathchant releases in his column, he actually did a whole article on the label featuring the work in progress of what later became the kung-fu massacre ‘Way of the Homeboy Pt 2"
the label that taught me the true underground sounds in the late 90's after hearing producer/hellfish/dolphin etc in the technodrome and at various other dark places within the UK...with tunes like no more rock & roll and only i can do it...fucked up split into pieces sounds of this label entice the true underground massive into it's web...wicked overview by jayfive says it all really
It’s an evening sometime in April 2005 and Zane Lowe is on Radio 1. Something halfway through his playlist that night amongst all the insipid (and mostly American) indie-rock stands out a mile and Zane is pretty excited about it. What starts off as sounding like its going to be a hip-hop tune for the first 30 seconds of so suddenly thunders off into 180+bpm chaos underpinned with 1986 vintage Ice-T rhyming. Its ‘U Don’t Quit’ by Hellfish from ‘Round III’ (Deathchant 43) and god only knows what the Radio 1 audience makes of it. Thing is, though this tune is treated as some kind of novelty, its not the first time Deathchant has graced the Radio 1 airwaves and it wouldn’t be the last.
Anyone who has had even the slightest interest in the harder end of techno has bought or enjoyed a Deathchant release. It’s a label whose output can elicit praise as Mike Paradinas and Manu Le Malin, get airplay on Radio 1 from everyone from the late John Peel to latter-day hard dance messiah Kutski and fit in on the dancefloor of the post-modern goonfest that is Bangface as it would in the back room at HTID or a dark grimy squat party.
Deathchant, under the control of Julian Cobb aka Hellfish emerged initially as a continuation of his breakbeat hardcore releases on Dance Bass. The later releases on its sub-label Bogwoppa (which was still operational alongside Deathchant as late as 1996) straddled the divide between happy hardcore and harder Dutch gabber but it was in the grooves surrounding the grinning demonic face of the Deathchant logo where the real innovation was happening.
Right from the first few releases it was clear that the label had its own sound, noticeable by their absence were many of the already clichéd elements being turned out by Dutch gabber labels at the time and in were swathes of distortion, classic hip hop samples a-plenty and tracks that bent and twisted in all sorts of unnatural directions.
Unlike many UK hardcore techno labels, Deathchant lived to see the start of the new millennium and finished off the 90s ploughing a deeper, darker furrow while a lot of gabber was still recovering from the end of a DJ Paul-led foray into what was basically hi-speed euro-pop. The label from the very beginning had its own very distinctive sound and wasn’t afraid to take chances, for example ‘Serious Evil Shit Mission 3’ has a sprawling intro of crushing hip hop breaks, filters and distortion that teases away for over 4 minutes before that sample from the video game ‘Tekken’ sets the track off like an explosion in a petrol station.
But mostly the Deathchant sound in the first few years of its existence was old skool rap samples coupled with diamond-hard beats. Witness DJ Producer taking a sample as familiar as Rakim’s ‘Pump Up The Volume’ lyrics, spread them over a pitch-shifting kick in ‘Only I Can Do It’ and sending it off in all sort of crazy directions. It’s no surprise then, that with so many tracks featuring such infectious hooks, to hear DJ at smaller events or DJ competitions play entire sets of Deathchant tracks and probably still isn’t to this day.
Up until release 20 the label had featured all-UK artists such as Diplomat, Dolphin and Producer alongside Hellfish himself but release 21 featured French duo Micropoint (DJ Radium and Al Core) who had made a big impression on the underground as far back as 1995. The Micropoint two tracker was more industrial-sounding than previous Deathchant fare with “Static Anger” in particular sounding like a fist-fight in a steelworks. It also brought to the UK audience’s attention that sound that would be later designated ‘Frenchcore’ with that familiar off-beat bass buzz. It seemed after this point the label explored more and more complex arrangements and a darker, head-down sound such as ‘The Uridium Project’ on Deathchant 23 and Hellfish’s tearing of early classic track ‘The Ripper’ to almost unrecognizable shreds on release 27 - The R.I.P EP.
However, the old skool rap samples weren’t completely left out. Producer releases like ‘Deep, Charismatic & Edgy’ with sections lifted from the likes of Public Enemy for instance. Somewhere in these release is the beginning of the intricate style of production that would make his own Rebelscum label so celebrated.
Later on things went from sampling hip-hop to more or less full-scale remixes as Hellfish went deep undercover as the ‘Itchy Trigger Finger Niggers’ to release the 2 ‘Stroid’ sneaky white labels which featured vocals from Run DMC – Run’s House and Eminem – Drug Ballad. These tracks, along with 4 DJ/scratch tool breaks albums made it clear that the label wore its influences very clearly on its sleeve.
Somewhere in the middle of all this Deathcchant caught the attention of sections of the notoriously snobby UK dance music press, chiefly Thomas H. Green of DJ Magazine. Not only did Green review Deathchant releases in his column, he actually did a whole article on the label featuring the work in progress of what later became the kung-fu massacre ‘Way of the Homeboy Pt 2’. This is something of a coup in a magazine which was at at the time more interested in which footballers and pop stars were taking up DJs and the antics of self-styled ‘celebrity’ promoters.
Likewise the label caught the ear of IDM golden boy and owner of Planet Mu Mike Paradinas who, despite making student-friendly noodly ‘intelligent’ techno as far back as 1994, knew a banging tune when he heard one. And so not only have both Hellfish and Producer appeared on compilations and stand-alone releases on Planet Mu, Paradinas himself turned in a sterling performance on Deathchant 30 as Rude Ass Tinker. Thus the complexities and raw energy of Deathchant was exposed to a whole new audience who otherwise may well have dismissed it out of hand (usually before even listening to it) as ‘that gabber shit’.
As the 2000s moved on, the Deathchant name and its artists became more and more in demand throughout Europe. For some years the monopoly at the large events on the other side of the Channel were held by native artists and occasionally others from mainland Europe. But increasingly due to exposure to the music via parties and the internet, Hellfish and Producer were booked regularly for DJs set and live sets. Nowadays their Ableton-driven sets are a staple of ‘Industrial’ or ‘Terror’ rooms at uber-raves up and down the continent.
Deathchant has also been a label happy to nurture new UK talent from artists who in their turn were influenced down the years by the original Deathchant sound such as Teknoist, El_Fin and Autopsy & Tugie. The label took the brave move of giving an artist like Micron (who had only had a handful of releases) the space to experiment with the double-pack album ‘Globalisation’ whereupon he proceeded to out-Hellfish the man himself with tracks sliced and diced to microscopic levels
It was around the time of ‘Globalisation’s release that Deathchant’s longtime distributor folded. Luckily Simon Underground almost instantaneously stepped into the breach and seamlessly brought Deathchant under the wing of Underground Music, so much so that most fans of the label didn’t even notice the switch.
As part of the UM stable, Hellfish realized it was a good time to look back as well as look forward and the cannily-titled ‘Anti-eBay Weapon’ series was released to save the masses from paying upwards of 20GBP for any of the early Deathchant releases. Featuring an even spread of tracks from the first 20 or so records, the AEW’s flew out of the shops and at time of writing fetch amounts on the second-hand market comparable to some of the originals.
After 50+ singles, 10+ albums, several compilations, a stamped metal cake tin filled with goodies, airplay all over Radio 1 and tracks licensed across Europe, the USA and beyond. The label recently moved its marketing and distribution to Audio Sickness, a international collaboration of like-minded artists and label-owners under the auspices of Bryan Fury and Hellfish (now based in France). So after 15 years or so it finally comes to pass that the label most synonymous with UK hardcore techno no longer operates out of the UK. But still, Britain’s loss is Europe’s gain.
With Hellfish playing live and releasing more music than ever on Deathchant and other label concerns such as Born Ultraviolent alongside appearances on other people’s labels such as Third Movement and Absurd Audio, it seems that both the beats and that much-photoshopped face with the fanged grin will be around for some time to come.
Top UK label run by DJ Hellfish. If you know Hellfish then you know his style stands for quality music. Which is also the standard for Deathchant. Lots of top producers have made releases on this label. The style of this label ranges from hardcore with lots of hip-hop influences to the dark and pounding UK Hardcore. Must have for people into the UK Hardcore sound !