There's no doubt about the fact that the Ruhr area was the birthplace of German Thrash Metal. Kreator, Sodom, Living Death and even one-hit wonders such as Violent Force (Velbert) all came from working-class towns graced by bleak industrial buildings and mass unemployment. The same goes for Darkness. They formed on the spot on December 1st 1984 after a legendary gig at the Zeche Carl in Essen, where Destruction, Iron Angel and Tormentor, an early incarnation of Kreator, had been playing. They had everything: the name of the band, Darkness (Destroyer was an early alternative name), the concept, and the pseudonyms, namely Torturer (Lacky), Agony (Hartmut Schöner) and Skull (Andreas Becker).
Darkness' first album »Death Squad«, originally released in 1987 on Tales of Thrash, a subsidiary label of GAMA, became an instant Teutonic Thrash Classic. This classic piece of German Thrash Metal has just been re-released on High Roller Records in a strictly limited edition.
“We had already demoed 'Iron Force', 'Death Squad' and 'Phantasmagoria',“ explains vocalist/drummer Lacky. ”And there was also 'Armageddon' but we had given this one to New Renaissance Records. The rest of the songs on »Death Squad« was all brand new material.” “I always thought »Death Squad« was the best we could deliver at this point in time, I still like the record,” he continues. “We had a bit of time pressure and no real experience in the studio. Bearing all this in mind, »Death Squad« was quite an achievement for us.”
In 1987 Noise Records, Steamhammer and Roadrunner were probably the most important labels for German Thrash Metal bands. However, Darkness signed with GAMA. Lacky explains: “Especially for Darkness GAMA had formed a sublabel called Tales of Thrash. They did a good job at self-promotion. GAMA had their own little studio, international distribution, we were promised free copies of the album. This all sounded quite good at the time. We discovered much later that not everything was as nice as it sounded.“ “It all started out very promising,” reminisces Lacky. “GAMA did full-page ads in the magazines when the record came out. Unfortunately, this was about it. They did not do much else. All the promotion that followed was handled by the band, based on the contacts I had gathered by mailing out our demos to every corner of the world. GAMA did not put in any more efforts – and sold the record like crazy (at some point in time we were told 25,000 copies had been sold). In retrospect, it was a mistake to sign with GAMA. It was the first label that had offered us a deal. Our friends from Kreator and Sodom were already selling albums by the truckload and were touring internationally. I guess we wanted to keep up with them and not wait any longer ...”
“You live and learn,” says Lacks. “I still think »Death Squad« was a good album. I still love the album cover – a total classic. Of course it was inspired by Slayer's »Live Undead« record. Those zombies carrying guns – that was way cool!”
So as we all know, Darkness have not become as big as Kreator, Sodom and Destruction. According to Lacky, this was mainly down to the record company's lack of financial backing: “If we had toured, it might have turned out differently. We had two offers to go on the road in Europe, one with Wehrmacht and the other one with Dark Angel. Both tours got canceled because of stupid accidents, dumb tour managers an wannabe booking agencies. A tour with Kreator got scratched at the last minute because GAMA was not willing to pay for the tour support. So we did a lot of single gigs but no nationwide tour. That's life.”
After »Death Squad« Darkness released two more albums: »Defenders Of Justice« and »Conclusion & Revival«. However, it seems as if fans still regard »Death Squad« as the classic Darkness album. “That probably holds true for most of our fans,” analyzes Lacky. “But »Defenders Of Justice« has some standing as well. »Conclusion & Revival« takes a backseat, mainly because of its unusual production values. But still, the album has its followers, especially in Asia.”
“The rights to »Death Squad« has reverted to us,” says Lacky. “That's why High Roller is re-releasing it now. The other albums will hopefully follow. The label did a fantastic job with our demo vinyl boxed set. As long as we got asked, I will work together with High Roller Records any time. Steffen and his crew know how to do it. It's an honour for us to be on that label!”
Especially in the mid-1980's there was a big camaraderie among Ruhr area Thrash bands. Lacky confirms: “Yeah, the guys from Violent Force were my first pen pals. They also organized the first-ever Darkness show in Velbert. We met the Sodom guys mostly at parties. Our contacts with Kreator were tighter. When they lost their rehearsal space, we shared our room with them for quite a long time. A lot of the Thrash guys I knew since times at primary school. It was indeed one big scene. Quite unlike today.”