One of Germany's -- indeed, the world's -- pioneering thrash metal bands, Living Death's history dates back as far as 1981, but their rough-and-tumble style and independently released albums never broke them beyond the heavy metal underground. Hailing from the town of Velbert, located halfway between D++sseldorf and Dortmund, Living Death underwent the same transition from traditional through speed and finally into thrash metal as most first-generation Teutonic thrashers (Helloween, Grave Digger, Iron Angel, etc.), eventually obtaining a record deal with local Earthshaker Records for the release of 1984's Vengeance of Hell LP. A somewhat mottled affair, heavily indebted to Metallica, sonically speaking, the album was buoyed mostly by the unchecked energy and enthusiasm of bandmembers Reiner Kelch (guitar), Frank Fricke (guitar), Dieter Kelch (bass), and Frank Schubring (drums), as well as the distinguishing, vicious style of singer Thorsten Bergmann (clearly inspired by Accept's incomparable Udo Dirkschneider).
But Living Death quickly improved and arguably hit their creative stride -- if never the sales jackpot -- with 1985's outstanding Metal Revolution album (preceded by the Watch Out EP, which introduced drummer Andreas Oberhoff), then kept the wheels churning with well-received follow-ups like 1986's Back to the Weapons EP and 1987's Protected from Reality album (both featuring the cleverly named Metal Steif on drums). Also around this time, a few Living Death members -- specifically guitarist Fricke and bassist Reiner Kelch -- became secretly involved with another group called Mekong Delta, whose own more successful releases regrettably started planting the seeds of discontent within the original band's ranks.
So after marking 1988 with nothing more than a live EP and butting heads throughout the recording of 1989's unusually experimental World Neuroses album, Living Death experienced a schism that saw Bergmann and Steif launching a new, competing band named simply L.D. (and, later, Sacred Chaos, before giving up the fight). The remaining Kelch brothers recruited new singer Gerald Thelen and drummer Frank Ullrich and recorded 1991's Killing in Action album, but soon realized there was nothing left to kill for, and retired the Living Death moniker shortly thereafter. A two-disc Living Death retrospective would emerge in 1994, but the band has largely been relegated to the darker reaches of the thrash metal filing cabinet, even though its albums remain quite popular among collectors. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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