In a previous post, Cobras kicked over a trio of albums by Gehenna – the Norwegian one, the one with keyboards – and gave a fleeting mention to the other Gehenna. Now I don't know how his taste in these things lies specifically, but the other Gehenna, the American one with no keyboards or corpse paint, was always my preferred variant. I'm not gonna do some blow-by-blow comparison of the two, that'd just be a rotten apples-to-rotten oranges situation (though apparently iTunes can't keep the two straight) , but I'll let my choice in Gehennas stand on its own merit.
When I was getting into hardcore and punk in the mid-90s, there was some really killer shit out there, but little of it could touch the bleak mean-spiritedness of Gehenna. Theirs was a fearsome rumble, lacking an exact point of reference. It was heavy as shit, generally fast, and dark as fuck. One can pick out hints of Hellhammer or other proto-death metal bands, but the delivery was far too stripped-down to align itself that strongly with metal. It often got lumped in with the “Holy Terror hardcore” sound – Integrity, Starkweather, et. al. - but was far rougher sounding, eschewing the tough guy vibe of the former and the artiness of the latter (though I do love both bands) in favor of a succession of short, blunt explosions. While the two bands didn't really sound alike, Gehenna sometimes reminds me of Rorschach, in the sense that both bands melded fairly disparate strands of metal and hardcore without falling into the dreaded metalcore trap. It was hostility embodied and it laid waste most other bands that tried to use negativity and edginess as some pose.
Theirs was an existence clouded in rumor and innuendo, with stories of their sketchiness abounding. Growing up in a small town in Virginia, I was pretty far from the thick of things, but tales about the band all being homeless, about them not owning instruments, about singer Mike Cheese stabbing somebody all came down the pipe at some point. One could also call to mind the story of a more recent reunion show where everybody but Mike Cheese quit a week before the show, and rather than tell anybody, he let the show go on and in lieu of a performance, he walked out onstage in front of a sizable crowd, sat down, smoked a joint, ate a burrito, then left. I couldn't attest to the veracity of any of this (though in the days of acquiring albums by sending well-concealed cash, Gehenna's was the first album I never received in return for my hard-earned lawn mowing money), but I can speak for the ferocity of the band's music.
I can't say whether Illcon readers will prefer this to the Euro Gehenna, so to at least bridge the gap a little bit, I included a link to their most metallically-titled release (also the only full-length that's out of print), 2000's Negotium Perambulans In Tenebris, a raging chunk of churning, blackened hardcore that lays waste pretty much any band attempting this particular style. I'm thankful that this band is still putting out albums, but I'm even more thankful that they've sacrificed none of the brutality that made them an unstoppable force in the first place.