Death SS is an Italian rock group founded in 1977 by Steve Sylvester with the aim of forming a band that encloses inside of itself all its particular interests for occultism, horror films, erotic comics and rock music, in an original manner. The singer, then just a teenager, decided to apply the concept of “glamor” with a strong visual characterization to five characters inspired by stories of terror, the vampire (the singer), the mummy (the bassist), the wolf man (the drummer) , the zombie (the guitarist) and the phantom of the opera (the keyboard player), animating them with the iconoclastic charge received by the then nascent punk scene, from which to gather the extreme and shocking ideological aspects, developed however musically in a heavy manner. The musicians of the project, in addition to essential musical skills, also had to possess the right attitude and the phisique-du-role to impersonate its characters.
From this point of view DEATH SS (literally “in DEATH of Steve Sylvester”, name chosen to mean the symbolic ”death” of the human state of Steve Sylvester (SS) and its rebirth as initiated under the light of Occult, without any political reference in the two “S”), are to be considered as the inventors of that musical phenomenon that a few years later will be known as “Black Metal”. The shocking live-show of the band aroused a great echo in the stagnant national scene of that time, immediately earning to the quintet a reputation of “cult-band”. Starting from a musical carpet of horrifying sound effects, the group, from a stage set up with material stolen by cemeteries (gravestones, human skulls, funeral crowns, etc.), involved the audience in the scene with bloodshed, rotten meat, worms and human bones, while on stage the performers / witches of the band mimiced, completely naked, complex rituals of sexual magic.
The extreme life-style of the young formation soon had tragic consequences that led in 1982 to the death of the original bass player and the split of the band, which in the meantime had only recorded some self-produced singles. In 1988 Steve Sylvester refounded the band with new good musicians of the Florentine area and, thanks to a contract with Discomagic and gave birth to “In Death of Steve Sylvester”, the first real studio album of the band (in the previous years it was circulated a bootleg containing demos and live recordings of the first line-up, entitled “the story of Death SS 1977/1984”).
Then, on more or less a regular basis other albums followed, albums such as “Black Mass”, the live “The Cursed Concert” and “Heavy Demons”, (produced by Sven Conquest, with guest the legendary actor Oliver Reed, and first gold disc of the band, cause it exceeded twenty-five thousand copies sold in its various editions). All the records was marked by a constant qualitative and stylistic evolution and by many revolutions in the line-up, that keeps over the time the only constant presence of the leader Sylvester. After alternating contractual events, the group arrived in 1996 to an agreement with Self Distribution, with whom Steve founded LUCIFER RISING Records, a label that sees him also engaged in the function of artistic director. The first birth of the label was the compilation “Horror music – the best of DEATH SS”, a double collection with unpublished, historical pieces and unobtainable old singles.
The following year the group entered the English Academy Studios, where, under the guidance of Mags and Keith Appleton (producers of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Cradle of Filth, etc.), they record the album “Do what thou wilt “, a sort of concept on the magical-sexual work of the famous” magus “Aleister Crowley, always one of the main inspiration points for the philosophy of Steve Sylvester.
In 1999, after the release of the documentary “Night of the living Death SS”, a DVD containing clips and excerpts from the tour just ended, the group moved to Texas at the Tornillo Village Productions, where, together with the producer Neil Kernon (winner of a Grammy and with work experience with Judas Priest, Queen, Bowie, Queensryche, Nevermore etc.) recorded the album “Panic” “, a tribute to the god Pan, god of love, humor and confusion, another step forward in the sound evolution of the band, a disc that also boasts the presence as guest of the legendary Chilean director / poet Alejandro Jodorowsky, the inventor of the “panic theater”. The album and the following tour were a success and at the end of the summer 2001 the band concluded an agreement with the producer team David Shiffman (already with Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System Of a Down etc.) and Fab. V.Zee Grossi. This collaboration opens a new musical vision to the DEATH SS, whose classic and unmistakable sounds are further enriched with cyber-harsh-punky and nu-metal influences, combined with a very personal euro-goth class.
The band then moved to Los Angeles to give birth to the new album called “Humanomalies”, a sort of concept about the world of freaks and human “ugliness”, considered by many their most extreme sound experiment. The band’s next and seventh studio album was titled “The Seventh Seal”, in honor of the same named cult-movie directed by Ingmar Bergman, and was again recorded in Los Angeles. Conceptually it represents the closure of an artistic cycle of the band, a sort of “magic pact” signed by Steve at the beginning of his career and lasted about thirty years, to the celebration of which was released a double anthological DVD packaged in the shape of a coffin (” 1977/2007 – 30 years of Horror Music “) which, through video clips, fragments of concerts, TV appearances, unpublished extracts and spicy backstage, it shows all the fundamental stages of a career dedicated to horror music! A pause period followed, during which the vocalist dedicated himself to new experiments, creating the bands W.O.G.U.E. (acronym for Work of God United Entertainment) with dark-wave 80es sounds, and Sancta Sanctorum, (the latter together with the rhythm section of the first line-up of the DEATH SS), which instead propose a psychedelic and seventies doom rock.
At the same time, Steve continues his acting career by participating in the horror movie “Eaters” produced by Uwe Boll, and on the television series “L’Ispettore Coliandro” and “Il commissario REX”, while in November 2011 he released his official biography, “Il rock necromancer “, written together with the music writer Gianni Della Cioppa, a book that tells all the background of the period that goes from his adolescence to the split of the first line-up in 1982, and that collects in Italy a great success . DEATH SS continue to exist and to compose new material, part of which destined to be part of the soundtrack of some films such as “The darkest night” by John Morrison and “Fear 3D” by Manetti Bros, and in June 2013 return to the scenes with the new platter “Resurrection”, from the beautiful cover in 70es erotic-horror-comic style , designed by the master Emanuele Taglietti, illustrator of cult comics as Sukia, Zora, Ulula, Cimiteria and Belzeba. A new tour follows, with dates that include the one at the Sweden Rock Fest with Black Sabbath, and the headliner gig at the Metalitalia.com festival (whose video footage will be published on a next DVD), as well as the new live CD and double DVD called ” Beyond Resurrection “, again with a stunning cover illustrated by Taglietti.
In 2017 Steve Sylvester officially becomes a star of the Hall of Fame of the legendary chain Hard Rock Cafè, donating one of his own costume of scene, and two tribute-albums are currently underway (another was already released in 2000), where many artists from allover the world have ventured into a cover-version of many DEATH SS classics. On September 7, 2018 the new album called “Rock’N’Roll Armageddon”was out, whose cover was created by Alex Horley (formerly author of covers for Rob Zombie, Gene Simmons and DC Comics).