October 21, 2017 – Martin Eric Ain was born Martin Stricker in the USA from Swiss parents on July 18, 1967. His mother was a Catholic religion teacher. She taught the catechism. Ain figured that most probably, the reason for him joining up with the arch rebel — Satan himself! — was because that was the most powerful force to oppose his mother.
I remember that traumatic experience being in a church, and there was this life-sized cross with this tormented human figure nailed, its limbs twisted and turned. I must have been about 5 or 6. That was really bizarre, having all those people around me being solemn in a way, but then, on the other hand, really getting joyous toward the end of that ritual about this person dying. And then going to the front of the church and coming back having devoured part of the body of that person. As a child, you take something like that quite literally, you know? And it was never really explained to me in a way that seemed really logical. I had nightmares. For me, religion didn’t have a redemptive quality. It didn’t help me to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a negative, oppressive kind of thing. Christ was a symbol of utter failure and absolute totalitarian control.
As part of the legendary bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, Ain transcended influence. He didn’t just create music, he created worlds where listeners discovered themselves or went for respite when the challenges of life became too much of a burden. Former Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark once referred to Ain and his long-time bandmate and friend Tom Gabriel Fischer as conceptualists and the term is perfect. Despite musical inexperience, youth and contempt from anyone that might offer them a leg up they defiantly crafted a sound and vision that will endure long after all of us are gone.
During his mid teens, Ain was part of a group of Swiss outcasts who changed metal music with their drive, ambition and uncanny vision. Along with his lifelong collaborator Fischer, Ain formed Hellhammer in 1982.
Formed by a group of early teenagers in Nürensdorf, Switzerland, the band’s extremely rudimentary musicianship and muffled recordings were filthy, unpolished and throttled by Warrior’s (then known as “Satanic Slaughter”) unconventional guitar work and theatrical grunts, not to mention Ain’s (“Slayed Necros”) thwacked bass. Inspired by Venom, Hellhammer took that early black-metal blueprint and made it bloodthirtsy. If what happened next hadn’t been so crucial to the evolution of metal, we’d probably not be talking about Hellhammer today — but just listen to the Satanic Rites demo and you can hear where G.C. Green took his ungodly crunchy bass tone for Godflesh. The roots were set and, not long after that in 1984, the planet-shifting band Celtic Frost was formed. Ain’s contributions to the development of metal’s sound and aesthetic are towering, from corpsepaint to the visual appearance and artwork of metal albums to the sound of the music to arcane philosophical lyrics.
Before he was even in his 20’s Ain traveled with his bandmates to communist East Germany to make records that would change the direction of metal music, if not the entire underground. When Fischer was recording vocals for “Triumph Of Death” Ain was the person in the recording room encouraging Fischer to take it further and more extreme, to make it as dark and uncompromising as possible. The label executives might not have understood, but the rest of us did.
His bass a thumping foil to a dark music that reached across doom, death, black, thrash, Gothic and avant-garde metal, sometimes in the course of a single album. They continued with Celtic Frost’s Hall of Fame certified Morbid Tales, an album cited by almost any extreme musician as one of the sacred texts of metal music.
The bassist would come in and out of Celtic Frost. The ’90s were Frost-less as Warrior sought out different musical outlets, but the two would reunite for Monotheist in 2006, a radical reset not just for Celtic Frost but for all of metal (which also functioned as a preview of Warrior’s future band, Triptykon). In addition to contributing much more lyrically, Ain’s bass playing, in particular, rumbles from a primordial wound, nearly at the same frequency of his musical partner’s newfound vocal warble — when the two met, their force redoubled, as heard in the psychedelic gloom of “Drown In Ashes.”
Although he wasn’t present on To Mega Therion his absence loomed, and he rejoined the band not long after that. Ain was also a pivotal part of Into the Pandemonium – which birthed the idea of avant-garde metal – and the under-appreciated Vanity/Nemesis. Unexpectedly, Fischer and Ain reunited in the ’00s and over four painstaking years recorded Monotheist, a triumphant comeback that further cemented the band’s place in metal history. Only two years after that, Celtic Frost broke up and the band was put to rest for good.
After amassing a small fortune from Celtic Frost’s success, he became an entrepreneur. He owned a successful DVD shop and bar in Zurich called Acapulco. He was also a co-owner of the music club Mascotte, which has become well known for hosting up and coming international bands. Since 2004, he had become the host of the “Karaoke from Hell” show, taking place every Tuesday night at the Mascotte Club.
He died unexpectedly on October 21, 2017 following a heart attack.
When a notable musician dies it’s expected that their influence will be discussed. In many cases, that influence might be modest at best and the praises afforded posthumously to honor their passing. This will not be the case with Martin Eric Ain, also known in his too-short lifetime as “Slayed Necros” or by his birth name Martin Stricker.