HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE: "WE'RE TOO METAL FOR THE PROGS AND TOO PROG FOR THE METALLERS"
As John Lennon (or was it Ringo Starr) once said: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans", and this seems appropriate for West Coast progressive metallers Hammers of Misfortune. Babies, a motorcycle accident, black Metal and doom Metal bands as well as legendary San Francisco thrashers Death Angel all conspired to delay album number two from HoM but thankfully the band are now all up to speed, so to say, with the unveiling of 'Dead Revolution'.
The new album, following up from their most recent offering, 2011s '17th Street', was actually completed back in 2015 but has been sitting on the shelf at HoM HQ ever since and it's principal songwriter and guitarist John Cobbett who takes the blame.
"Mostly, the delay was my fault, trying to finish the cover art," he tells everyone willing to listen before adding "specifically [it was] the gatefold/booklet, which is hand drawn and hand lettered, [that[ took me a long time. Sorry!"
Quantifying the delay further, he adds: "The front and back covers are by Robert Steven Connet, and are beautiful. I absolutely can't wait to hold the vinyl in my hands."
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Cobbett, of course, should be most proud of what the band have achieved since their inception in 2000. Hailing from San Francisco, the Hammers didn't waste much time in releasing their debut work. 2001s 'The Bastard' was swiftly followed up by 'The August Engine' in 2003 and then the band took their foot off the pedal before returning to the studio for what would become 2006s 'The Locust Years'. In 2008 they released 'Fields/Church Of Broken Glass'.
The intervening years following the release of '17th Street' were by no means quiet – firstly Cobbett and keyboardist Sigrid Sheie welcomed a baby while frontman Joe Hutton was sidelined after being involved in a severe motorcycle accident. Add to this the fact that guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf had joined death Metal band Vastum while bassist Paul Walker extolled the virtues of doom Metal with Oakland based band The Worship Of Silence. Not to be outdone, drummer Will Carroll joined up with legendary Bay Area thrashers Death Angel, leaving no-one available to keep the HoM home fires burning.
The band are rightfully back on track now and 'Dead Revolution' is finally seeing the light of day and this seven track release shows that the band are picking up where they left off. There are no power ballads here unlike previous releases and the album flows well from track to track even though it feels darker and heavier than previous efforts.
Take the title track for example, which is fast paced with the drums from Will Carroll stuck in the back whilst the keyboard sounds of Sigrid Sheie could be straight out of a Deep Purple track. The vocals of frontman Joe Hutton sound a bit strained at times but overall it's an enjoyable number once it gets going.
Most of the tracks are over the five minute mark but they never seem laboured or over long. Album opener 'The Velvet Inquisition' is a fairly fast paced track with the guitar leading the way in the long instrumental intro. When the vocals do kick in, they're very much in the background and have a dreamlike quality to them. The song deviates from the fast pace to an almost complete stop at times before it begins in earnest once again making this an enjoyable track.
'Sea Of Heroes' has a great guitar opening before the drums begin in earnest. A simple drum beat from Carroll and simple guitar riff are maintained throughout as once again the vocals have a dreamy quality to them. The lead vocals from Hutton are boosted by some harmony vocals and this track quickly supplanted itself as a favourite of mine. 'Days Of '49' is the slowest tempo track here and once again has Carroll's drums slow and steady in an uncluttered performance in what sounds like a traditional medieval track. Hutton gives a great performance here and is the star of the track – the guitar solo doesn't come to much, for a change, leaving the vocals the focal point throughout.
'Here Comes The Sky' on the other hand sounds like it's heavily influenced by early Pink Floyd with the acoustic guitar, keyboards and Hutton's vocals which are once again the focus with simple instrumentation augmenting it. The track does eventually build up to a climax before coming back down to earth in a repeat of the acoustic guitar and keyboard mix from the beginning bring the track full circle. It's a slow process from start to finish but nothing about the track feels rushed and as you reach the end there's a lingering feeling of satisfaction about the track.
"Prog" can sometimes be seen as a dirty word or brings back memories of the seventies band resplendent in cloaks singing about castles and dragons but this album is glorious in its prog-iness. "Sometimes I feel like we're too Metal for the progs and too prog for the Metallers," explains Cobbett and he could be right – but whatever you think of either genre, this album fits snugly into the record collection of any self respecting prog fan and the same goes for Metal fans too.
You can see the official video for the title track here:
'Dead Revolution' Tracklisting:
The Velvet Inquisition
Sea Of Heroes
The Precipice (Waiting For The Crash)
Days Of '49
Here Comes The Sky
Hammers Of Misfortune are:
Joe Hutton – Vocals
John Cobbett – Guitar
Leila Abdul-Rauf – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Walker – Bass Guitar
Sigrid Sheie – Vocals/Piano/Flute
Will Carroll – Drums