Hammered and Fisted on Easter with HAMMER HORDE and FISTHAMMER

HammerHorde-Vinlander

Rare are the self-released debuts that strike on all fronts, but the Ohio quintet was quick to impress on 2009’s Under the Mighty Oath. Sounding far more Swedish than American Midwestern, I initially mislabeled the band from Akron for some reason, where Encyclopaedia Metallum lists Toledo. Shades of Scandanavian viking metal are both darker and more nuanced on their sophomore set, as Vinlander matches the high bar they first set years ago. Hammer Horde have improved vocals the most, as their growls, rasps, bellows, chants, and war cries are more meaningfully arranged. Vinlander also forgoes an intro, preferring to charge straight into the vicious “Infinite War Thirst”, which proves in its first two minutes how well this band has evolved. They still break things up with the mellow midalbum “Hymn of the Fjords” and classical acoustic guitar instrumental “Hoddmímir’s Holt”. All this, plus tightening tracks to an average of one minute shorter, collectively make for a more enjoyable listen. You cannot write off Hammer Horde for “lack of authenticity” due to their homeland—not without listening first. Quality melodeath like this is rarely found stateside. Perhaps the Helsinki help from Mike Jussila at Finnvox Studios is a major factor, but no matter, because the Ohio vikings can doubtlessly mark their second battle a resounding victory. 8/10

fissthammercover

I feel the same way about Fisthammer‘s debut as I did Hammer Horde on theirs—I see the potential, but they need an improved mix and more memorable songwriting. “Razor Waves” does call forth a slicing tsunami right off the bat, but I didn’t get interested again until “Bullet Raped” …but that was only because I heard butt raped and didn’t know what the hell they were singing about. Even when at their best — like “Aten: Fear the Obliteration of Earth” — we hear the now-cliché (albeit slightly reworked) line:  I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. I know it’s an important reference to the Bhagavad Gita by Robert Oppenheimer about the perils of nuclear war, but it’s been done to death. The bass is buried as usual, and even when allowed a brief solo like in “Beserkers”, double-duty lead vocalist Greg Hesselton sounds muted. He does deliver a throaty growl that sounds strangely close to Johan Hegg, but the music does not actually sound like any particular band. This is potentially a good thing. They dextrously jump around in terms of subject matter: “Doom of the Gods” is reminiscent of Amon Amarth and “The Resurrection of Bastet the Devourer” brings Nile to mind. They’re signed to fledgling label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, and I gotta stop ostensibly shitting on this album because it’s good—really. The Pennsylvania powerhouse packs a punch, and Devour All You See is a bold statement of purpose. But once consumed, how best to focus the assimilated energy? “Zombocalypse” finds the balance in all but its titular portmanteau, and Fisthammer already has their survival tools at their disposal. Their next effort will surely show how sharp they hone.  7/10

~MetalMattLongo

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