Friday review round-up: Hammers of Misfortune, TFW, Machine Head

Hammers of Misfortune

With September at its end (and what a busy month it was), it’s a good time to take some inventory and get some things to you that either just hit the shelf or is about to be unleashed. That way we can move to October with a clear conscience that we didn’t leave anyone behind.

All three records likely will have entirely different audiences, which I like and, to me, makes doing these roundups more interesting. That way I don’t have to write about the same damn style of music through the whole piece. It’s good for me, better for you the reader, and we get the word out about some noteworthy releases that might find its way onto your shopping list this weekend. Am I the only person who makes a record list each weekend of things I want to track down?

Actually, we’re going to kick off with a record you cannot buy just yet but that I want to talk about because it blew me away. The new album from San Francisco’s Hammers of Misfortune called “17th Street” won’t be in stores until the end of October, but because I was assigned a review by Outburn magazine for Issue 62 (Issue 61 should be on shelves any day now, and some guy I know has the cover piece), I’ve been playing it on rotation for the past couple weeks. I’ve long been a fan of this band, which really is more of a hard rock outfit than metal, though there’s surely some crossover to doom and prog-metal fans, and their new opus was high on my most anticipated discs for this year. And it hit the mark.

The band shuffled its lineup again, as leader John Cobbett had to replace female vocalist Jesse Quattro and guitarist/male vocalist Patrick Goodwin. Not to worry, as he brought in hard-hitters Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Saros, Amber Asylum) on guitar and vocals and super-powerful pipes-owner Joe Hutton (The Worship of Silence) to round out the best incarnation of this band ever since Mike Scalzi was in the ranks. “17th Street” is an instant classic from one of America’s most exhilarating, creative and sadly, unknown bands, but here’s guessing their new association with powerhouse Metal Blade will help inflate their profile. I don’t want to say too much about the record because my Outburn review will do that for you in more detail, but let’s say that this record should help fans of Slough Feg, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Priestess and really many of the bands on the Tee Pee label get their thrills. It’s full of drama, incredibly hook-filled songs, and one of the best cuts in this band’s entire collection in “The Grain,” a song that Hutton just owns. Try to hear that chorus and not get swept away.

I’m a big supporter of this band, and this fifth effort (or sixth if you consider “Fields/Church of Broken Glass” two separate pieces) is incredibly pleasing. Even with more band member changes aside, it’s hard to expect anything less than awesome when you have Cobbett in command. Go get this when it’s released Oct. 25.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.hammersofmisfortune.com/

To buy “17th Street,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/12639/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com

The Fucking Wrath

All you have to do is read the name the Fucking Wrath, and you know what’s in store. How can you not? You have to figure right away that they will blow the doors off your house with their music and you’re probably not in for some schmaltzy R&B or something. And you get exactly what you expect, which has been the case ever since the release of the band’s first record “Seasons of Evil,” and their new full-length “Valley of the Serpent’s Soul” is a lot more of the same doom-laden, sludge-flooded goodness that makes me love this band so damn much. In fact, it’s a noted step up not only from their debut but also from last year’s stop-gap “Terra Fire” EP that also was deliciously pulverizing but can’t even hold a candle to the hell and demolition on their new platter.

The burly quartet packs this record with a ton of riffy horror and bluesy bludgeoning, making for one hell of a great air guitar album. This also would sound amazing if you happen to need music for an out-of-control beer party where the objective is to get smashed and destroy all of the furniture in the house. I’m sure there are heavier albums that came out this year (though there aren’t many) but I’m not sure there’s one as rowdy as “Valley of the Serpent’s Soul.”

“The Question” opens up this bastard with some uptempo doom that has a bit of a punk-rock spine and an abrasive outer coating, and that leads us to the bluesy mud stomp of “Rebellious Axe”; the slow-driving, Black Sabbath-friendly riffing on “Swan Song of a Mad Man”; the punchy speed metal that trades off with NWOBHM overtones of “Altar of Lies”; the bloody three-part movement “The Neurodyssey,” that ends in a firestorm that would make Slayer proud; and the earthquaking closer “Goddess of Pain.” This record will smash your face and insult your mom, and you won’t have the heart to fight back because your body will be worse for the wear. Buy this and play it as loudly as you can. Never mind the neighbors.

For more on the band, go here: http://thefuckingwrath.com/

To buy “Valley of the Serpent’s Soul,” go here: http://teepeerecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://teepee.hasawebstore.com/

Machine Head

If you have those cargo shorts wrinkled in your closet and you just can’t wait to get more ’90s-influenced groove metal in your ears, then please leave this site right now. Ah, I kid, and I’m sorry I have to drag Oakland’s Machine Head through the dirt like that, but it’s not inaccurate of their audience, is it? Actually, much like how the Deftones get incorrectly stuck into the nu-metal designation, I feel like this band gets written off by some people for rising to prominence during the reprehensible ’90s Ozzfest era, though they did make some really bad records toward the end of that decade. But they’ve more than made up for that on their last two albums “Through the Ashes of Empires” and “The Blackening.”

So now the band fires back with their seventh studio album “Unto the Locust,” an ambitious, somewhat experimental (not in a bad way) disc that probably will thrill their core and may even turn other heads who swore off this band a decade ago. Frontman/guitarist Robb Flynn still has that affinity for, well, machine-like, sometimes monotone yelling, which does re-surface on this record during songs such as “Be Still and Know” and “Darkness Within,” but he’s also stretching his range more than before, crooning capably on “Locust” and “Pearls Before the Swine,” one of the not-so-great songs on this album. Most surprising is the way the whole album begins, as the band participates in an a capella vocal harmony that sometimes veers toward the Beach Boys on the first section of three-part opener “I Am Hell (Sonata in C#).” I thought the label sent me the wrong file when I heard this, but luckily I stuck around to find out on my own.

The one area where stretching out goes awry is on closer “Who We Are,” that begins with a child chorus that sounds like they employed one too many out-there ideas, and the lyrics to the song are just rife with cliché. Otherwise, this is a pretty decent Machine Head record (with putridly ugly album artwork) that should enlighten their live audiences. I never was a very big fan of this band, though I certainly always gave their records a proper chance before forming my opinion, and “Unto the Locust” isn’t exactly going to ramp up my enthusiasm for them. But that’s just me, as it simply isn’t my thing, but perhaps it’s yours. If so, give it a shot.

For more on the band, go here: http://machinehead1.com/

To buy “Unto the Locust,” go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/Item/Machine_Head_-_Unto_The_Locust/39463

For more on the label, go here: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/

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