Hammers of Misfortune
The Locust Years
Cruz Del Sur
7/20/2007 - Review by: Etiam
Hammers of Misfortune - The Locust Years - 2006 - Cruz Del Sur
|Track Listing1. The Locust Years|
2. We Are The Widows
3. Trot Out The Dead
4. Famine's Lamp
5. Chastity Rides
6. War Anthem
7. Election Day
8. Widow's Wal
The recent saga of John Cobbet and Mike Scalzi should serve as inspiration to down-trodden musicians everywhere. In little more than two years, this pair took not one but two bands from total obscurity to the zenith of America’s underground metal scene. Although (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg is currently the more popular of the two, their other collaboration Hammers of Misfortune is no less compelling. Some would even argue that they are more so.
Like Slough Feg, Hammers have that immediately distinguishable tone and style of melody that is as quirky as it is inimitable. Scalzi and Cobbett, guitarists and vocalists both, taking unconventional directions with chord structures and melodies in every song that they write. Rare enough as that is, what’s even rarer is that those unusual choices only rare sound forced, and never are they uninteresting.
This unpredictability may drive away some listeners, but many more will be attracted to the challenge. The band themselves have been working on its kinks for a few albums, and here on ‘The Locust Years’, they have achieved full success. Fusing a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness with the time-honored 70’s prog tradition of joyous, rampant arpeggiation, tracks like ‘Election Day’, ‘Trot Out the Dead’, and the title track are prime examples of the best modern American metal has to offer. Although not as explicitly a concept album as their debut, ‘The Locust Years’ still flows with a unified, consistent purpose that’s only fitting for a band this outsized and grandiose.
Supporting that leading duo of Cobbett/Scalzi are the exuberant ‘Chewy’ behind the kit and metal’s two newest female stars (Jamie Myers and Sigrid Sheie), playing bass and keyboards, respectively. Despite how unusual the nature of the songwriting is, each instrument compliments the others very well, and nearly every member of the band contributes vocals of refreshingly unpolished timbres.
While it is true that ‘The Locust Years’ is not a perfect album, something about Hammers’ style defies typical judgments of quality. When a strange chord is struck, or when a song carries on for what the listener knows is too long, or when the meter of the lyrics don’t flow quite the right way…somehow it feels like an endearing idiosyncrasy rather than a detracting flaw. Not unlike Blue Öyster Cult, Hammers have managed to cultivate an image both mystifying and approachable, down-to-earth and impossibly heady. They are simultaneously the obscure cult-favorite and mainstream rock ‘n’ rollers.
Unfortunately, soon after this album’s release in 2006, Hammers experienced significant line-up changes. From the rhythm section, ‘Chewy’ and Jamie departed, the former temporarily and the latter permanently. And most significantly, Mike Scalzi also left the band (although it appears as though he is staying put in Slough Feg), giving no indication that he would return. And while his future contributions will of course be sorely missed, ‘The Locust Years’ is as commendable and complete a swansong for his Hammers career as he could have hoped to achieve.