Philadelphia is considered a hot hub for metal, a sector particularly fond of anything that moves at hyperspeed. Hence it should be no surprise native sons FISTHAMMER embrace this ideology. However, there are a number of external variables to their principal death-tech scheme that it's tempting to think of them as some other classification of metal assuming they need classifying at all.
For sure, there are grind patterns galore on FISTHAMMER's debut album "Devour All You See", but there are also power metal sections and thrash hammers, plus Goth and black metal laces. BEHEMOTH, NILE, AMON AMARTH and NECROPHAGIA are the group's apparent influences and yet FISTHAMMER never really replicates any of them in full. That's to the good.
"Berserkers" plays up to its namesake with a continuum of speed, while "Doom of the Gods" might be the statement piece of this album along with the largely-refined mini epic "Aten: Fear the Obliteration of Earth". "Kull the Conqueror" lumbers and hacks as well as it should, even if a detectable stumble or two keeps the song's grue contained to a few nasty cleaves. To its credit, the scorching guitar slides on "Kull the Conqueror" put you right into a pulpy fight sequence between King Kull and Baron Kaanub.
What's also to the good with "Devour All You See" outside of its dynamics is some of the most interesting guitar solos you'll hear in death metal this year. Max Svalgard is a scale-happy artiste with aerated licks treading beyond neoclassicism and sheer brutality. On "Aten: Fear the Obliteration of Earth", Svalgard hits an otherworldly sequence that almost fools you into thinking they're bagpipes instead of shrieking steel. His solo towards the end of "Doom of the Gods" is pure exhilaration. Those fret-pecking decorations atop of the first verse and a later bridge of the signature-blitzed "Harvest" are simply insane. Where Svalgard comes up with the spellbinding taps and rivets on his prolonged solos for "Bullet Rape" and "Zombocalypse" you have to imagine were laboriously sieved over a generous portion of time. We could continue harping that Svalgard sizzles on the intro and second verse to "Cross the Lines in Blood", but the point should be well-made already this dude is a shredder to watch out for in future days.
Danny Piselli is a blast beat maniac who keeps FISTHAMMER well on the edge, even when they nearly spiral out of control. Therein lies the only minor grouse to "Devour All You See". For all the perfections, the embellishments and everything FISTHAMMER gets right, there's still a slight yeoman feeling to them at times and that can be remedied with continued experience. Having officially been together since 2008, it's evident FISTHAMMER has the right cogs in place. Their songwriting is adventurous and they prove they know oscillating modern metal techniques inside and out. While bassist/vocalist Greg Hesselton's bellowing is merely characterized, he might be one of the few decipherable yelpers out there.
The only trick left for this band to master is to keep buffing a few of the rough spots out, because they glare despite a very game effort overall. "Devour All You See" has a lot to satiate those with more brutal tastes, but the album is hindered in spots by timing glibs that occasionally counter all that can be said in kind towards it.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.