Nobody would typically associate the wheat field and suburb speckled corner of Northeastern Kansas with bloody-fanged wolves and godless barbarians on a bender of death n' destruction, but the seasoned collective of skull-bashers known as HAMMERLORD have done well to change the landscape with their maniacal debut. Though names like THE ESOTERIC, CALIGARI, THE BLINDING LIGHT and NODES OF RANVIER pop up when looking at the band's resume, HAMMERLORD crushes any expectations set by the member's former gigs and instead sinks both horns deep into the frenzied world of 80's thrash.
Where more than a few of the current crop of retro-thrashers walk gingerly on that fine line between "true" and "trend," HAMMERLORD leaves no doubt that they spent at least a good portion of their salad days destroying their bedrooms to the tune of "Kill 'Em All", "Reign In Blood" and countless other speed-addled classics. In other words, these boys aren't fucking around. Guitarist Ty Scott has done well to capture the essence of what metal was in the mid-80's his buzzsaw tone and (pun intended) hammering riffs. The melodically-tinged "Sick Like Our Crimes" and blistering ode to metallic loyalty "Dead City Radio" being among the six-stringer's finest moments. More melodic death influence prevails on "Lordess", which is also features some pleasantly outside-the-box soloing from second guitarist J.P Gaughan as well as being one of the only track to properly display bassist Terry Taylor in the mix. Impressive throughout the album, drummer Adam Mitchell earns his alias of "Hammerlord" on the percussive soliloquy "Fortress". This Bonham-esque minute and a half sounds as if Mitchell were using the hammers of Thor himself in place of puny little sticks. Looking at the big picture, a drum solo in the middle of the disc might be a tad unnecessary, but entertaining nonetheless. Frontman Stevie Cruz (THE ESOTERIC) brings a venomous and throaty set of pipes to the table that exudes the album's overall 'death to false metal' vibe. Though a better mix might have done "Hammerlord" a bit more justice, the album's lack of polish is a big part of its charm. The raw element allows this disc to do exactly what it was meant to do; bang the head that does not bang.
Sadly, I don't expect HAMMERLORD to be a focal point of the fine folks at the Kansas Tourism Bureau, the thought of rampaging Conan types running loose through the streets of a state that boasts a zip code of 666 should be more than enough to prove that metal is alive and well in the heartland.