Largo Forte

Hammerhands takes the atmosphere and vocal stylings of later Tom Waits records but replaces the music with widescreen desert rock and colliding waves of sandstorm sludge/hardcore.  Largo Forte is an engrossing album and delivers with frequent surprises in song composition.  Truly, I didn’t see what was coming at many points on Largo Forte and that’s a joy for those of us music junkies that have over-exposed ourselves from years of dredging for a next obsession.  While the cover art features a scene of southwest American geology, and the songs hint to much the same inspiration, this group is out of Canada with Largo Forte being their first full length album after releasing two previous ep’s since 2013.

Largo Forte is a great example of how production can elevate the music to 4th dimensional levels.  Everything is dialed in for a cohesive style and vision.  The band seriously has to be pleased with the sonics of their new baby.  The guitars are granular and arid enough to cause the listener’s nose to bleed.  Else where they can crank from tremolo/spring reverb coated slithering’s to heaving sludge-core, and the sandstorm waves of crunch are in full definition.  Aside from the already mentioned references I can’t help but hear Coelesce’s 1999 argument for why “metalcore” doesn’t have to be a dirty term, 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening.  There’s a certain rhythmic chug and similar harmonic guitar tones that the two albums share.  I didn’t get far into the opening track “Eighteen” before I was compelled to make the comparison.  They are not the same beast, However.  Hammerhands take the sound of that album and spread it out across the harsh expanse of northern Arizona.

Title track “Largo Forte” drops a dose of local psychedelic plant life and takes a walk through a slot canyon where native rock art comes alive and Tom Waits ghost follows from above, strumming menacingly as the passage winds tighter.  Creeping interlude “Mezzo Grave” transitions in as the yellow-red sun beyond view contorts the shadows and dehydration hazes reality.  “If you’re not part of the party, you’re part of the problem” brings back the aggressive desert core.  A sore reminder of the situation you just awoke to on that slot canyon floor come sun up.  Indeed, it’s no party.  “Where we go” is a pensive, sinister ballad.  Springy, metallic reverb haunts our disembodied protagonist, soundtracking a montage of desperate wandering; he is weak but soldiering on.  “Darkerness” brings that desert chill many forget comes at night in that environment.  It’s straight ahead sludgy hardcore.  Distant, long yells and exactly the riffs you imagine give it a feel not unlike darlings of the style, Thou.  However, at about 6:15 our poor bastard reaches his human limits, convulsing into a puddle-like state as ancestral spirits rally to revive him from near death.  “The Hardest Thing” concludes the album in full southwest regalia.  Hot tin guitars and mezcal shredded vocal exasperations spell out the end of this tale.

Largo Forte was a nice surprise of an album.  I can’t say I’ve been listening to a diverse array of metal or genre-bending bands lately but Hammerhands snapped me out of it a bit.  Their choices in cross pollination prove to me the members have a high level of taste.  I’ve always been a fan for the sort of detached, 90s indie/death rock clean vocals that are featured throughout the album.  Think Swervedriver, or the weathered americana of Michael Gira from his Angels Of Light material.   By song three of my initial listen I shot 3 different friends a link to the album, none of which have precisely the same taste but I thought would really dig the twist that Hammerhands is peddling.  Largo Forte has closely curated production detail and earns high style points for experimenting with these particular genre blends in metal without it being jarring or a fatiguing listen.  Put on an obscure spaghetti western flick while listening, for added effect.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
December 1st, 2016


  1. Commented by: Jay

    This is damn good! Sick review Mars; you really painted a picture of the music that stuck in my head.

    I’ve been listening to this alongside Disappearer’s “The Clearing” lately and it makes a good heady few hrs of weird riff-y stuff with a melodic/hardcore bite.

  2. Commented by: M budziszewski

    Thanks. I didn’t notice that Disappearer’s record until all of the yearend lists started dropping. Will have to give it a go.

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