Hammers of Misfortune
17th Street

An album able to both warm the bones and embody the cold is generally a good one to have on hand during the colder months. Thank goat for Hammers of Misfortune and their skill at blending both the melancholy and heart-warming aspects of heavy metal so fluidly. Their multi-faceted take on the hardships and triumphs of modern life unfolds in 17th Street, the San Francisco group’s first record with Metal Blade.

Though Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg) hasn’t been in the picture for quite a while now, he still leaves a noticeable hole. 17th Street of course showcases the kind of music that Hammers of Misfortune have always written — that which is emotive, powerful, and gracefully gritty. But the departure of a musician as prolific as Scalzi is bound to leave a scar. Joe Hutton (who even sounds a bit like Scalzi) and John Cobbett do a fairly stand-up job of filling that hole, though it’ll never be quite the same.

Nevertheless, 17th Street offers an eclectic palette of songs fused with NWOBHM, doom, prog, folk, rock and then some. Some are wrapped in mellow packaging, with yet others being more electrically charged. The title track presents a healthy smattering of both ends of the spectrum, what with equal parts flashy guitar solos, bottom-heavy rhythms, and accentuating organs throughout. “The Grain,” a simultaneously groovy and somber affair, boasts an excellent pop-soaked chorus, along with “Summer Tears,” an overall non-metal/rock ballad of sorts with lots of layered vocals and piano. Closer “Going Somewhere” is the ultimate end-of-album glue, cementing the theme of 17th Street with a reprise of previously presented musical notions, a sweet balance between the heavy and the bittersweet.

The hypnotic and emotionally charged music created by Hammers of Misfortune may be a bit of an acquired taste initially, but after time it begins to make sense. It reminds us that we’re not alone in facing the world with a smile splashed over unrest. 17th Street, with all its glorious sugary melodies and moments of pure metal bliss, also shows that no matter how much effort is put into concealing agony and inner turmoil, it’s bound to seep through the seams at some point.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jodi Van Walleghem
January 2nd, 2012

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