Hammers-of-Misfortune_Dead-RevolutionLongtime AMG readers may recall my excessive worship of guitarist John Cobbett and his various projects. His main endeavor, Bay-area prog-metallers Hammers Of Misfortune, has been dormant since 2011’s 17th Street, and with good reason. Vocalist Joe Hutton was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident, Cobbett and wife/bandmate Sigrid Sheie welcomed their first child and released an album with Vhöl, and the Hammers themselves went through several lineup changes. Five years later, the band returns with the heavier, more direct Dead Revolution.

Opener “The Velvet Inquisition” starts the record off properly, with an organ-driven riff that lives somewhere between early Mercyful Fate and Deep Purple. The next 7 minutes consist of labyrinthine chord progressions, co-ed choral arrangements, and shit-hot dual guitar solos. In other words, it’s business as usual for the Hammers. Also worth noting is new drummer Will Carroll (Death Angel, Vicious Rumors), who brings a new level of performance and intensity to the band.

The title track follows, with Hutton delivering one of his best performances of the album, as Cobbett delivers the sideways trad-metal riffage that is his trademark. Mid-tempo stomper “Sea Of Heroes” takes full advantage of the band’s three-vocalist approach, with Hutton, Sheie and Abdul-Rauf harmonizing to great effect. “The Precipice” maneuvers through a dizzying array of changes, concluding with anthemic guitar harmonies courtesy of Cobbett and co-guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf (also of Vastum). Cobbett seems to be saving the more insane riffs for Vhöl, but that simply focuses Revolution‘s approach on the complex and melodic.

Hammers of Misfortune

According to Cobbett’s recent interviews, Dead Revolution‘s theme is the ongoing gentrification in his hometown of San Francisco, and those who are being forced out by that process. The band has already explored that subject thoroughly on 17th Street, but the difference is all in the tone. While 17th Street approached the situation with a sense of yearning and even hope, on Dead Revolution the lyrics paint a picture of a scenario beyond repair, with nothing left to do except mourn the loss. Appropriately, a lot of the music itself is minor-keyed and sorrowful.

 “Here Comes The Sky” is all over the place stylistically, with a quiet yet ominous intro giving way to some killer slide guitar, concluding with what can only be described as bullfighter music (complete with trumpet). The band kicks the tempo up a notch for “Flying Alone,” a “Highway Star”-esque tribute to all things fast. Sheie’s Hammond organ anchors the riff on this track, with Cobbett and Abdul-Rauf delivering more excellent lead work on the song’s back half.

The album ends on a weird note with “Days Of ’49.” A folk standard dating back to the California gold rush, the song has been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan and Fairport Convention. In the hands of Hammers Of Misfortune, it becomes a plodding 8 minutes of near-doom metal. While it strikes me as musically anticlimactic, it’s a fitting metaphor lyrically for San Francisco’s current troubles.

Hammers of Misfortune are “progressive metal” in the truest sense. Their influences start with Pink Floyd and Genesis in the ’60s and end with the dual explosions of punk and NWOBHM in the early ’80s, and as such, they are capable of almost anything musically. While the band may have stumbled briefly with Fields/Church Of Broken Glass (which I still like), their last two records have clearly put them on the comeback trail. Dead Revolution is prog with a street-level, almost DIY aesthetic, ambitious as hell but also extremely focused. If you enjoy music that is good, I suggest checking this out.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 271 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Website: facebook.com/HammersOfMisfortune
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2016
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  • mtlman1990

    Sounds awesome. My only complaint may be the way the vocals sit in the mix. It might sound completely different on the actual cd though.

    • David Christian Dalton

      This seems to be a very specific John Cobbett production choice. I felt the exact same way about “17th Street.” It still bugs me. Cobbett even addressed it in some interview I read. Said he knew it annoyed some listeners but that’s what he liked. They talk about it somewhat, relating to the new record, in the piece on it over at Last Rites.

    • Bart the Repairman

      Agree. Constant fight between vocals and organs for some part of frequency spectrum. Beside that, very good work here.

  • Andy777

    I really like this, I’ll be adding this to my list. Great review btw.

  • Bart the Repairman

    And no one will ever say “this needs more cowbell”.

    • Very much cowbell was provided.

    • Dethjesta

      They could add a little more during the intro.

  • brklyner

    I like it a lot. Seems like the kind of album one could spend a lot of time with and still find new things to enjoy. The vocals occasionally remind me of Chris Cornell, but with more range. Anyone else hearing that?

    • Tom Busler

      “Chris Cornell, but with more range” sounds like someone saying, “The entirety of the known Universe, but with more space.”

      • brklyner

        Exactly!

  • tim.o

    Cool album cover and theme. It’s always worth the effort to break out the lyrics sheet with a HoM album. Quality stuff all around as per usual. I really don’t think there’s a single dud in their discography. Looking forwarded to it. Has it really been 5 years? Geez.

    • Zadion

      ” It’s always worth the effort to break out the lyrics sheet with a HoM album.” This is something that has really stood out to me. I’ve been casually listening to HoM since I discovered the band with the 17th Street review here, but as of late I’ve really been listening to them more thoroughly. One thing that has really stood out to me, especially while listening to The August Engine and The Locust Years, is how intelligent, evocative, and powerful their lyrics are. Cobbett somehow has found the perfect line between super smart and retaining that rough, rugged “heavy metal” edge associated with the ’80s.

  • Kronos

    I haven’t heard the band, but I loved the last Vhol record and your review has my interest piqued.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      Oh man, I love these guys. Fields/Broken Glass is such an epic, mind-twisting trip.

      I don’t go for “prog metal” stuff very much but these guys have very little in common with that scene in my mind. They also sound nothing like Vhöl (who I fucking love too), but Cobbett’s guitar work is immediately identifiable in both bands.

  • OzanCan

    Holy shit! They are releasing a new album? Oh, this made my day now m/

  • jersey devil

    Never heard this band before. This embedded song reminds me of Pearl Jam.

    • Tim Coates

      noticed that a bit with vocals but I could be tone deaf as well.

  • WhamBamSam

    And here I was thinking that I was completely disinterested in the Vhol members’ other bands. Older HoM stuff didn’t really grab me (at least when I last checked them out after being blown away by Deeper Than Sky), but this is something I’ll definitely be picking up.

  • Dethjesta

    This is the record I’ve been most excited about this month. I too, am a huge Cobett fan – as you stated in your Vhol review ‘he’s working with a much wider palette than most’ – very true.

    I liked 17th Street a lot; glad this new record is up to that standard. Roll on Friday.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Referencing my earlier reviews? I like your style.

  • Innit Bartender

    Hammers and Opeth are the two bands where I feel I and the AMG staff, AMG himself first, share the deepest, most visceral feelings about. Every time I read about them here, I know they sum up my thoughts almost exactly.

  • Hammersmith

    You had me at bullfighter music.

  • Hammers can take all my money, they absolutely rule. Very promising embedded track. Thanks for the sexy review, Dr.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    This will be excellent I missed their last release but 17th St is an excellent album and Deeper than Sky is a top 5 of the last 5 years album for me. MUST HAVE!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I love 17th Street. What a journey! As SD said, “#Occupy THIS street!”.

      Listened to Dead Revolution today, and it’s similarly awesome. These guys are miles ahead of everyone else.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Didn’t care for it at first, thought the mix was off, but now after a few spins it rocks. It’s like Uriah Heep meets Deep purple, Jethro Tull, with elements of Rainbow and hmmm, just cool 70’s stuff. :)

  • Stefano Pellini

    I think this album is lower the expectations…..i listened a couple of times…. 17 streets was better / field amazing is a good album…. nothing brillant…. not like in the past