Hammr – Eternal Possession Review

I’m kind of obsessed with hammers. Write a song about hammers, and I’ll probably like it. Include “hammer” as part of your band name, and I’ll probably like your band. In a roleplaying game, make hammers a wieldable weapon, and, by God, I’m going to wield one (or two). I don’t know how to build shit, but I own a framing hammer and sleep with it next to my bed for personal protection. I use a twenty-pound sledge for my conditioning workouts, often while Asphyx‘s “Deathhammer” plays in the background on repeat. For the first few years of my career as an EMT, hammers outpaced both guns and knives as the most lethal weapon used on the calls I responded to, cementing it as a powerful symbol in my psyche. This fascination with hammers has to mean something, so I consulted an interesting site I discovered a few years back that deals in dream and myth symbology. The entry for “hammer” references themes of “male sexuality, aggression, or building something”—all things I have had an inferiority complex about at one point or another in my life. Hmm. I guess I have something to discuss with my therapist. Sorry. TMI. Anyway, now you know why I felt so compelled to give Cleveland’s Hammr a swing.

Speaking of repressed and denied urges, I’ve always thought that blackened speed/thrash metal is one of the best mediums through which to indulge a neglected id. Hammr fittingly play just such a style, opting for a proto-black/speed metal sound that pays homage to debut-era Bathory and the violent speed/thrash assault of Endless Pain-era Kreator. Single “Seeping Chalice” reveals grating, indecipherable vocals mixed with punk-infused rhythms, and it’s complemented by chaotic, Slayer-esque soloing. Hopefully you like what you hear, because that’s pretty much all you’re going to get on Eternal Possession, the band’s sophomore full-length.

The brainchild of one J. Hammer, Hammr metes out pure, uncut debauchery—the kind that’s intended to be mainlined. All caution is thrown to the wind as nine tracks of brutal, yet devilishly catchy tunes come at you like so many bullets fired from a pistol that’s probably missing its serial number.1 Tracks like “Ritual Desecration,” “Cascading Lustful Void,” and “Eternal Possession” set out to kill quickly and efficiently; they simply don’t care whether or not you survive their short runtimes. There really isn’t an ounce of slowdown to be found on the record. From the first beats of “Forces of Sin” until the final chord fades on “Torment Prevails Again,” it’s pretty much all speed, all the time, and on a half-hour album like this, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

But as fun and fast-paced as Eternal Possession is, the production choices hamper its potential. Listen to the band’s debut Unholy Destruction and you’ll hear powerful, vibrant speed/thrash anthems. The promo materials state that this time around, Hammr opted for a “cruder, ruder iteration,” but I’m not sure that Eternal Possession is the better for it. The guitars are muddled, making the solos seem like they’re completely buried at times, and the treble from the cymbals can verge on ear-piercing, especially when run loudly through my car speakers. At first I was turned off by the echoing vocal effect, but after many listens now, I see that it’s an aesthetic choice that actually works relatively well. Initially, I thought these production issues would be a total dealbreaker, but I kept an open mind—and consulted with my lo-fi/raw black metal colleagues—and learned to tolerate them. Another minor nitpick would be that a few of the songs are indistinguishable from one another, especially when no less than four of the nine tracks—and three consecutive—all start exactly the same, with four cymbal crashes. All that being said, the album flows quite well.

Despite the criticisms leveled in that last paragraph, I enjoyed Eternal Possession for the most part. At just over 30 minutes, it’s a quick, fun, visceral listen, and as time went on, the flaws bothered me less and less. I still think this had the potential to score at least 0.5 higher with a stronger production, but band mastermind J. Hammer strikes me as the kind of guy who’s going to do exactly what he wants to do. And more power to him. I’m not one to step between the Hammr and the anvil.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers Records
Website: hammr-us.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: February 11th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. I told you not to take stuff from my office. – Steel
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