Critical darlings Hammers of Misfortune bring us Dead Revolution, the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s 17th Street, an album that topped many best-of lists. The band has been busy with a myriad of side projects over the past five years. Band members have been involved in releases from Vhol, Vastum, Death Angel and The Worship of Silence.
Despite all this, Dead Revolution was actually completed in 2015. It has just taken band leader/guitarist John Cobbett a while to get around to putting the finishing touches on it. If this was a masterpiece that would be fine, but Dead Revolution is a hit and miss affair.
It begins with three fantastic Hammers songs. Opener “The Velvet Inquisition” starts things off at a blistering pace, the band riffing hard until Joe Hutton comes in with his crooning voice. The title track doesn’t slow things down at all, and features a writhing organ lead to kick things off along with some excellent vocal melodies. “Sea of Heroes” slows things down, but in a heavier, menacing manner, again with great riffs and feel.
This trifecta of awesomeness leads one to believe we’re being set up for another Album of the Year, but sadly, Dead Revolution is front-heavy. After these three songs, things bounce along as if moving from the autobahn to a secondary highway.
“The Precipice” is an odd, uneven duck, opening with marching band-style drum rolls before moving into a galloping ’70s rocker that suddenly grinds to a halt, with Hutton singing over an organ. It’s got a rather experimental arrangement that just doesn’t succeed.
“Days of ’49” sounds exactly like a song would if the Irish Rovers were a metal band. Maritime folk metal isn’t the Hammers’ forte. The third of these plodding songs, “Here Comes The Sky,” comes off like a church hymn for the first two minutes. By the time it gets going, we’ve lost interest.
Album closer “Flying Alone” is a gem of a track, lightning fast and catchy, and it gets the bad taste of the last three songs out of your mouth long enough to hit the repeat button and go back to the beginning of the record. When Hammers of Misfortune are on target, it doesn’t get much better, with four of the best songs you’ll hear all year on Dead Revolution. It’s too bad the other half of the album is so inconsistent.
Cobbett has turned to Nick Dumitriu (his producer for Vhol) to twist knobs on Dead Revolution. The recording is authentic, very analog in quality, well suited to the band’s style. However, the album is compressed a lot in the mastering process, which dulls the edges of Dumitriu’s work, but the feel is still present and welcome in this day of over-processed metal albums.
The good outweighs the bad on Dead Revolution, with hard-hitting, fast-paced scorchers like the title track and “Flying Alone” leaving burn marks on your ears, but the unevenness of tracks 4 to 6 drags this album down to simply “good” status. When you’re cooking in so many kitchens, you aren’t going to nail every recipe. Maybe Cobbett and company’s creative juices have been spread too thin this time around.
(released July 22, 2016 on Metal Blade Records)