Hammerhead

Into the Vortex

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If Hammerhead's debut was to alternative rock what Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was to independent film -- a harrowing glimpse into the cold, hard heart of darkness -- Into the Vortex is more like Quentin Tarantino's equally violent, but more sophisticated Reservoir Dogs. On their sophomore release (not counting the live EP, Evil Twin), the band applies a greater degree of finesse to their bloodthirsty din. Although the record pummels as hard as their 1993 debut, Ethereal Killer, vocals have become a bigger part of the equation and the pace isn't quite so unrelenting. Comparisons to fellow Amrep outfit Helmet, before they went off into a more metal-oriented direction, would not be misplaced. The song "All This Is Yours" has come to define the now-Minneapolis-based trio with lines like, "I wash my hands of this dirty world/It makes whores out of pretty girls." Guitarist/vocalist Paul Sanders sounds as if he's channeling the Laughing Hyenas' John Brannon (one of the top throat-shredders of the 1990s, if not all time). Other numbers, like the opening track, "Swallow," explore the roots of violence ("My mother she hates me/Turned my father against me"), while "Zesta" ("Live alone/Die alone") is nihilism boiled down to its purest essence. "Galaxy 66," on the other hand, proves that these three ordinary-looking Midwestern cats could kick the jams out just as hard without any lyrics at all (and without getting too "proggy" in the process). Into the Vortex indeed.

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