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.
AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy