Hammers of Misfortune

The Bastard

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Hammers of Misfortune spent several years writing this, the band's debut CD, and that work becomes more and more evident with each listen. Nothing less than a three-act heavy metal opera with role-playing vocals sung by the band members, the album draws on a whole range of metal influences -- from Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden to Mercyful Fate and Opeth -- and ties them together with some Celtic folk touches to create a sound that, while it does feel a little '80s nostalgic, is actually pretty original. (The plot, by the way, has to do with a child who grows up amidst the forest and later slays his father to become king, but it's a lot more complicated than that.) The vocals are a three-way arsenal of black metal rasps, operatic female singing, and deep-voiced male singing, respectively, and they're well done, but the group's real strength is in its songwriting and specifically its harmonized dual-guitar riffing. The riffs aren't just strung together; they flow smoothly within each song and in some cases even act as recurring motifs, a prime example being the dramatic dual-guitar break that shows up in "You Should Have Slain Me" and then again in "The Witch's Dance." This ambitious piece of work is even more impressive considering that it was made on a mere eight-track recorder in a rehearsal space. Recommended to open-minded fans of melodic power metal (this is definitely not standard '80s rehash fare) and of left-of-center metal in general.

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