Monday, January 09, 2012

Hammers of Misfortune: 17th Street (2011)


Since I let my very expensive Terrorizer subscription lapse, the only metal magazine I continue to read is Decibel. And with good reason. Not all of their writers have the best taste. Some of the reviews are filled with hyperbole or references I don't understand. Some of the stuff they go nuts for just makes me scratch my head. But those are the exceptions.

So, when I saw the prominent position of 17th Street on the magazine's top 40 of 2011 list, I decided to check out the latest from Hammers of Misfortune. This is my first exposure to the band, and I have to say that in a magazine focused on extreme metal, they stick out like Nergal in a cancer ward. But it's good enough that the divergence from their normal coverage is warranted.

They bear resemblance to fellow San Franciscans Slough Feg by harkening back to an earlier era in metal while dodging any accusations of being "retro". They differ from Slough Feg primarily by being more progressive, rather than stripped-down. You might call them a metal Queen. Many of the riffs and piano/organ parts could have been pulled from the Queen catalog, most notably on "Summer Tears". But it's heavier, Motörhead-esque rhythm parts (like on "Grey Wednesday") clearly mark it as metal. The songs' catchy choruses are driven by vibrato-rich clean vocals.

Not all of the songs are going to make quite as big an impact as the masterful "The Grain". Such a shortcoming might not detract so much from a band based on "sound" rather than "songs", but here it is a pitfall. Still, there's quite a bit of good music on here.

The Verdict: With riffs and choruses that you will find yourself humming for hours, 17th Street is a very good listen. It's also a nice change of pace from my usual, suffocating extreme metal. Even a sperm whale needs to take a breath once in a while. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. This album pales in comparison to their older material. Everything they did with Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg) is pure gold, so if you liked this album, prepare to be blown away by their old shit.

  2. I got started on these guys about 5 years ago with their first release, 'The Bastard.' One of the very few albums I picked up blindly, not knowing anything about it and just liking the cover artwork. Holy hell. Addicting stuff. After that album they dropped the harsh vocals and have been constantly evolving. I had the opportunity to see them live last month in Portland. If you get the chance, see them live. Amazing.

  3. You really liked this lp huh. It's their worst by a mile.