|Review: Hammers Of Misfortune - The August Engine|
|The August Engine|
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Year released: 2003
Review online: January 20, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
for:The August Engine
Rated 4.25/5 (85%) (28 Votes)
Hammers Of Misfortune is a side project of John Cobbett, the other half of the guitar team responsible for the awesome riffage of the inimitable Lord Weird Slough Feg. Cobbett has enlisted the help of Slough Feg mastermind Mike Scalzi on guitars and vocals, as well as a slew of other guests from lesser-known SF area bands to produce an excellent second album to follow the well-recieved debut "The Bastard" from 2001.
Describing this music is going to be a royal pain in the ass. As might be expected, there is a great similarity to Slough Feg in the riff-style, as well as in the unmistakable voice of Mike Scalzi, but there is a LOT more going on here. HoM also throw in a lot of acoustic breaks with almost spanish-style strumming, female vocals, and a much more progressive and strange compositional style than even Slough Feg. I would have to say this sounds a bit like Slough Feg but even wierder and more defiantly inaccessible. Fans of exclusively polished and commercial melodic metal should avoid this like the plague, but if you like strange bands like Slough Feg, Manilla Road, or Voivod (who HoM also remind me of quite a bit) you should give this a chance, as this is some powerfully good stuff.
This is not normally the kind of metal I favor, as it is a little too off the wall for everyday listening, but I can't argue with this album any more than I can stop playing it. It opens up with epic, thundering riffs in the 'overture' to the title track - an instrumental that swings right into track 2 without a break, even though "Rainfall" is an all-acoustic number with almost whispered female vocals. It's just a mesmerizing song. Then things get all metal again with the epic "A Room And A Riddle" followed by the almost nine-minute title song that is a masterpiece of epic, heavy, emotional music. Really, the more I listen to this song, the more at a loss I am to describe how amazing it really is. "Insect" starts out very acoustic and soft with more breathy female singing, then raises the hammers on the pounding riffs about halfway through. "Doomed Parade" is another tremendous epic cut with sweeping riffs and an instantly catchy chorus. "The Trial And The Grave" is a slow and doomy song that closes out the album on a rather melancholy note.
The CD package is very cool(even though it's a digipack), and very strange, designed entirely by prime mover Cobbett. The package really reminds me of Voivod in a Stanislaw Lem sort of way, for the two or three people who will know what the Hell I mean. The lyrics are highly impressive. Not normally my thing, but very deft and clever. Almost funny, but bleak and sad at the same time. "Within you live my manufactured dreams/Soon we'll be repackaging your quaint, rebellious schemes/Within this August Engine's power/To vindicate or to devour/As armies march and temples tower."
Powerful, emotional, epic, tragic and utterly original, I can't justify giving this anything less than a perfect score. Every year metal bands try to do something new and different, and most of them fail mightily, but Hammers Of Misfortune have created an album that is at once superlatively entertaining, emotionally compelling, and truly different from anything else you will ever hear. If you favor the different and the strange, then you must have this. Don't miss it.
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Interview with JC on February 28, 2004 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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