The last time I saw or heard from Hammer Bros, they were ripping apart a SUNY Oneonta classroom.
Oneonta is a terrific college town, but one not exactly known for a burgeoning hardcore scene -- a fact reflected by an overall show attendance of no more than 25 people. The crowd, small as it was, was spread out before the band went on, making the tiered music classroom look even larger than it actually was.
It could not have mattered less.
Jim Domenici, being the consummate frontman that he is, paid no mind to the meager attendance and, with the torrent of noise created by the four men behind him, launched into one of the most intense and captivating sets I’ve ever seen. Such is the draw of Hammer Bros -- a Massachusetts five-piece perpetually hellbent on assaulting the senses of anyone lucky enough to be listening.
Effortlessly moving back-and-forth between old-school hardcore grooves, devastating chord progressions, and quick-hit rhythms, Hammer Bros have put together a well-rounded effort in The Kids Are Dead, one that should cement them as a premier band in hardcore.
Not a band that’s keen on wasting time, Hammer Bros burst out of the gate with the aptly titled “No Wait,” a track that lets a slow but punishing groove gradually unfurl while Jim Domenici comes in at the peaks of heaviness to add another dimension to an already impressive display. “Salvation” follows not only with a sped-up rhythm, but, for the first time, Domenici truly unleashes the scathing nature of his vocals. The song sees Domenici wrestling with religion; “we pave the road to damnation with a lack of identity, burn sodom incarnate, purification through mass cremation, if this is God then who am I to denounce morality,” just as most people do in their individual way.
As strong as Hammer Bros are lyrically, it’s the frenzy of the music those lyrics ride on top of that picks up even more steam late into the seven-song album. The title track, “The Kids Are Dead,” is a ferocious three minutes that leaves not an instant to breathe. Led in the first minute by slowly-loudening fills and chords, the track is put into overdrive as soon as the vocals hit -- quick and volatile, the delivery is unpredictable and frenetic, which, in turn, ramps up the pace of the song as a whole.
With a runtime just shy of twenty minutes, Hammer Bros knew that all their cards had to be on the table from the get-go, they knew they had to somehow pack all the power and speed possible into every song -- a task the band succeeded at without breaking a sweat.
From the rage and conviction of “Animal” to the hardcore swagger of “Salvation,” all five men in Hammer Bros contributed to what is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyably heavy records you’ll hear this year.