Hammer Bros. - The Vitality (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hammer Bros.

The Vitality (2006)


There are bands that try to be heavy and there are bands that succeed.

Mark Hammer Bros. down in the latter category, and mark them down with unwavering authority. Though they do employ breakdowns, it's evident from the start that the band knows it takes much more than that to create a record that's heavy and engaging just the same. A steady mix of Ringworm and that familiar Massachusetts sound, these five guys from New England head a pulverizing 22-minute attack that's as unforgiving as any I've heard in years.

What really fuels Hammer Bros., though, is the positively incensed vocal demeanor of singer Jim Domenici. Ferocious in every sense of the word, Domenici is able to alter his inflection to accompany the slow, relentless grooves of "Negatives," or the blistering speed of "Boston A.M." just the same. His vocal dexterity becomes more and more apparent as the album progresses, and he's even able to inject some melody later on without allowing the songs or album as a whole to lose the slightest bit of steam.

Because even if he was waning a bit, his four bandmates would have none of it.

From the first ominous chord progression to the last desperate screams of an album-closing Cro-Mags cover, this is as much a lesson in power as a lesson in restraint. While they do push the volume to the hilt, they also know when to curb it a bit, and let some slow, towering riffs cascade under the vitriol of Domenici's throat-shredding delivery. The aforementioned negatives is a great example of each facet of their songwriting working well together; the bouncy punk rock grooves that begin the song give way to a much harsher tone towards the end, and the transition is smooth and flawless. The title track is soon to follow with pounding chord progressions and just enough of a melodic rhythm section to keep it in check, all of which serves as a lead-in to the devastating speed of the riffing to follow. The dichotomy is so tight and so flawlessly delivered that it truly does not leave a single thing to complain about.

Every band out now that really thinks that they're heavy needs to take just one listen to Hammer Bros. -- and realize that they don't have a clue.