Review by Sean Palmerston, Images by Albert Mansour
Truth be told, it has been a pretty shitty summer weather-wise here in Southern Ontario so far. Instead of our usual hot, humid summers it has been the kind where you can count the truly sticky days on one hand. This Saturday was another drab, dreary one here in the Hammer, with rain coming and going all day making for a generally blah day. Thankfully, the evening’s entertainment inside at the Casbah did more than make up for the crappy weather outside. In comparison, the four bands that played the venerable King Street West venue left those in attendance positively steamy.
First band of the night was Toronto’s Slaughter Strike, who I believe were making their Hamilton debut. SS is the new band of former Rammer guitarist Joel Militia and vocalist Dave Kristiansen, along with at least a few members of The Endless Blockade, and was I was really impressed with their performance. To be honest, they blew me the fuck away. While there’s nothing groundbreakingly new in their approach, which to these ears seems firmly rooted in the ’86-’90 infant stages of death metal, the quintet simply do what they do with such finesse and conviction that you can’t help but enjoy this band. Their songs totally reminded me of what I love about bands like Autopsy and early Entombed – they can play fast as fuck when they want to, but can also slow the tempo way down and play crushingly heavy doomy death metal with conviction. It’s something that a lot of bands cannot pull off, but they do it in style. Dave K is a great front man for this style too. He’s comfortable being perched up front and letting the grooves speak for themselves. Cool cover of Entombed’s “Supposed To Rot” near the set’s too. Watch out for these boys.
Hamilton’s own Crux Of Aux was next. The quintet, which features players known for their involvement in bands like Cursed, Shallow North Dakota, Chore and Sailboats Are White, have a sound that seems to divide audiences and that’s something I really admire. While instrumentally the band is tight as hell, a succinct mixture of late eighties thrash metal and early nineties Amphetamine Reptile style noise rock, the vocals of front man Matt Bourassa (which are treated through loops, effects and a Space Echo) separate the strong from the weak. They are used more as an instrument than singing and I know for a fact that they turn some people off of the band. Knowing these guys as long as I have, I also know they don’t give a fuck. If you don’t like it, too bad, because they are having fun and most of the people there were digging the shit out of it even if their smoke machine made it a little suffocating inside the Casbah’s comfy confines.
It was after midnight when the first American band of the night hit the stage. Bay area black metallers Ludicra may not be the most recognizable name out there – in fact their drummer Aesop’s metal mp3 blog Cosmic Hearse is arguably much more well known than the band he keeps time for. This, my friends, is a damned shame because the ladies and gentlemen of this band did a great job and definitely won over some new fans, including this writer. My exposure to the band before seeing them was minimal at best – pretty much just the songs they have posted on their myspace page – but their vibrant, twin lead guitar and twin guttural vocal approach was spot on even if the overall mix was a little lacking. Laurie Shanaman and Christy Cather’s vocals compliment each other exceptionally well, especially when one is singing a low clean line and the other is shrieking over top. I don’t get the chance to see enough really quality female fronted death and black metal bands around these parts and this performance has put buying their back catalogue as a top priority for future purchases.
By the time the night’s headliner’s finally hit the stage after 1 AM, a night of heavy music had unfortunately taken its toll on many in attendance. I only mention this because the poor suckers that went home early missed what was in my opinion an absolutely delightful set by the Bay Area’s Hammers Of Misfortune. I’ve been following the trajectory of the band’s career since Rob Kachluba convinced me to check out their debut album The Bastard early on this decade and have never been disappointed with their recorded output. The band is four for four in my books and their newest double album Fields / Church Of Broken Glass is in regular rotation here at Chez Palmerston because my six year old son is as much of a fan of it as I am! The show was of course far too late for him to make it out, but I was happy to be there in all of my glory rocking out to a band that I must admit I never thought I’d have the chance to see live.
Since their previous albums were either released on a local Bay Area label or on a European imprint I figured the chance of them making it anywhere near here was small at best. Well, thanks to said latest release being on Canada’s own Profound Lore, the band made their Canadian debut here in Hamilton and definitely wowed all those that stuck around. Playing songs from all four albums, new-ish guitarist/vocalist Patrick Goodwin did an outstanding job not only on songs from the new album (his first with the band) but also on the Mike Scalzi era material. Vocal harmonies play a big part in the Hammers sound and not only does Goodwin work well with both organist Sigrid Sheie (who has a full Hammond organ and Leslie rotating speaker out on tour!) and vocalist Jesse Quattro, but the females themselves also proved a great vocal tandem, especially in the quiet beginning section of “Trot Out the Dead,” a song I actually requested when they asked the crowd if they had any. I knew it would be a good way to see if the band cuts it live and they assuredly do. In spades.
If I had one complaint about the night, it would be the same one that was mentioned to me by a few of the other fanatics that lapped up every note the band gave us on Saturday night: that the band themselves were too damn loud for the room. I’m not sure if this was the fault of the band or of the club’s sound guy, but everything was on ten for the whole set, which left the subtle nuances that make HOM’s albums so special pinned to the wall with the delicate feel of a herd of rabid rhinos. It was so loud that the organ at times sounded like sheets of white noise, something I’d expect at a Motorhead gig instead of a Hammers show. It didn’t ruin my evening, earplugs made it more than bearable, but I think this show would have been a 10/10 instead of a 9/10 had a little restraint been used. However, having said that, it was a delicious treat and one that I was only too happy to consume from start to finish, even if my ears are still ringing a little bit too much for my own comfort some 23 hours later. Please come back again someday!