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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE

Experimental/Post Metal • United States


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Hammers of Misfortune biography
Originally formed as Unholy Cadaver, Hammers of Misfortune are the brainchild of ex-Lord Weird Slough Feg guitarist John Cobbett, who composes the material and provides both guitar and a portion of the vocals. Cobbett's ex-bandmate Mike Scalzi (frontman for The Lord Weird Slough Feg) and keyboardist Sigrid Sheie provide the remainder of the vocals, with Jamie Meyers (bass) and Chewy Marzolo (drums) filling out the group's lineup. Their style has constantly evolved over the course of their lifespan and proven nearly impossible to track down, but they generally shift around a doomy and elaborate style of heavy metal, with some occasional acoustic/folk influences presenting themselves. The band's remarkable ability to shift tones and approaches from song to song as well as their remarkable musicianship and songwriting talents have earned considerable acclaim for each of their releases thus far, culminating with the release of 2006's The Locust Years. The band's lineup has since undergone drastic change, with Scalzi, Meyers and Marzolo all exiting the group's ranks for various reasons (Scalzi to focus on his main band, Meyers to raise her new baby and Marzolo due to work commitments).



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Locust YearsLocust Years
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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE discography


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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.22 | 8 ratings
The Bastard
2001
3.32 | 12 ratings
The August Engine
2003
4.27 | 17 ratings
The Locust Years
2006
4.00 | 15 ratings
Fields / Church Of Broken Glass
2008
3.67 | 11 ratings
17th Street
2011

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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Fields / Church Of Broken Glass by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.00 | 15 ratings

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Fields / Church Of Broken Glass
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings

4 stars What would have happened if in, say, 1975 a band decided to marry the musical complexity of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer with the heaviness of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest? The result may have sounded very much like this double album offering by Hammers of Misfortune.

Knowing nothing about the band previously, my eye caught sight of the cover for Church of Broken Glass while sampling prog bands on Amazon. I gave the song samples the usual quick once over to see if anything caught my interest and it certainly did. There are many points worthy of praise here but also a few criticisms as well. Let's consider the strengths first.

This double album of two short (about 35 minutes each) albums is packed with the kind of intricate and complex music you'd expect from a symphonic prog band but with the heaviness of a progressive metal band that puts an organ up front. A big nod goes to multi- instrumentalist Sigrid Sheie whose organ and piano work is heavy and serious. She has classical training and plays flute as well but also has punk experience. (There's an interesting interview with her at canadaartsconnect.com). Sigrid also contributes backing vocals.

The guitar is heavy and driving but with a lot of interesting riffs and passages. This is not your typical muted-string duh-duh-duh metal. It's more like Iron Maiden but with the heavier sound of a talented 80's speed metal band.

The rhythm section holds its own, and while the bass doesn't stand out in particular, the drum work is appreciatively busy without being overdone.

The style of the music ranges from complex speed metal to slow stoner metal but always accented by that Hammond B3. There are more delicate moments too with acoustic guitar and some beautiful piano work. Musically speaking, this is a well-balanced album that defines its parameters in a comfortably broad scale without straying into "that doesn't suit the album" territory. Any classical passage or even the eastern sounds in parts of "Too Soon" don't sound out of place at all. Songs range in length from the straightforward 4:02 heavy rock of "Train" from "Church..." to the 10:19 of "Butchertown" from the same disk.

There are perhaps three strikes against the album. The first depends on how you like your modern prog to sound with respect to recording quality. Both disks capture the more unpolished sounds of an 80's metal band that didn't have major label backing or the slightly garage-like sound of some 70's recordings such as what I have heard on, say, Atomic Rooster albums. If you like this sound or if you can forget that we're talking about an album from 2008 then it's not an issue but a plus. As the band seems inclined to capture a heavy 70's atmosphere then maybe a more polished sound like that on Dream Theater, Fates Warning, or Threshold albums wouldn't work. Personally I have mixed feelings about the sound. I like it but maybe a bit cleaner would be better?

My second gripe is that some of the best songs have choruses that just repeat and repeat as the song makes a long journey to the end. "Butchertown" appealed to me because of its "Black Sabbath" (song) approach with slow, doomy and heavy chords combined with lighter acoustic parts. But the chorus repeats over and over while the music slowly climbs toward a promised climax that never really reaches release. "Motorcade" and "Rats Assembly" also have this though not as long as "Butchertown".

Finally, I have to say that the biggest disappointment is the vocal department. With male and female lead vocalists (Patrick Goodwin and Jesse Quattro) and Sigrid on backing vocals (plus an uncredited male backing vocalist) there are wonderful opportunities to combine male voices ("Motorcade"), female voices ("Rats Assembly"), and male and female voices, as well as solo vocal parts. Sadly, the production of the vocals is weak. They are treated more like a rhythm instrument than the voices of the songs. The lyrics are at times difficult to make out and the voices just another sound in the music. Additionally, neither lead vocalist comes across as particularly remarkable, though perhaps this has something to do with the production or mixing again. It seems Jesse Quattro is capable of maintaining a solo career, so maybe there's talent to speak of.

Overall the album could score five stars for the musical effort but loses on the vocals and on recording quality in general. I recommend fans of heavier symphonic prog and experimental metal to check this one out. Four stars but considered giving it three.

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 17th Street by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.67 | 11 ratings

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17th Street
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Hammers of Misfortune are a band I have always liked for many reasons since 2003's "The August Engine". They fuse very strong metal riffing with inventive time sigs and some excellent keyboard work. The lyrics are a real drawcard for me as they are uplifting and thought provoking always. They have an excellent lead guitarist with John Cobbett and the organ of Sigrid Sheie is terrific. The sound reminds me of Riverside or Sky architect. The vocals of Joe Hutton are easy to understand and very well executed. Other musicians make up the soundscape including Chewy Marzolo on drums and Max Barnett on bass. Leila Abdul-Rauf is a fine guitarist and vocalist too, balancing all the male vocals. Sigrid Sheie also plays flute in places and sings. It is a grand metal sound that is generated, though the lineup has changed slightly adding extra members.

On this album "317" the title track is majestic and slow until we get to some very fast riffing on the wonderful '17th Street'. Sigrid's vocals are very noticeable and I hoped later we would hear more of her. There is a great doom metal crawling riff, so simple and effective. I loved how it just locked into a riff and kept the signature throughout and yet remained so completely compelling.

'The Grain' is a progressive ever shifting metal track with a terrific melody and very accomplished lead break. I love the riff on this just hammering along. The chorus is catchy too, though sung too often. The conclusion of this is organ shimmering over piano phrases. 'Staring (The 31st Floor)' is a short metal blaster, chopsticks piano over outbursts of distorted guitar. Nothing against Joe, but please let the girls sing for a bit and this is just non stop vocals and the melody is rather mediocre at best.

'The Day the City Died' follows with a fast tempo, and some nice time sig changes. A nice harmony between the male and female vocalists. This sounds lot like Symphony X in places. 'Romance Valley' is more fast metal to bang your head in to the wall to. Followed by soft slow meandering 'Summer Tears'. The lead break is great on this. Sigrid's sweet piano is dreamy. It has an unusual feel to this, not metal and descending chords sound like 'Phantom of the Opera' melody.

'Grey Wednesday' is next with grand doomy chord splashes, and then a fast riffing metal guitar with some massive Hammond organ. The fast tempo really woke me up after the slower material. It sounds very much like classic 80s metal in some ways, not Anthrax, Metallica or Slayer, more like anthemic power metal like Manowar, or Helloween. 'Going Somewhere' is the longest track clocking 10 minutes. The mini epic starts with piano and then a huge riff crunches in, Joe's strong vocals and some harmonies, though the ladies are silent on this except for echoing some phrases. The sig changes in a retro classic metal style. No lead break forthcoming and then another melodic riff and another verse some falsetto here too. The keyboard solos to follow are excellent though not as good as the lead break which consists of very fast hammer ons and speed picking. There is a galloping metal riff shift, and more lead breaks to end it.

"17th Street" is another solid album from underrated Hammers of Misfortune that deserve more reviews and attention.

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 17th Street by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.67 | 11 ratings

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17th Street
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars So far I've listened to 2 albums recorded by this formation "The Locust Years" and "Fields / Church of Broken Glass ". Both of them were filled with interesting prog-metal with surprisingly important role of Hammond organ played by female keyboardist Sigrid Sheie. Formation's 5th CD called "17th Street" it's a continuation of this trend. While I noticed that organ started to play a slightly smaller role in the music, my overall reception of this record is even better than previous stuff of Hammers of Misfortune. I just realized that after few listenings I already remember some of the melodies included here. Maybe for die-hard prog-metal aficionados it's not so important, but for such symphonic prog-rock fan like me captivating melodies are as much important as technical proficiency of musicians.

Anyway the latest "child" of Hammers of Misfortune includes 9 entertaining songs bordering between prog-metal and heavy prog genres:

1. "317" - album kick off with powerful guitar and organ riffing in this mysteriously named track. In fact I thought it will be an instrumental composition but near the end pompous, symphonic metal vocals appear. Overall it's a real introducing punch in listener's face.

2. "17th Street" - while previous track was more in Ayreon valley, this one has more in common with "traditional" progressive metal style, so lovers of Dream Theater and Symphony X should dig it (however vocals here are much lower than high-registered "shrieks" of James LaBrie). Anyway it's a rather good, fast-paced and aggressive, but not groundbreaking song.

3. "The Grain" - it's definitely the core of the album! Fantastic song, really. While it doesn't have any spectacular solos or new ideas, it has one of the most catchy melodies I've heard in prog-metal world. It's a simple and in the same time amazing composition.

4. "Staring (The 31st Floor)" - definitely the weakest song on the album. Very tiresome and bland. Lots of ultra heavy guitar layers and doom-like vocals. Almost no keyboards at all too. Waste of space on the disk...

5. "The Day the City Died" - and he's my number two after "The Grain". Another phenomenal song, very enjoyable in its simplicity. Very groovy rhythm, amazingly memorable refrain and splendid organ/acoustic piano layers. I also love that guitar here is much more in hard rock vain than metal style. To be honest "The Day the City Died" reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne's material from 80s (and as you can see from my nickname, I always liked Ozzy :-).

6. "Romance Valley" - speedy power-metal song with breathtaking electric guitar riffing and organ filling out the space. Not horribly memorable but good enough to be used as a "nice" headbanger ;-). While listening to this song I think about Japanese band Sigh and their "Gallows Pole" album.

7. "Summer Tears" - surprisingly soft song driven by classical-influenced acoustic piano (yeah, Sigrid Sheie not only blasts our ears with organ but she also can play beautiful piano passages!) and melodic vocals. And those classic-rock sounding guitar solo, ehhh...You will be shocked if you expected another stomping metal, but for me it's a great song.

8. "Grey Wednesday" - Doom metal organ blasts as from the beginning of the song, but after about 1 minute Hammers of Misfortune comes back to prog/power metal territory. Lots of crunching guitars and dirty Hammond chops make is another decent track.

9. "Going Somewhere" - and here comes an epic. It was inevitable that we will have some epics on progressive metal/rock album. Unfortunately it's not so exciting as I wished it to be. A bit too repetitive and restless rhythm doesn't let me enjoy this piece so much. However I don't say it's bad 'cos there are still many good moments, especially some speedy guitar/organ marathons.

In general I'd recommend latest album of Hammers of Misfortune to people who like progressive metal but look for something more than 10+ minutes electric guitar solos where you can hear more dazzling sounds in one second than you can even comprehend... I would say that prog-metal style presented on this album is more sophisticated and casual listener friendly.

If you prefer your prog-metal more diverse and retro-prog rooted like this, I'd also recommend you to check such formations: Ayreon, Sigh, Death Organ, Solefald or Ansur. But I think that fanboys of Dream Theater and Symphony X may also find music on "17th Street" interesting.

Best tracks: "The Grain" & "The Day the City Died"

4 stars from ozzy_tom

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 The August Engine by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.32 | 12 ratings

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The August Engine
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars A mixture of experimental metal riffing, folk and Gothic doom.

Hammers of Misfortune are an experimental metal outfit with some innovative prog riffing and very complex lead soling. The rhythms are broken and are often quick tempo with very slow lead guitar overlayed by Cobbett's guitar and a steady beat. "The August Engine" is one of the best albums from the band beginning with the amazing fast and creative instrumental August Engine No. 1. There are short blastbeats on this with the oddest time sig, and some acoustic pieces merge it into the next track.

Rainfall is acoustic and piano at the beginning and then the female vocals of Sheie smoothly and gently chime in, with beautiful harmonies. The contrast from tension to release is astounding.

A Room and A Riddle returns to the blistering metal riffs with a chugging pace and pounding drums. The vocals are a male and female harmony sounding quite dark and foreboding. The rhythms are fractured and as strange as the vocal style.

Another great track is Insect beginning with folky acoustic guitar and estranged harmonised vocals. The monotone melody is off kilter and it builds gradually to a loud distorted guitar chord progression and lead soloing. The song takes off with strong vocals and riffing. There are some weird time sigs on drums from Marzolo and the track fades eventually.

Doomed Parade has some of the best vocals of Cobbett, and nice trade offs from Sheie. The beat is broken by pauses and the lead break is wonderful, echoing twin lead guitar solos and harmonics over acoustic flourishes. There is a majestic feel with the vocals and then it settles into a minimalist acoustic with the Gothic female vocals taking over. Eventually the main motif returns with male vocals and it ends with a crashing finale.

The Trial and The Grave is quite doomy with a downbeat chord structure. At 11:12 it is the longest track on the album and features many different mood swings with time shifts and splintering musical structures. The female harmonies are strong; "was it a dream, is it just I or the world that's gone mad, I searched for a headstone, what did I find in time, nothing but a blackness." The Gothic essence is captured in the main verses at the beginning, quite stark and chilling; "standing condemned, the trial commenced, none to defend her and no evidence, the sentence was passed, a barrister laughs, when they had killed her they cut her in half." The chilling words are overlayed by doom laden Sabbath-esque chords. The vengeance of the corpse is inevitable here and it gets into some dark territory. The atmosphere is ethereal and the music consistently feels downbeat, including the repetitive lead solo.

Overall the album features a huge range of styles, is highly experimental and very dark overall. The front cover with German gassings and apocalyptic bombings from screaming jets paints the tormented picture of war and pain. The music reflects this in places, and as a newcomer to the band I can recommend this for those who like their metal forged with a dark blade, and sliced up with folk and Gothic influences.

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 The Locust Years by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.27 | 17 ratings

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The Locust Years
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by avatar

4 stars Hammers of Misfortune´s last offering is a progressive rock concept album with lots of Hammond keyboards, textures, ideas and intensity. One of the most interesting Prog Metal albums of the year.

The tragic decade of 1930s was called The Locust Years by Winston Churchill, with words from the Old Testament Book of Joel 2:25. The lyrics have clear references to the corruption and war-like environment the world is in, but they are opened to several interpretations.

How does it sound? Well: mix Emmerson, Lake & Palmer and Yngwie Malmsteen, put different voices with 70's feel, alternate lyrical moments with storms of energy, and you will have it.

An amazing CD, highly recommended.

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 The Bastard by HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.22 | 8 ratings

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The Bastard
Hammers of Misfortune Experimental/Post Metal

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars (Actually 3.5 stars)

When I first heard this band, I was thrown back to my youth when I heard metal in the 80's. I mean the straightforward, heavy metal with those riffs that made me feel so good, like I have reached home and am now in a safe place. But safe is not what this album is about; especially if you listen to the lyrics of songs such as You Should Have Slain Me or An Oath Sworn In Hell (which also happen to be my two favourite songs here). I will not bother you about the details of the story told in this theme album, but instead focus on the music itself, which is what I pay attention most. I will only say it will appeal to people who like fantasy tales.

HOM has close ties to The Lord Weird Slough Feg through its guitarist John Cobbett who founded HOM (and does the vocals as well) along with other TLWSF members - Mike Scalzi on keyboards and Sigrid Sheie who is the second vocalist. The fact that this is a concept album, does not only reflect in the story that is told in the songs, but can be figured out by the fact that there are recurrences of some sound themes throughout the album and they serve as reference points and are played a bit differently each time they are brought up.

The music - well, apart form it being based on what I view as 80's metal, it brings in a fresh and complex sound into it and makes for a very enjoyable listen, perhaps even for those not into metal music (although it will require some getting used to the more aggressive sides of the album). The guitars have a cool crunchy sound and the drumming can get very energetic and enthusiastic sounding when the tracks develop more and allow for the band's wilder side to come out. What else? Well, there are traces of Doom metal there, which can be heard on the more tortured and slow bits in some songs (Hunting Tyrant), but for those who are just afraid of this now let me calm you by saying; those are merely traces of it. You can also hear some more folk-like moments when the acoustic guitar takes over on several tracks and plays a nice and relaxed tune.

When listening to them, it is quite evident to me that they are highly skilled as musicians and I admire their ability to give a depth and complexity to what would otherwise be "plain" heavy metal (not that I dislike it; quite the contrary. But that is irrelevant here).

Another excellent trait they have is the male/female vocals that sometimes sing separately and on other occasions have a sort of duet. It is impossible for me to describe the sound of their vocals, but those are not your typical metal vocals and they are clean vocals apart for occasional distorted vocals and some screeching vocals which mean to represent other characters in the story.

But what I like most about them is that they have those tracks that as soon as they begin they make you want to move and shake your head due to their excellent rhythms. They have those catchy guitar riffs and drum sections that catch my senses and guide them about as the songs goes on. Not the most complex and amazing parts, but those are certainly the most entertaining. Just listen to those two tracks I mentioned at the opening and also the last track Sacrifice/The End and you might experience what I mean.

To sum this all up, I have to say that I don't find the songs to be all of the same level. Some are very good (like the two I mentioned in the beginning) while others are less exciting and I get a feeling of unevenness as a whole. That been said, there are no bad songs here for me; just some tracks that are less exciting than others and not up to par with the bright ideas portrayed in those songs that I think highly of. This is why I think it is a good album overall, and while not an excellent addition, it would be a pretty good addition to anyone who can appreciate a good and above average metal album. Moreover, it will probably appeal only to "metal people", especially those who like the straightforward sound of heavy metal (especially 80's metal; maybe we can all it vintage metal by now?).

I would give this album a 3.5 stars rating, but as it is impossible, I will opt for the 3 stars rating, which seems more suitable for me (even though a sense of remorse creeps up within me as I do this, but I believe this is the right thing to do).

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Thanks to Bryan for the artist addition.

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