We Saw This: Hammers of Misfortune
One night after I saw Fang play to about 30 people up in Harlem I ventured onto more familiar territory and went to a show at my stellar neighborhood metal bar, Saint Vitus. It’s hard for me to write about shows that are venues other than Vitus because they pretty much play host to just about everything I want to see. If I had my druthers I probably would only end up writing about shows at Wierd and this damn place.
First up was Occultation. I’m a sucker for female-fronted doom bands so they kind of had me as soon as they hit the stage. The addition of Tooth from Natur on drums didn’t hurt either. Don’t be fooled by the name, they may be witchy but there’s nothing cloyingly “cvlt” about them. They played a little too long and the energy coming from the stage was a little tentative, but they don’t play out that often so I won’t be too hard on them.
Last time I wrote up a show at Saint Vitus it ended up turning into a rant about how annoying it is when Holy Mountain is projected behind noise bands. This time I’m going to point out how much I enjoy photographing doom bands in low-light. They are fairly static so you don’t have to use flash and everything looks great and sinister and moody. Since I’m more of a writer than a photographer I appreciate these things, they help me look more capable than I probably am.
The Gates of Slumber is a classic American doom band. They’ve been kicking around with various line-ups since 1998 and have had what may be a record of 5 different drummers including (fun fact time) Jamie of Midnight and Boulder fame. I missed them when they played with Saint Vitus the band at Chaos in Tejas so it was only fitting that I caught back up with them at Saint Vitus the bar.
About half of the crowd looked exactly like the band. This type of music brings out a very special breed of grizzled wizardly men, total hetero metal bears.
I have been waiting a very long time to see Hammers of Misfortune. I was out of town the last time they played in NYC back in 2009. While I would give my left tit for a chance to have seen them in their Bastard-era greatness with Slough Feg’s Mike Scalzi on vocals, I have no complaints about their current vocalist. His vocal tone is similar to Scalzi’s without sounding studied.
Besides, Hammers of Misfortune is pretty much all about guitar player and songwriter John Cobbett. True story, I was introduced to him before the show by a friend and instantly knew who he was but was too clammed up to tell him how much I like his band so I stood with the two of them quietly and unnecessarily. I don’t know why I get like that, I mean what, is someone going to be pissed off if I compliment their music? I’m not like a creep or anything, at least I hope not. Oh well, yet another missed opportunity to fan out in the face of greatness.
While Hammers of Misfortune has had even more line-up changes than Gates of Slumber drummer Chewy Marzolo has been with Cobbett since the Unholy Cadaver days.
The great thing about Hammers of Misfortune is while the themes are monumental and the music is incredibly intricate they never seem overwrought. The current line-up boasts a whopping six members, three of which contribute vocals. While lyrical themes verge on fantasy concept album territory, they never cross the line into silliness, something that is very difficult when it comes to metal whatever the sub-genre. While there are some seriously triumphant battle cries the lyrics touch on the modern alienation of urban life. Hammers has been called everything from Progressive Metal to Folk Metal to Power Metal to Hippie Metal (whatever the hell that is, sounds like a fucking abomination to me) but at the heart of it all none of those can accurately sum up the entirety of the sound. I’ll just stick to saying that they’re fucking awesome, hopefully we can all agree on that.
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