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Hammers of Misfortune – The Bastard (Reissue) Award winner

Hammers of Misfortune
The Bastard (Reissue)
by Mark Machlay at 06 July 2021, 7:19 AM

Here comes a vinyl re-release of an underground metal classic that forged new paths when it comes to genre-defying metal. Twenty years after its original release, “The Bastard”¸ the debut album of HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE is getting a vinyl treatment with never-before-seen artwork and a new mastering job. The band actually formed in the mid-90s under the name UNHOLY CADAVER when guitarist John Cobbet and drummer Chewy Marzolo were the sole members, sharing vocal duties. They enlisted fellow musician Mike Scalzi of SLOUGH FEG and recorded some material for a demo but most of it never saw the light of day until years later. Changing their name to HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, phasing out some death metal vocal influences, and adding Janis Tanaka of FIREBALL MINISTRY and L7, the band released their debut concept album “The Bastard” to many positive reviews and even receiving several “best of 2001” awards from magazines like Terrorizer and Lamentations Of The Flame Princess.

With John Corbett well into his career as the leader of HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, as well as an integral member of LUDRICA and VHOL, he decided to take a break from the throes of recording the current HAMMERS album, seeking to peel back the onion regarding the recording process that created the San Francisco outfit’s most unique and cherished albums. Written in 1999, “The Bastard” began as a demo on Cobbett’s four-track recorder. Never intending to have a stable lineup, it featured the amazing vocals of Scalzi who eventually left to focus on his main band SLOUGH FEG. The multi-talented and hard-working Janis Tanaka on bass went on to work with the unlikely P!NK, supporting her on tour and playing on her 2003 album “Try This” before going to back to the metal world for FIREBALL MINISTRY for a bit, contributing to WINTERTHRALL since 2011 and from 2013-2019, playing in the all-female version of FEMME FATALE. Along with drummer Chewy who stayed for the longest tenure with the band, they eventually tracked the album in their rehearsal space on an old 8-track reel-to-reel by their friend Rich Morin, who, allegedly, was just starting to learn the means of audio engineering. Cobbett would often record vocals alone at night – doing constant battle with a RUSH cover band in another space – eventually completing his vocals on Halloween night by himself, in the dark. The extra mastering was done thanks to the band’s longtime engineer Justin Weis and will be released with full, restored artwork by Annick Giroux of Temple of Mystery Records.

Ever blurring the lines between NWOBHM, traditional doom, black metal and progressive metal, HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE came out of the gate with their debut “The Bastard” firing all cylinders and the reissue wipes away the dust that may have collected and allows it to shine in a whole, new, modern light. It was quite a gnarly amalgamation of fourteen tracks, but somehow, the whole thing works. “An Oath Sworn in Hell” is particularly amazing combination of black metal, folk and traditional heavy metal that stands out because of the constant care between the three styles and is evident with everything becoming even crisper on the remaster. The black metal sections are not as buried and harsh to the listener’s ear but still contain that “garage” sound quality famous for the genre. The epic guitar melodies of doom/traditional metal “The Dragon is Summoned” and “The Bastard Sapling” have great separation between the dueling sections and gets out of the way when the acoustic line comes in at the end of the song. Some may say, that the album is too schizophrenic and never seems to coalesce, but the experimentation on the album laid the perfect blueprint for what HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE would become and this album and remaster should become a staple in every metalheads record collection.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. The Dragon is Summoned
2. The Bastard Sapling
3. On Wings of Vengeance
4. Hunting Tyrant
5. You Should Have Slain Me
6. An Oath Sworn in Hell
7. The Blood Ax Speaks
8. Tyrant Dies
9. The Witch’s Dance
10. The Prophecy Has Two Meanings
11. The New King’s Lament
12. For the Ax
13. Troll’s March
14. Sacrifice/The End
John Cobbet – Guitars
Mike Scalzi – Vocals & Guitar
Chewy Marzolo– Drums
Janis Tanaka – Bass & Vocals
Record Label: Cruz Del Sur Music


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