Released: 2010, Deka Records
Vancouver Canada’s Skull Hammer formed early in the 2000’s with a commitment to play retro-thrash combined with many elements of NWOBHM. The band released their first EP, FEAR THE TRUTH in 2008 and on independent label Deka Records, have released their first full length album, PAY IT IN BLOOD. Currently a four-piece, the band has already begun the musical chairs of band members and the arduous task of finding a label that cares.
On PAY IT IN BLOOD, the band has definitely put their best foot forward. The impressive album art was crafted by metal artist extraordinaire, J.P. Fournier, whose credits grace the works of Edguy, Avantasia, and Dragonforce to name just a few. Happily, the music lives up to the expectations forged from the album cover as Skull Hammer, perhaps more than any of the other recent thrash revival bands has managed to capture the overall vibe and feel of thrash metal’s early heyday. Skull Hammer is not incredibly sophisticated or technical, just nasty and chugging, pummeling with sheer attitude and brute force. Opener “Soldier of Fortune” manages to exude the vocal influence of Vio-lence combined with the riffery of early Exodus, while “Balls To The Bone” has chromatic riffs and a moshing breakdown that will take any vintage metal had back to the glory days of mid 80’s thrash. The album hits heavy and quick with ten songs all under 6 minutes or less.
The problem, as with most talented unsigned bands, is that the production does not match the quality of the tunes. However, in some ways the raw under produced album only heightens its retro-appeal. Still, these songs would sound much better with a ballsy production job instead of this lukewarm offering. This is not a reinvention of the wheel, nor is it shameless aping of current thrash revival bands that have combined modern metal influences with thrash, and consequently are all starting to sound damn near the same. Skull Hammer’s retro-influences are evident and pronounced, but the band has managed to forge its own thrash style, and for that they have earned my respect. This is a band that bears watching and certainly deserves that major labels take notice. Like I said this is not the most technical band in the world, but I’ll take the vibe on this one any day. Fans of 80’s and 90s metal will find much to like on this one, and I heartily recommend it.