Album Review: Hammer Fight - "Chug of War"

When was the last time you actually had FUN listening to a metal album? Most metal is all angst and pent up aggression. All too often, metal bands take themselves WAY too seriously and try to out-metal each other. “I’m heavier”. “No, I’m heavier”. “Well, my lyrics are darker”. “No, MY lyrics are darker”. Well, your old pal Wizard is here to tell you that metal doesn’t have to be such a downer. And here to help me explain is Hammer Fight.

There was a brief period when metal records were fun to listen to both lyrically and musically. Off the top of my head I can think of Anthrax’s “Among The Living”, “Fabulous Disaster” by Exodus and even Megadeth’s “So Far, So Good, So What”. Nuclear Assault knew how to have a good time, especially on the “Game Over” EP. S.O.D. and early M.O.D., while offensive, we‘re created by folks out to enjoy themselves making metal. All of those albums were released in the mid to late ‘80s and, since then, metal seems to have become VERY serious. Maybe it was the grunge thing. But now, just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, is the debut full-length from New Jersey thrashers Hammer Fight.

The name of the album is “Chug of War” and that should tell you all you need to know about the songs contained within. They hearken back to the days when thrash was fresh and exciting without sounding dated. Call me old fashioned but I love an album that starts with the popping sound of what I can only assume is a beer can, the guzzling of said beer and, SLAM, in-your-face metal in the form of “Ruben’s Ride”.

“Chug of War” is metal, metal, metal. Mostly thrash with elements of progressive rock; distorted bass, chugging guitars and riffs that are accessible and subtly complex. As stated by guitarist Todd Stern, “... we aimed for a record that would serve as the catalyst that helps transform your boring day into a good fucking time. Listen loud, rock hard, and have FUN kids. That's what counts most...". I couldn’t agree more.

Ryan Blackman joins Stern on guitars and, together, they create a sound that is incredibly palatable. They may not be the heaviest or the fastest but they rock and, sometimes, that’s enough. Drummer Justin Spaeth does an incredible job in the percussion department. One of the highlights that caught my ear was the double kick during “Queer Eye For The Scene Guy” and I am a sucker for songs where the time is kept on a china cymbal.

The fourth member of Hammer Fight is vocalist and bass player Drew Murphy. Drew uses and aggressive vocal style that leans toward death metal but is still coherent enough to pick up some of the lyrics. I just couldn’t help myself from smiling while listening to “Foot Chase” and hearing Murphy death growl the words “cutie patootie”. Awesome.

And speaking of awesome, most singing bass players keep the bass lines simple but Drew is truly a virtuoso on his instrument. Just listen to the bass on “I Didn’t Feel Like Drinking”, for example. A couple of times through the record he has room to solo his distorted bass chops and he does not disappoint.

The themes on “Chug of War” focus mainly on booze (surprise), sex and rock and roll. Songs like “I Didn’t Feel Like Drinking (Until I Started Drinking)”, “Get Wrecked” and “Bar Room Bully” drive the drinking theme home. And, talking about a fun album, the song titles are full of puns (personally, I have a soft spot for puns). “Disas-tour”, “Ginger Rails” and “Hella Weights” just to name a few.

“Chug of War” is not all puns and drinking, it’s a solid metal record that will have you pounding the steering wheel all the way home. So, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this record. It’s worth it for the album cover alone - two stone hammers and three Bavarian beer steins. Need I say more? I have nothing bad to say about this album. Hammer Fight is really on to something here. “Chug of War” is heavy, it’s fun and it rocks. Did I like it? You bet your cutie patootie I did. Now let’s get a drink.

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