I don’t always re-publish decade-old album reviews. But when I do it’s usually for a really good cause. For a few years I reviewed albums for Roberto Martinelli, the soul behind the dulcimer-centric Bay Area black metal project Botanist. I discovered some crazy-good, new music during a very dark and unhappy period of my life. Most of this music sticks with me today. I am still open to new soundscapes and new experiences. Enjoy while we can. NOTE: “Power Means Death Power” is still my ringtone – hey, it’s got to get my attention, somehow.
AMMIT – Hammer of Darkness – CD – Displeased Records – 2005
Chilean It-Man Ammit is HEREBY PROCLAIMED to be the new Bob Dylan of black thrash – a polarizing figure; abhorred by some, deified by others. This listener is a new convert to the latter faction (paradoxically, she cannot stand Bob Dylan). (whew! – ed)
See, early on in the 1980’s, Venom and Bathory marked the nether-region of just how far people were willing to go with their metal. Many preferred to stop at Thin Lizzy, Budgie, or U.F.O. Others explored only so far as Motorhead. The nether-regions were not to be trifled with, however, much less listened to, unless you were willing to go all the way. A few years along, Hellhammer and Sodom conquered that nether-region.
Now, with extremity languishing as a very subjective term, from Opeth to Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition and back, the preponderance of bands, styles, and subgenres makes it very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Hammer of Darkness, Ammit’s second full-length, may surprise those familiar with his previous output. Admittedly, the Mass Suicide / Steel Inferno CD lost this listener after only a few spins – it felt too larval; it needed more time in the oven. But Ammit’s new release treads the gargantuan step that catapulted Venom from Welcome to Hell to Black Metal, from relatively meh to TOTAL FUCKING CLASSIC.
This latest CD is a new black dawn for South American metal, a platter of pure, steaming, diarrhea-soaked nastiness – in terms of extremity, yet coupled with accessibility (the production is crystal clear), Ammit is unmatched so far in this year of 2005.
To start with, Ammit introduces this less-than-forty minute demon with “Pure Infernal Fire,” a minimalist, pounding, Melvins-y, layered chant that is pure fucking ten-ton-testicle ATMOSPHERE.
That said, please allow the following revelation, a epiphany that converted this reviewer to Ammit’s Crusade against Christ: the second song, “Power Means Death Power,” is possibly the most brazen, fierce, epileptic, fist-in-the-air punk-thrash anthem ever recorded. The barely off-cue, self-conscious, furiously barking vokills, the total snare drum rape, and hilarious Nigel Tufnel-ized guitar solo are the clincher. To summarize: even if Hammer of Darkness contained ONLY this particular track, it would still get a 10.
The next one, “Acid,” is no less lethal – a pure delight it is to hear its thrash pace and hearken back to the fresh blast of PURE BLACK AIR issued forth from Bathory’s essential 1986 abortion, Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Ammit’s latest is THAT good.
“Dogs of Hell” is almost Van Halen-esque in its simple, pleasing, mid-paced warmongering. “Sinner” is evocative of the political turbulence from which Ammit hails: a cacophonous, thrashing pandemonium, almost vortex-like with intensity, brings extreme metal’s disenchantment with ultra-conservative authority to a new apex (the brutal dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet still ripples through the Chilean psyche). And “Terrormass” in the “Mayhem with Mercy” of Hammer of Darkness: a brief but harsh keyboard interlude that presages the ensuing blizzard.
“Wraith” is another topper. The chorus chant “Wraith—FULL OF WRATH!” is part Melvins, part Crebain, so killer and sloppy it’s like watching a frisky piranha fight.
“Black Plagues” is the signature Kreator “Pleasure to Kill” hail of the CD – it bludgeons a guttural whirl of treble, rapid-fire distortion, and complete siphoning away of common decency.
“Genocide” is even faster than some of the other tracks, until it descends into a Sabbath-y interlude that provides further evidence of Ammit’s vastly improved sense of range. “Las Garras Del Mal” bears a crazy resemblance to Venom’s finer vintage, right down to the pinch harmonics and linear (but furious) drumming. Finally, Hammer of Darkness closes the CD with a return to the repetitive minimalism of the first track, but by the time it reaches the pulsing crescendo of “DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE!”; it finally falls apart beneath its own weight.
Ammit is not a visionary. But Hammer of Darkness draws the most distinct line between the Ride the Lightning camp and the Black Album camp; it deserves commendation (and condemnation). Such is the struggle for metal – its past, present, and future. (10/10)