EP Madness with MITHRAS, HAMMER FIGHT, and THE EMPIRE SHALL FALL

Oh man, I haven’t been this psyched for an EP in quite some time. Mithras was dead in my eyes, and I wasn’t happy about it. The extreme psychedelic death metal duo disbanded not long after the superlative release Behind the Shadows Lie Madness, but have since reformed following a shitstorm of lineup changes, label switches, and reconciliations. They released the “demos and rarities” album Sands of Time last year, which (like this) is a decent holdover until the full-length 2012 release. I appreciate Time Never Lasts more, because it not only includes a pair of new tracks, but also proves how well it reproduces live, as older tracks “Tomb of Kings” & “Wrath of God” (from 2002’s Forever Advancing… Legions) and “Beyond the Eyes of Man” (from 2003’s Worlds Beyond the Veil) display the first official live document of the original lineup, from what was their last live show—recorded in London, 2008. Fans of Mithras, and pretty much anyone that wants their Metal both immersive and esoteric, will find plenty to love here, even through just these five tracks. There are no clean, churchlike chants such as we last heard from the band; it’s all devastating David Vincent vocals from the mighty Rayner Coss (who also plays bass, not unlike Evil D). But what always hooks me deepest are those guitars by double-duty drummer Leon Masey. More ethereal than intricate—though both sides come into play—his performance perfectly compliments every song. Especially “Into the Godmind” with its evolution of “The Small Hours” intro that leads to bleeding buzzsaws before ascending to the heavens around 1:13 …and then it changes again …and then it changes again. There isn’t another band, short of Gigan maybe, who dominate the cosmos like Mithras. 4/5

About one year ago, the deadly duo of Ryan Ogle and Scott Alisoglu started fucking hammering my inbox as their appropriately-titled promo company: Clawhammer PR. Like many of you, I’ve been reading their Blabbermouth reviews for a while now, and was psyched that they push bands from labels we here lost touch with (Listenable, Frontiers), introduced new labels to our network (Dark Descent, Ibex Moon), and nobly got behind self-released artists (Deadfall, Enormicon). Last band they sent my way that kinda made me lose my shit was FUCKING BONES, and now another band that’s in the same vein has caught my attention: Hammer Fight. The first thing I wrote back was So were you dudes like “copyright infringement unless we promote you” or something? because look at this fucking logo love connection:

Right‽ I don't just make this shit up. But Ryan says it was just a simple drunken agreement 4rlz :)

Anyway, so if you were in a hammer fight with these dudes and cracked their skull open, you’d see a load of Motörhead pouring out. In tempo and timbre, they’re a mighty close match, with a grimy modern production through fifteen blistering minutes of original tunes, plus a great updated cover of AC/DC‘s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)”. And like both those bands, the focus is mostly on hard rockin’ fun, but Hammer Fight uses both sides of their weaponry, and dig in just as much as they bludgeon. Case in point: centerpiece “Tears of Unfathomable Sadness”. Between memorable hooks, a badass chantable chorus, tasteful solos, and chunky low-end riffage, it’s a perfect showcase for their current apex. By far and away the longest track at 3:44, they otherwise keep it around two minutes or so, with brutal brevity. Hammer Fight plays like Mike Tyson fought circa 1988—both have every intention of knocking you out within three minutes. 4/5

Now those who have been reading since at least 2010 may remember our coverage of The Empire Shall Fall and I was pretty stoked on Awaken (it even made my ‘Best of’ list last year). Often touted as an EP, I argue it’s a full-length at eight tracks and forty minutes; by contrast, Volume One: Solar Plexus is certainly worthy of the title at 25 minutes, though it’s only one track shorter than its predecessor. This is because half the dang songs are intros or transitions, and frankly, it’s annoying. We begin strong with “The Genesis of These Scars”, featuring more Meshuggah-channeling by way of A Life Once Lost, only with much cleaner vocals. But they never approach the daring nature of even the first (and title) track of their debut, nor the lead single “Lords of War” which follows. And here’s the bug misstep: a tracked outro (“Dubrise”) followed by a tracked intro (“Narrow the Path I Walk – Part I”). Hey, guess what I don’t fucking need ever, folks. Seriously, it feels deceptive to think you’ll get seven unique tracks and receive only four; so combine or omit. The following “Part II” demonstrates their improved balance, and they nail the haunting wails vs. guitar solo in the song’s third minute, heavily reminiscent of Alice in Chains. Then the social politics continue into “As the City Sleeps”, with frontman Jesse Leach making his finest impassioned plea. But “The Martyr’s Song” is pretty ‘whatever’, and though “The First Redemption” is adventurous, holding attention for its full eight minutes is daunting, especially during the final minute’s sorta-rapped/sorta-spoken-word vocals. However, Volume One: Solar Plexus is the first in a three-part trilogy that I believe will be better fleshed out in the future. 3.5/5

~MetalMattLongo

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