Deathhammer: Onward to the Pits

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Deathhammer: Onward to the Pits
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Deathhammer: Onward to the Pits
Thrash Metal
Hell’s Headbangers
April 17th, 2012
Release length: 39:05
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Deathhammer has become an undeniable force in the underground Thrash Metal world. So, it should come as no surprise that this group has been picked up by Hell’s Headbangers, the kind of home you expect to see a group like this wind up on. Formed in 2005, this Norway based act has put out a decent number of demo and compilation of those demos from the 2000’s and on, finally issuing their debut full-length Phantom Knights in 2010. Two years later, they return with their latest effort, Onward to the Pits.

Suiting the darker, almost blackened old-school Thrash sound, Onward to the Pits carries an audio production best fitting to their output. The rawer, dirtier approach to the recording captures the pure energy and hostility they bring with them, an approach that could not sound any other way. The music does feel a little lower in volume than it should, but still conveys the instruments well. The guitars have a nice sharper distortion to them with a deeper, obvious bass performance backing them up. The drums really steal the spotlight though thanks to the full thuds of the kicks, the tighter higher and lower pitches of the snares, and the rather crisp cymbals. The vocals are a little lower in volume than the drums. They don’t quite come off as drowned out unless during passages where it may seem the vocalist had stepped away from the microphone, such as during “Army of Death,” but they still come through loudly with the raspier screaming, as well as shrill falsettos at key areas. Unfortunately, the deeper tones reached on some songs don’t quite benefit the same way.

“Deathrashing Sacrifice” blisters right in with a pounding, Thrash Metal assault of blast beats and key lead chords, all dripping with aggression and hatred that the vocals superbly capture. The bludgeoning lower-tone of the audio, and the dirtier rawness instantly makes you want to run to the nearest thing and slam it into the nearest brick wall in the most violent one man mosh pit possible. The energy immediately hooks the listener, the loud drums amping up the overall intensity well, and the lyrics are kept to a minimum to allow the music and guitar solo near the end to shine. However, this pounding blast beat driven sound does not make up the rest of the album, and many other songs really capture the foundation of earlier bands of the style such as Venom, a group that immediately pops into mind with many songs here such as “Voodoo Rites” with it’s aggressive riffs that are catchy, but still go straight for the guttural. The falsettos feel more at home here with the early eighties sound that gives only a few moments to breath when it comes to a brief halt, and the vocals rip into your skin before kicking right back into the madness.

Even though “Voodoo Rites” really stands out as an instant classic, you cannot ignore the importance of “Fullmoon Sorcery.” This track comes off as a song bands like Toxic Holocaust or even Vektor try to throwback to, but end up put to shame by this offering. The falsettos in the chorus really add so much more to the already fast pace, only easing up for a haunting mid-tempo section with deeper, echoed vocals. Unfortunately this is where the rich, booming quality of the music seems to die out a bit. From “Emperor of Sin” and on, the energy and hostility is there, but it definitely doesn’t compare to “Deathrashing Sacrifice” or “Voodoo Rites.” In fact, it sounds like the production had been altered to make the bass less important, the key instrument to giving the music the filling kick it needed in the first three songs. But, with that in mind, “Final Black Mass” is still a great song in this area of thinner material, but it still feels tame, often going into a normal shouting approach than the rasp and fasetto style that hits on many songs before it and clearly works out better. While the energy may not make you want to go out looking for mosh victims, it does still cause you to bang your head along to the rhythm, as well as solid musicianship, much like many other songs similar to this audio level. Again, the guitar solos toward the end are good, but the first is just insanely short, causing it to be more of a tease than anything remotely enjoyable.

While “Emperor of Sin” and on aren’t bad, “Seduced by the Flames” actually is. This odd track clocks in at six minutes, and sounds really awakward to the overall album. In fact, it starts off more like a Heavy Metal offering at a mid-tempo that eventually heads into some two-stepping with a familiar, yet traditional and overused Thrash Metal approach that seems to go on for far too long. This does head back into the vintage territory of the style though, and seems to focus on a haunting tone throughout. The falsettos and rasp driven screams are still here as well, though they effectively conflict with the music,calling for a deeper performance like with “Final Black Mass.” This is also carried into “Lead Us Into Hell,” but it breaks out of this slower pace. It starts with what seems like a medieval introduction with the guitars utilizing a different distortion, and the bass picking up the slack the one-note chords don’t seem to carry. There are some rich moments, but the chorus does seem to find higher pitched material coming through. But, before all of this, you’re teased with “Army of Death,” which goes back to “Voodoo Rites,” but nowhere near as rich. The bass does do its best to fill the music, as if pulled to the front of the mix, but the distant vocals feel a little more amateurish than the music lets on, being the only real downfall for this one.

Deathhammer have definitely put their best foot forward here, but it’s a shame it weakens shortly after they do. Onward to the Pits really hammers away at the listener with a superb amount of speed and energy, though largely concentrated right at the very start. As it continues, the atmosphere and energy change due to what seems like alterations to the production leading to a heavily muffled and less crisp sound to close the recording out on with the instrumental “Onward to the Pits.” Had the richness existed throughout the album, Onward to the Pits would be a hands down must buy album. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite retain a consistant sound, getting winded only three songs in. While it may not be the most spectacular example of early Thrash worship, it’s still an album anyone who loves this brand of Metal should give a shot since the only reason not to grab it is a lack of replay value to the last half of the release thanks to the differing audio.

01. Deathrashing Sacrifice – 3:08
02. Voodoo Rites – 2:48
03. Fullmoon Sorcery – 4:02
04. Empreror of Sin – 3:27
05. To the Evil – 3:02
06. Final Black Mass – 4:49
07. Army of Death – 3:56
08. Seduced by the Flames – 6:01
09. Lead Us Into Hell – 4:06
10. Onward to the Pits – 3:47
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Deathhammer (band)
Deathhammer
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hell’s Headbangers.