Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hammers - Vardogr Tape


Away from this blog, I have been on a voyage of black metal discovery recently. Mainly seeking out black metal from our fair isle. I stopped being enthused by the side-show black metal that's making a name for itself in some monthly metal mags a long time ago and instead, started seeking out stuff that was ambient and usually a solo project. That little insight has nothing to with this review other than that fact that both band and label who conspired to produce this tape share more than just a dark image with those in black metal.

Moving onto the subject of this review, which is another tape from the venerable Manchester label Church of Fuck. This time it's a reissue of sorts for fellow Manchester noise-makers - Hammers. Vardogr made up Hammers latest release and came in the form of a 10". It was re-released on tape recently in a limited run. The eagle eyed amongst you would have noticed that the artwork for the tape originally featured as the 10"s centre sticker from the original release. A nice bit of continuation I thought. As always with CoF releases, huge care has been taken with the quality of the tape. The tape itself is white with black labels on each side. Also, said sides have been labelled so you know which side your about to play. I like this touch, as I get confused a lot of the time. Also, carrying on the black theme, the cover insert is black and features a stirring piece of artwork in the inside cover and there's also a lyric sheet too. It's all in the detail!

Tracklist:-

1. Casting Spells
2. Trepanning Infinity
3. Sleep For A Year
4. Endoteric
5. The Sun's Journey Through The Night
6. The Spectacle
7. Etiäinen
8. A Coffin In The Shape of A Chapel
9. 22:22
10. Systole

Opener Casting Spells begins with unnerving, jarring noise which dies down just in time to shed light on Hammers hardcore sound. The riffs sound like they are forcing out some kind of apocalyptic blues hell, as the drums pound and the vocals are screamed out in terrifying fashion. It's all over very quickly. Trepanning Infinity sounds equally possessed and there's something about listening to it in a proper old tape player that gives it a real warming quality. The off-kilter rhythms, the treble led melodies and the competing textures all sound like they were meant to be recorded onto this format. There's certainly no denying the musical quality spewed forth by Hammers here. The metallic energy and edgy blackness of it all paints a scarce picture, especially on a grey day like today. As Hammers speed through Sleep For A Year, Endoteric and then let the sludge-filled riffs of The Sun's Journey Through The Night fill your ears, you're already sucked in. This first side may be over all too quickly, but it's already left its mark on your frail psyche and it's up to the second side to make submit.

Side two starts with the fervent energy but this time doles out more off-kilter structures akin to screamo. The sound work done on this release is pretty epic, as there's none of that murky, muddy sound that people associate with tapes. It sounds clear and precise, even through my old tape player. The Spectacle closes with a repeated drum/riff pattern that makes it sound like the tape is stuck, which had me worried for a second until it faded out. Etiäinen was akin to a short interlude, albeit featuring words and screams. In fact so short is the song; it features only two sentences of vivid lyrics that paint a bleak image - "Look out to the wasteland. The sensation of loss is instant, the dead weight of sorrow hung". A Coffin In The Shape of A Chapel is a joy, with angular riffs and a musicality all of it's own, which seems slightly detached from the rest of Vardogr only by subliminal melody. 22:22 brings things crashing back into perspective. The battering of noise that closes the song and that characterful riff that flows straight into final song Systole help to steal that last breath of air from your lungs as it presses down and crushed what hope you have left.

It's a journey, a journey from which you leave stronger. Hammers may have crafted Vardogr some time ago now, but its impact is felt more than ever through this release.

Vardogr is currently up for streaming and free download from Hammers' bandcamp page below:-


In terms of physical copies, you can purchase this tape from Church of Fuck at http://churchoffuck.bigcartel.com/ and Hammers have copies of the 10" version in their store at http://hammers.bigcartel.com.

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