Review: Kvlthammer’s Kvlthammer – Release Your Anger
Do any of you remember the original Mortal Kombat arcade machine? I had to stand on my tiptoes, but I held my own against the bigger kids on that thing. They may have been able to cross the street to the arcade without holding their mommy’s hand, but I could lay down a totally mean split punch to shadow kick combo. When I bested some bitch loser and the words “FINISH HIM” flashed across the screen, I’d press a random sequence of buttons and pray to the arcade gods for a fatality (this was before these codes were so readily available on the internets). The end result was always a quick, anticlimactic jab to the face and my opponent falling stiffly to the floor with a disappointing thud. Yeah I know “Johnny Cage wins” but I wanted to punch somebody’s fucking head off.
Every so often, a veteran kombatant would kick open the arcade doors like a Wild West saloon, whoop the shit out of one of us regular nerds, and perform the fabled fatality. He was an arcade wizard and the joystick was his staff.
It wasn’t just the explicit violence that made it so captivating, although it was a shock at that age to see someone rip off a guy’s head with most of the spine still attached, even if it was all simulated. The execution of a fatality was the result of hidden knowledge possessed by few and observing one was, to a young and unjaded gamer, something almost mythical. Like glimpsing the Loch Ness monster or an article where I quickly get to the point. Over 20 years later, the Mortal Kombat franchise is putting out games with more visually realistic and absurdly violent fatalities than ever, but the magic is gone.
I’ve experienced a similar desensitization to the expression of anger in music. Maybe it’s because – like Mortal Kombat finishers – the internet has sucked much of the mystery out of metal by making it so easy to discover and consequently overexposing me. For whatever reason, it takes a lot nowadays for a band to really convince me that they’re pissed off.
But guys, I’m pretty sure Indianapolis’s Kvlthammer is pissed off.
They play what the kids are calling “Black Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which just so happens to be the name of a killer Midnight song. For the layperson – imagine greasy speed metal, black metal, thrash, and crust punk thrown into a blender with some piss, vinegar, and a whole lot of hard liquor. Kvlthammer is a run-down junker with five gears — fuck you, fuck me, fuck them, fuck this, and fuck that — and I thoroughly believe the sincerity of each.
The “black” in “black rock ‘n’ roll” refers to the first wave of black metal forged in the flame of sleazy speed rather than the trem-and-blast atmospherics of Darkthrone and friends. Here the spirit of the earliest black metal can be heard throughout, but where their aforementioned contemporaries in Midnight apply that raw influence to Motörhead worship, Kvlthammer takes it with them to punk-inspired edge of the thrash metal spectrum. The proof is in the first bite of the gross, curdled pudding. Kvlthammer’s opener “Pathless” almost had me checking to see if I accidentally pressed play on a Toxic Holocaust album before a nasty ugh! transitioned the three-chord thrasher into a flattening, Celtic Frost style powerhouse riff. There are a few speedy parts in here that would make Lemmy and the gang proud (especially in parts of “Hesh Trip” and “Hounds“), but it seems Kvlthammer places the real emphasis on the mid-paced stomp. A good thing too, because that’s where they’re at their most bitter. I don’t know what they’re on about when they’re shouting “sick, sick, sick / slut, slut, slut / six, six, six / slut, slut, slut!” during the chorus of “Terrifying Ecstasy,” but whatever it is, they hate every single one of its guts and now so do I.
The second you think these dudes have reached the anger cap, “Hate Is Not Enough” slows things down to a slog of plodding riffage and absolutely fuming vocals. If this one comes on in the car, you will punch the living shit out of your steering wheel.
Nate Olp and Carl Byers like to bend some strings every so often to give their already killer riffs a darker edge, and they throw in the occasional booze-soaked guitar solo to remind us that, at its core, this is still filthy rock ‘n’ roll, blackened though it may be.
Dustin Boltjes, who you all should know from Skeletonwitch, gets to take a break from his rapid-fire drumming routine and instead focus most of his attention on the generous application of d-beat. And I do mean generous. The result is near-constant headbangability at the minor expense of variety. Those of you who refuse to listen to any band that’s not progressive enough to utilize the sitar or glockenspiel or whatever over endlessly fluctuating time signatures might not enjoy such a straightforward approach.
That being said, Kvlthammer only runs for 27 minutes — in my estimation a smart move for music so direct. Personally, I would have liked to hear more. Kvlthammer’s no-bullshit design is a blast to listen to and it hearkens back to one the thing that got so many of us into metal in the first place — being really pissed off.
Kvlthammer is out now. Get it right here for 5 measly dollars!