I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Lucifer's Hammer—"Time Is Death"
Release Date: Spring 2018
Label: Stormspell Records
Style: Traditional '80s heavy metal
When I was in high school in the late '80s, my crowd of "more metal than thou" friends constantly tried to out-do each other by being the first to discover the newest and most obscure heavy metal bands on the scene. After each weekend of scrounging in record shops, flipping through metal fanzines, and listening to college metal radio programs, a typical Monday morning conversation at school went something like, "Dude, have you heard (name of band)? They're from (foreign country) and they sound like a cross between (famous band) and (famous band)!" I'm sure that such games of metal one-upmanship continue among headbangers to this day, though I imagine that the existence of the Internet makes it much easier to make "new" discoveries.
If Lucifer's Hammer had existed back in the good ol' days, their relative obscurity would've definitely scored me some serious "scene points." This quartet hails from Chile, land of empanadas (and birthplace of Slayer's Tom Araya), and their decidedly old-school sound is a nice blend of Iron Maiden and Angel Witch's early NWOBHM stylin's with a healthy dose of dark deviltry ala Mercyful Fate for that extra sinister flavor. The band formed in 2012 and they've just released their second full-length album, Time Is Death, through the true-metal specialists at Stormspell Records. Everything about this release simply screams "retro," right down to the cool-as-hell cover art depicting a hooded figure clutching an hourglass in one hand while some obviously-doomed souls writhe in flames. It set the proper mood before I even pressed "play!"
"Prisoners of the Night" (2018)
Time Is Death gets off to an appropriately rockin' start with the majestic title track. The opening guitar/bass interplay is a dead ringer for vintage Maiden, and when guitarist/vocalist "Hades" (yes, these guys all have cool "evil" one-word stage names) starts laying his echoing, mournful wail over the top (ala King Diamond in his lower register, or Robert Lowe of Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus) it sounds like 1983 all over again. The seven minute track features lots of tasteful lead-guitar dueling between Hades and his fellow six stringer "Hypnos," both of whom have obviously learned their lessons well from metal's twin-guitar teams of old - think Maiden's Murray/Smith, Judas Priest's Tipton/Downing, or Mercyful Fate's Shermann/Denner. "Prisoners of the Night" is next and it's a short, sweet burst of classy, melodic speed metal, with Hypnos and Hades receiving ample backing from the rock solid rhythm section of "Sirus" (bass) and "Titan" (drums). The Maiden-isms continue on the galloping "Shade of Darkness" and then we're back in Angel Witch territory with the instrumental "Garapuña," which features plenty of nice crunchy riffing for getting your air-guitar on. (Just in case anybody is wondering...no, I have no idea what "Garapuña" means, and Google hasn't been any help, so I guess you'll just have to ask the band.)
"Lady Dark" and "Traitors of the Night" chug along at a nice head-bangable pace, and Time Is Death ends with another lengthy track, "Dreamer," which is a tight, melodic mid-paced metal cut that tops out at almost seven minutes and ends the album on a high note. Listen to Titan going for broke on the drums at about the four-minute, thirty-second mark of this one; the guy is really slamming the hell out of his kit! Horns up!
Summing It Up
Lucifer's Hammer is far from the most original band I've heard this year, but they are obviously not trying to break new ground; these are skilled musicians with a deep love and respect for metal's past, paying homage to its golden age. The sounds heard on Time Is Death are as comfortable as a well-worn, beat-up denim jacket (with an Iron Maiden patch on the back, of course). I honestly would've liked this album to contain a few more tracks. With only 7 songs and a run time of less than 40 minutes, Time Is Death feels more like a long EP than a proper full length. Just as I was starting to get into it, the CD was over!
Fans of classy, NWOBHM-inspired heavy metal should be pleased by Lucifer's Hammer's magical, mystical musical brew. If you're looking for some new blood in the old school, what the devil, give'em a try!
Lucifer's Hammer Discography:
Beyond the Omens - Shadow Kingdom Records, 2016
Victory Is Mine (EP) - Shadow Kingdom, 2017
Time Is Death - Stormspell, 2018
© 2018 Keith Abt