Review Summary: All in all this is one of, if not the greatest, albums of all time in terms of album-oriented music. Any fan of metal music from any era should listen to it because of it's broad appeal, great instrumentation, and it's just a really fun album that you can1 of 2 thought this review was well written
Rock operas often have the significant shortcoming of being lame, and getting so involved in telling the story as to let the music itself fail to actually be enjoyable. Such is not the case for the Hammers of Misfortune. Their 2001 debut album isn't so much an album, and not even a concept album. It's an epic and tragic tale told in three acts similar in thematic scheme to MacBeth or Beowulf, and with a great deal of philosophy and deep subjects to tackle with such as the role of Humanity in the world, if fate is predetermined, and what morality even is if both of the two previous concepts are put into doubt. And the greatest part is, this album FREAKIN' ROCKS!!! Telling the story never has precedence over the music which is uncanninly heavy and easy to head bang to. The band seemlessly combines elements of power metal, black metal, doom metal, and celtic, arabic and bluesy scales to make a sound that can't really be described by any one of those names. Upon considering that the band recorded it themselves using low quality equpiment, you begin to wonder just how they got the sound quality to be so crisp and clean, and the mixing is near to perfection.
The album starts off with a fade in on "... The Dragon is Summoned" which sets the theme. The Female Vocalist of The Chaos Dragon is introduced. A number of riffs and vocal harmonies from this song are revisited later in the album. A good opener to the album but by far not the best song.
One of my favorites, "The Bastard Sapling" opens with an acoustic and vocal intro which after a verse and a break in the music, suddenly becomes one of the heaviest songs that I've ever heard. The main Character of The Bastard is introduced in this song Very doomy and slow, with occasional breaks and melodies to increase the suspense.
"On Wings of Vengeance" revisits the theme from the first song, and expands upon it using it to tell keep telling the story. One of the most dramatic and powerful chorus's to any song on the album is in this one.
"Hunting Tyrant" Is where the character of the Tyrant comes in. A mid tempo song with lots of instrumental texturing before the harsh vocals of the tyrant come in. Very moody song, which makes you feel as though you are actually on an isolated hunting expedition through the dark woods.
"You Should Have Slain Me" is another favorite of mine. There is a strange effect throughout as the Female vocalist harmonizes at times dissonantly with the main character, hinting at how the Chaos Dragon is now directing the actions of the main character. It starts out subdued, but then quickly picks up the pace and has a really good solo in here.
And heres where Act 2 begins
"An Oath Sworn In Hell" Is definitely a high light of the album, showcasing several aspects of the bands style. The last half of the song is an all-instrumental outro, that just keeps building and building and building til an abrupt and violent end
"The Blood Axe Speaks" is something of an experiment in just how dissonant you can make your dissonant harmonies. While some parts of it sound cool, the Riff that it is based around occurs again later in the album and is used to much better affect then than here. This song is more just a plot device to move the story forward and present the musical theme, nothing special about it as a stand alone work.
"Tyrant Dies" is a song with a terrifyingly pounding rythym. The riffing in this song, while not particularly outlandish or unique, is used so well with the drums and bass that it creates a very driven feeling, among the most headbangin' songs on the album
"Witches Dance" is a song that not much good can be said about. It develops on the story a bit, but it just seems an unecessary addition to the album. it doesn't help that the chords and chanted chorus vocals sound reminiscent of a christmas Carol. this is the only song I the album I really don't like.
And here begins the third and final Act
"A Prophecy with two Meanings" is a fun song. It's not the best song by far, but this one is probably one of the easiest to enjoy. It's fast and full of intricate basslines and drum fills and once the song reaches it's climax and all the instruments play the songs theme in unison, the epic-ness and intensity has reached an intensity that hasn't yet been heard on the album, but thankfully keeps getting higher with every song after it.
"The New King's Lament" is a very slow and moody song based mostly on the vocals. at first it's only acoustic with drums, but as the tension builds the gritty distorted guitar comes in to provide texture to it. Nice song, one of the few that is subdued the whole way through.
"For The Axe" starts off with a ridiculously fast Drum solo, which cuts out to 2 fast tremolo picking harmonizing guitars, and then everything comes in. This song is ridiculously fast paced, with the blast beats on the verses only adding to the intensity. several themes and riffs come together in this song and we can see that for the Main character, his world is starting to crumble around him.
"Troll's March" is another song that showcases just how driving rythym and simplicity can be. The songs riff is very repetitive, making it very easy to head bang to and putting emphasis towards the marching aspect of it. This song is the second-to-last song
The Last song starts out with a reprise of the main theme of the first song. "Sacrifice - The End" starts out hard and fast and then all of a sudden stops for about half a minute; the calm before the storm. It launches right back into the heavy riffing, the heaviest and most intense of any song on the album and builds up and up and up and up and up, etc etc. and every time it relieves tension or stress for even a second, it gets picked right back up again and pulled even further. All the themes from the album are revisited as the Main Character realizes that he has been used a pawn and sees everything that he has ever known and worked for crashing down around him do to his own actions. In a dramatic verse the main character gives up all hope for continueing his life and The Chaos Dragon appears for the last time to explain her part in it and how the main Character was instrumental in every single step. After this chilling revelation, The song launches back into the final theme and repeats itself until the inevitable fade out and finale of the Album