Review Summary: The earliest foray into doom of the men behind Southern Lord Records proves to be a suprisingly short but satisfying brutal proposition
Thorr's Hammer was a American /Norwegian death/doom metal band.
They were formed in the winter of 1994-1995 by Steve 0' Malley(Sunn0))), Khanate etc.) and Greg Anderson( Goatsnake, Burial Chamber Trio etc.). They were soon joined by a Norwegian exchange student, Runhild Gammelsaeter, who acted as the vocalist and lyricist of the band. The line-up was completed by Jamie Sykes and James Hale on drums and bass respectively. However Thorr's Hammer was only in existence for six weeks, during which time they played two shows and had one recording
session. They disbanded following Runhild's departure back to Norway.
This EP consists of three demo songs remastered by Count Schneeberger
(St.Vitus, The Obssessed) and one recently uncovered live recording.
The strain of doom found on this disk is one that marries house-flattening Sabathesque riffage and painfully lethargic tempi. Business as usual you might say, and in many respects you’d be justified in this assertion. However, there are a number of things that make this rather short-lived band noteworthy.
Firstly, it features members of other bands in the doom spectrum including Burning Witch, Sunn0))) and Khanate. Therefore anyone with an interest in the aforementioned or similar bands can discover some of these mens’ earliest forays into this style of music.
Secondly, the dulcet tones of vocalist/lyricist Runhild Gammelsaeter, or more accurately the distinct lack thereof. Although she does throw some decent clean vocals in for the opening track, Norge, in the main she employs a surprisingly deep death growl that has not since been matched by certainly any female vocalist. Peripheral to any enjoyment of the EP but still significant is the fact that she sings her lyrics in Norwegian which adds a mysterious and unashamedly ‘kvlt’ air to proceedings.
Thirdly, the relative brevity of the experience ( it clocks in at just over 32 mins) means that perhaps those not normally inclined towards doom may give this EP a chance on the virtue that they don’t have to sit through an album’s worth of songs to decide whether they like it or not.
Fourthly and finally is the music itself . This is best illustrated by a description of one of the tracks:
Norge is perhaps the most varied track on the EP with clean vocals and quiet/loud dynamics that while somewhat predictable, are nonetheless entirely satisfying and sufficiently brutal when the heavy parts kick in. During the opening seconds we are greeted with a menacing rumble of guitar and bass and the chanted vocals of Runhild. A dark ritualistic mood is created and so relates back to the pagan connotations of the band’s name. This continues for a minute or so.
The abrasiveness of this release is made quite suddenly apparent to the listener as the Riffs flash into existence. Thick and sludgy, the sheer rawness and percussive force are effective in continuing the foreboding atmoshere suggested by the opening minute. The harsh vocals come in a short time after and definitely make an impression. Runhild's growling is deep and powerful with a reasonable amount of clarity. The obvious downside to her vocals though is that they a a tad monotone and as such can get tiresome over the length of the recording.
The song follows this minimal instrumentation and clean vocal/ heavy guitars and growls sequence a few times until we reach a bridge section with more riffs and growling. We are then introduced to a final section with two vocal tracks, one clean and one harsh synced up with the same lyrics. The song then fades out.
Overall a great exercise in the art of skullcrushing through excessive distortion, and, in this humble scribe’s most humble opinion, the best song to be found here.
Tracks two and three, Troll and Dommedagsnatt respectively, are not a disappointment either with the former being brim-full with catchy riffs and latter having one single riff jammed into oblivion until all that is left is some double bass drumming and Runhild’s impassioned screams.
Unfortunately the fourth track, Mellom Galgene (Live), suffers from terrible sound quality; a shame as one or two nice riffs can be heard intermittently rising from the otherwise unintelligible murk.
The production is just right for this sort of record; very raw and live-sounding and it lets each individual instrument breathe. Invariably and understandably however, the guitars are often the loudest instruments in the mix.
It is hard to get anything from the record lyrically unless one has a reasonably advanced grasp of the Norwegian language, although from what can be deciphered they seem to concern the typically metal themes of Norse mythology and the Apocalypse. From an artwork perspective the album is at best amateurish; i.e. tacky gothic script for logo, tacky runes adorn any available space etc. and is a reflection of the band’s low budget and underground aesthetic . Lyrics and liner notes concerning the history of the band are included in the booklet, which is nice. Also they seem oddly keen to have lots of pictures of Ms. Gammelsaeter in the artwork, which is no bad thing.
To conclude, this CD could be recommended both to those wanting to look into the past of their favourite American doom personalities and to those wishing to try a short, sweet slice of ass-kicking doom.