Review Summary: Pantera Hammer (aka, laughably stale groove metal)
Demo***inlition Hammer. Back in the 80’s, only the most brutal of metalheads liked Demolition Hammer. Metallica and Anthrax fans would avoid eye contact with dudes in Epidemic Of Violence longsleeves, and Motley Crue groupees would flee in a hysterical fear if they heard “44. Caliber Brain Surgery” approaching from the distance. Demo Hammer were the meanest, nastiest, ugliest, and most aggressive thrash band of the NYC scene during the time, and they would never, ever even try breaking into the mainstream. I mean, right?
Demolition Hammer’s third album, Time Bomb, does not thrash. It is not ugly, nasty, or aggressive, and it’s only slightly mean. It sounds less like a helicopter annihilating a village of people and more like a Honda Civic going 15 MPH over the speed limit. Basically, Time Bomb is void of Demolition Hammer's most basic qualities. However, there’s a bit of backstory that most fans seem not to realize about this album’s jarring departure in sound and songwriting style. Time Bomb was never meant to be released under the Demolition Hammer moniker and was instead intended to be a solo-side project of guitarist Derek Sykes. However, much like Black Sabbath’s Seventh Star, the record label wanted to make a quick buck and only agreed to release the album if it had the name of the already-established band slapped on the cover, and that’s exactly what happened to Time Bomb. Century Records only agreed to produce the album if it were under the Demo Hammer name and thought the music sounded vaguely similar enough, and vocalist/bassist Steve Reynolds was back, so they figured it wouldn’t raise many questions from the metal community. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
Initially, you might think this album really isn’t all that bad. Although they’re playing generic Pantera/Korn groove/nu metal riffs, some of these riffs hit fairly hard and they’re played with that intensity we would expect from Demolition Hammer. However, as the songs go by, it becomes apparent that the band exhausted ideas very quickly on. Nearly every song sounds the exact same, with hardly any variation in earshot. Frankly, Demolition Hammer were never really known for their variation, as even most of the brilliantly devastating Epidemic Of Violence has few songs that sound different from the others, but a lack of variety was never an issue beforehand because Epidemic Of Violence knew how to keep things fresh and exciting. The same can’t be said here.
Every. Single. song. has the exact same chuggy open E-string riffs with the same poppy snare and kick drum patterns. It’s the same riffs, the same drumming, the same vocals, the same structure, and the same sound on repeat for 11 tracks. The music gets so monotonous at times that it nearly becomes funny, making you think “did they really only come up with two riffs for this entire album?” There was a moment where I was trying to skip to the next track, and the two songs sounded so identical that I thought I accidentally hit the “repeat” button. In fairness, there are occasional flashes of inspiration in “Mindrot” and “Missing 5/7/89”, both of which don brief glimpses into Demo Hammer’s thrashy past. However, even taking away the Demolition Hammer background, it still has very little personality or value at all. An even more apparent factor of the album’s banal nature is that only two of its eleven songs fall outside of the 3:15-3:45 song length; one is the clean power ballad “Power Struggle” clocking in at five minutes, and the other is a 16-second intro sample. Every song starts the same way, rolls the same way, and ends the same way in the same fashion and style as the last. The only song that’s different in any way is the aforementioned power ballad “Power Struggle”, but its clean guitar tones don’t make the song interesting.
On the bright side, Time Bomb isn’t a conscious effort at selling out or going mainstream, as it was just a victim of money-hungry record executives. Regardless, that doesn’t save Time Bomb from being one of the most typically awful groove metal albums of all time. The production is very good for both the time period and the genre, surpassing even that of Pantera. Steve Reynold’s vocals in particular are probably the best of his entire career, and they help make Time Bomb one of the heaviest groove metal albums ever put out. I’d also say Time Bomb is marginally better than other groove metal sellout attempts like Destruction’s The Least Successful Human Cannonball and definitely better than Massacre’s Promise. However, just because it’s heavy, doesn’t mean it’s interesting, unique, memorable, or even worth a brief listen. Time Bomb has the musicianship of a band that’s done better and should be doing better, but the paint-by-numbers groovy-nu riffs give them zero wiggle room to explore more creative or interesting possibilities.
Drummer Vinny Gaze tragically died while eating dinner in 1996, and Demolition Hammer never released an album ever again. Time Bomb was never meant to even don the Demolition Hammer name, yet it now erroneously represents the ending chapter of one of the best thrash metal bands ever. Although Time Bomb has good aspects in its vocals and production, it has some of the blandest riffs of the time period and is instantly forgettable. I could buy Time Bomb as the quick side project it was intended to be, but it absolutely fails on every single level as a main LP. If you want that missing third Demo Hammer album, check out Solstice’s Pray or Num Skull’s When Suffering Comes. It’s best to think Demolition Hammer only put out two albums, because this third album was never meant to be considered one and the band still tries hard to ignore it. You should too.