Skull Hammer are a retro-thrash band from Massachusetts, who blend traditional metal elements with their thrash, to create something rather refreshing, combining what appears to be the best of both worlds when it comes to the two styles. A young band, as many of the "new wave" traditional/thrash bands are, "Pay it in Blood" marks the band's first full length work.
Skull Hammer's sound of thrash seems to be of the traditional, clean-vocalled, occasional gang-chants variety, with work reminiscent of bands like Anthrax in terms of heaviness, with instances of sounding like a very melodic take on Slayer, especially in terms of lyrical structure and pattern, which is interesting, and rather original, to say the least - Slayer, in my experience, being a band who have influenced numerous heavier bands, but few which were less heavy than itself. The band's style infuses it with a lot of energy, and they are certainly more than just another retro thrash band. Songs like the eponymous "Pay it in Blood" give a real desire to headbang, run, mosh, or just about any other physical activity, which is exactly one of effects which decent thrash metal is meant to have. From that point of view, musically, Skull Hammer undeniably do exactly what they're supposed to do.
A few songs in, I frankly anticipated the vocals to continue to be somewhat unremarkable - functional, in tune, but not anything to write home about. "Nuclear Holocaust" changed my mind about this assumption somewhat, with some epic gang-chant sounds in the chorus, I realised that that was one of the strengths of the bands vocal sound, the synergy between lead and backing vocals, which is very well executed throughout the album. The latter half of the album becomes a little more adventurous with regards to sound, with "The Gladiator" having an epic tremolo-picking traditional style intro, followed by an effects-enhanced riff reminiscent of Venom's guitar sound on "Black Metal". The traditional heavy metal influence is also more apparent in the latter half of the album, although there is no noticeable decrease in overall thrashiness. All in all, the band are akin to the kind of cocktail which sneaks up on you - While listening, you find yourself enjoying the melodics, and the traditional elements, but suddenly you realise "Man, this stuff is heavy".
All in all, Skull Hammer exceeded the expectations which I had upon listening to a few songs,but having listened to the entire album, I'm rather pleased by my discovery of the band. While copies of their CD tend to be expensive (In the UK,anyways) If I see one going for a reasonable price, I'd definitely part with some money for it.
I give this album 7/10. I'll be watching this band closely.
Skull Hammer Official site
Skull Hammer on Myspace
Skull Hammer on Metal Archives