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HAMMERHEAD - The Sin Eater (12" LP)

Brazil | NWOBHM
Price Range:   $8.89
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Cumbria's Hammerhead (not to be confused with their Dutch or American namesakes) were one of the most talented acts to evolve from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement of the late 1970s. They came together at the turn of the decade after the demise of various small-time acts such as Judas, Bitter Harvest, and 8 Hertz. After a few tentative appearances on the regional club scene during 1981, the group first came to public attention via a well-received demo tape. Their signature number "Time Will Tell" even made it into one or two regional heavy metal charts and local response was quite encouraging.
As a result, Hammerhead published a self-financed 7" single (with a circulation of 1,000 copies). 'Time Will Tell' (with "Lonely Man" on the B-Side) was released on Linden Sounds in 1981. Hammerhead disbanded shortly afterwards.
In 2005, a retrospective album by the name of 'Will To Survive' was issued, followed by the band's first studio album 'Headonizm' on High Roller Records, including excellent numbers such as "Ton Of Bricks", "Heavy Handed" or "Crying As I Fall".
Now, ten years later, Hammerhead are back with their second longplayer 'The Sin Eater'. It's a mighty fine album featuring brand new numbers such as "Angels Fall", "Faithless" and "Behind Your Eyes" (with some truly outstanding guitar work). Guitarist Buzz Elliot comments: "'Angels Fall' and 'Faithless' are more typical of the overall sound of the album, 'Behind Your Eyes' is a rock ballad and not as rocky as our usual style, it will only appear on the CD and download formats. We decided not to include the acoustic song 'Tears Like Rain' at all as it didn't really fit in with the theme of everything else (or what people might expect from us). We have never recorded an acoustic track before with Hammerhead, so we tried out this song written by bass player Steve Archer. I think it's a good song, but maybe not right for this album. Most of the album is quite dark and heavy. But the final song 'Psilocybin' might make some people wonder what the hell is going on! It is much more psychedelic and trippy than anything we have ever done before. It is a concept song with three parts and an overall duration of almost 13 minutes! This is Hammerhead going totally insane!"
The guitar work on 'The Sin Eater' is quite outstanding, as are the vocals. "Thank you for your comments," remarks Buzz Elliot. "The guitar work on any of our albums has always been one of the things that Brian and myself have a real passion and pride in. In the past the vocals were never our strongest point, (apart from when Billy Branch from the band Necromandus sang with us), this is why a couple of years ago, we invited a good friend of ours called Steven (Pecker) Woods to have a go with us. He also sings in a Thin Lizzy tribute band called Five And Dangerous, and used to be in another local band called Skunk. 'Pecker' was already a long standing fan of Hammerhead and jumped at the chance to come along with us, he is also a very entertaining front man, so the combination of his vocals and showmanship made an immediate and positive impact on the band, it also allows me to concentrate on my guitar work and provide the backing vocals. In my opinion his vocal performance on all the new songs helps to make this album some of strongest material we have ever recorded."
The mentioned "Behind your Eyes" is quite mellow and the guitar work reminds me a bit of classic Scorpions from the 'Lovedrive' and 'Animal Magnetism' era. Was Michael Schenker an influence on Hammerhead at all when they formed in the late 1970s? "I have always loved the tone, feel and power in Michael Schenkers playing," states Buzz Elliot. "'Strangers In The Night' is one of my all time favourite albums, so I would say that he has influenced my playing to some degree. Since reforming Hammerhead we have also been fortunate enough to support him. Tony Steel and myself have also done some live work with UFO keyboard/guitarist Paul Raymond, which was great fun and very exciting! Regarding the song, I wrote the original version of 'Behind Your Eyes' as an acoustic song in the mid 1990s, when I first started thinking about coming up with new material for Hammerhead. I tried to develop this old acoustic song into more of a rocky power ballad, I was going to leave it off the album altogether because it's not our usual heavier style, but some people seemed to like it a lot, so we decided to put it on the CD."
"Angels Fall" is more dark and possesses some kind of Eastern feel, quite a slow, deep, pounding heavy metal song - brilliant stuff with a really accessible chorus. That's how heavy metal should be played. "As well as playing in the more typical blues scales, I also love all those Eastern scales," explains Buzz Elliot. "I like to mix things up a bit, I mainly get this from being a life long fan of Ritchie Blackmore. Ritchie did this a lot, especially with Rainbow. I didn't have much to do with the actual writing of this song, but I played the Eastern style parts into it as it seemed to fit the song. I used a guitar with a built in sitar effect for the intro of the song, there is more Eastern influence throughout the whole album if you listen, especially the title track."
"Faithless" is another outstanding track on the new album. There are some shades of Led Zeppelin at the start, and then the song evolves into some kind of bluesy boogie rocker. Another mighty fine effort. "I am a not a religious person," states Buzz Elliot. "I believe in science and physics when it comes to explanations of life and the universe, so I have spent my whole life as an atheist. I have no plans to ever change my beliefs in this. In my opinion music has the power to bring different cultures together, whereas religion on the other hand always seems to be the root cause of much of the trouble in the world. I just can't grasp the reason why so many humans feel the need to believe in something/anything? Just like any other creature on this lump of rock in space that we call home; you are born, you live and you die. It's that simple, you just need to try and enjoy the middle bit while it lasts! On the way to a gig last year I was talking about this very subject to my friend 'Dek' (our lighting technician) and I said to him: 'I wonder what it actually feels like when you are dead?' He came back with the remark: 'Can you remember what it was like before you were alive?' I thought about that for a while and then said: 'No, I can't.' So Dek said: 'Well, it's exactly like that marra!' I think he may be right!"

Matthias Mader

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