26 Apr 2016

Hammerspace: "The Kings of Mediocrity" & "Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore"

Cliché-ridden heavy metal for the edgiest of fedora-enthusiastic neckbeards
While the 80s was probably the decade that saw the most progress and evolution for heavy metal as a genre, it is also the decade that many current bands revisit and mimic - Some more succesfully than others. The joining of old and new seems much more paraxodical, though, with a "band" such as Hammerspace. Created by Timothy Branch as a sort of virtual concept band with imaginary members, or characters, the conceptual group borrows from fantasy and heavy metal culture alike.

The following is a sort of double-up review, holding up against each other the project's two releases The Kings of Mediocrity EP and Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore, released by Torn Flesh Records.

Focused on fantasy, gaming and adventure characteristics in visual style and lyrical subjects, the project comes off as a nerdy alternative to Brendon Small's Dethklok from the Metalocalypse series. The Kings of Mediocrity EP lives up (or down, if you will) to its name. It is indeed a fairly mediocre journey through heavy metal scapes of slightly varying quality and flavour. Its very essence is highly unexciting and uneventful, where only few components catch the eye (and usually only for their cheap concept).

"It is completely overdone and enmored with its own concept that it seems more like a parody than an homage."

There seems to be an overall infatuation with the sound of 80s soundtracks and traditional heavy metal, but the entire EP has the same overall problem: It is completely overdone and enmored with its own concept that it seems more like a parody than an homage. Songs like The Rat, with its whispered vocals, and Into the Future with its weird intro melody makes it seem like Branch is trying too hard to shoehorn the music into a sort of nerdy theme, to the point where it becomes shackles chaining the band to a stupid gimmick rather than letting it roam free. As such the entire EP comes off as very try hard.

Though rooted in heavy metal there are definitely several hints of thrashy 90s riffs and grooves, but Hammerspace's music lacks intricacy. The problem is, however, that Hammerspace is so caught up in its own gimmick that it seems Branch forgot to compose some worthwhile music to go with it. That is not to say that this concept is completely unsalvagable - After all, Gama Bomb from Ireland did a moderately good job at the same lyrical content, and the afforementioned Dethklok are also a huge success.

If anyone out there remembers Runescape, you undoubtedly also remember the soundtrack. It was catchy, if also very cheesy. That is exactly the style and sound Hammerspace conjures up with the intro for the album Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore, albeit in a less memorable fashion. The album was released only a short time after the EP from before, and it shows. In most aspects it feels like a direct continuation of the music found on The Kings of Mediocrity EP with the same bland vocals, annoying start-stop riffs, boring melodies and cheesy, inexperienced songwriting.

More often than not, an album needs a few rounds on the HiFi before really sticking. But Hammerspace's Volume 1 doesn't warrant any repeated listening: It is offendingly annoying and edgy in every aspect, both visually and audially. There are times where it feels like Branch is trying to mix things up and experiment a little, but those moments are so few and far between that they stand out like errors.

"...the album is already long enough to not really warrant the reuse of older tracks,"

Into the Future was one of the stronger (although I use the term loosely) tracks on the EP, and so it makes a reappearance on Volume 1. However, the album is already long enough to not really warrant the reuse of older tracks, and as such its addition to the track list seems completely unnecessary. It's not that it doesn't fit in - After all, all the tracks sound about the same - it's just that the album is already longer than it should be. As if it wasn't hard enough to endure already.

Summing up Hammerspace's music is simple because the music itself is simple. Bland synths are smacked right on top the loose-stringed repetitive riffs, uninspired vocals taking the helm with ironic goatee lyrics and amateurish songwriting to follow suite. The formula grows stale exceedingly quickly and lacks any form of depth. Hammerspace is, in any case, best left as background music for browser games or the studying of floorboards. At least the sound job isn't half bad.


Released in 2012 independently and through Torn Flesh Records


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