Twenty-six is not that young. But it does mean that you were shot forth from your mother’s womb in either 1988 or 1989; thus, it’s not that old either. If you ask me, it’s quite a young age to be writing mature music or tackling and reinventing the roots of thrash metal. But that’s exactly what the duo of mid-twenties Norwegians known as Deathhammer have done. Their new, third full-length, Evil Power is a gift to the gods of thrash—a pure throwback album laced with all the ferocity of our new millennium.
Thrash is a huge, globally blanketing genre at this point. Even Norway’s kings of darkness, Darkthrone, have slowly morphed into a sort of hybrid thrash / black metal band. Many bands take on thrash elements but pure thrash is a rarity. In its unadulterated form, the genre must have a few elements: speed, shredding guitar solos, drums that sound almost sloppy but totally keep time. You also need energetic vocals—preferably sung, although screaming works as well. Finally, the bass work must be solid and not flashy. Too flashy and you end up playing a sped up Phish song.
Deathhammer has just the right blend of all of that. Their song speeds are not only fast but also varied; you won’t find yourself bored by the monotony of a repetitive BPM. The drumming is spot on—the sound of a drummer who’s just keeping up and not dictating the pace. The guitar sound is tinny, metallic and full of thrash. And the solos are perfect; the band not only shreds but also adds melody and texture to the progressions beneath. Vocally, Deathhammer prefers a throaty sort of alto shout combined with a shrill, falsetto blasting pitch. It may take some getting used to, but it works. It really, really works.
Thrash, when done well—which Evil Power most certainly is—can be a very, very fun style of music. In your office, it’ll make you want to blow off some steam and run in circles around your floor. In your car, you’ll drum on the steering wheel, sing about Satan at the top of your lungs and most likely embarrass yourself. In the company of friends, prepare for a lot of back to back fist pumping and high-fiving. Thrash is a unique genre for metal in that it brings people together—whereas other genres tend to focus on isolation.
Again, it’s shocking to me that an album with such links to Hellhammer, Nuclear Assault, Bathory and Sodom is being played by what are essentially children. But rely on Norway with bands like Inculter and Deathhammer (who have been a band for nine years already) to put out music of this level and magnitude. Just look at that cover! Let it be a lesson to us old-timers—step up your game or be replaced. For now is the time of youth.