HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE — The Bastard: A Tale Told in Three Acts

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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE - The Bastard: A Tale Told in Three Acts cover
4.35 | 5 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2001

Tracklist

1. Act I: The Dragon is Summoned (2:29)
2. Act I: The Bastard Sapling (2:23)
3. Act I: On Wings of Vengeance (2:28)
4. Act I: The Hunting Tyrant (2:30)
5. Act I: You Should Have Slain Me (3:26)
6. Act II: An Oath Sworn in Hell (6:40)
7. Act II: The Blood Ax Speaks (2:28)
8. Act II: Tyrant Dies (3:42)
9. Act II: The Witches' Dance (2:31)
10. Act III: The Prophecy Has Two Meanings / Coronation (2:12)
11. Act III: The New King's Lament (1:54)
12. Act III: For the Ax (2:56)
13. Act III: Troll's March (1:34)
14. Act III: Sacrifice / The End (8:57)

Total Time: 46:15

Line-up/Musicians

- Mike Scalzi / Guitars, Vocals
- John Cobbett / Guitars, Vocals
- Janis Tanaka / Bass, Vocals
- Chewy / Drums

About this release

Released by tUMULt

Thanks to DippoMagoo for the updates

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HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE THE BASTARD: A TALE TOLD IN THREE ACTS reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
The progressive metal band HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE actually got its start way back in mid-90s San Francisco under the name Unholy Cadaver which consisted of only guitarist John Corbett and drummer Chewy Marzolo who also shared vocals. The project then took on new life as new musicians joined the ranks. The first was Mike Scalzi better known as the vocalist / guitarist of another legendary San Francisco band, The Lord Weird Slough Feg. The trio practiced and recorded a lot of demo material, none of which would end up on the future projects of HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, a name that was adopted in the year 2000 from one of the track titles. While the demo material would be scrapped and later released in 2011 as an archival release under the moniker Unholy Cadaver, as HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE, the trio welcomed bassist and vocalist Janis Tanaka to the club and set out to record a new more interesting progressive form of metal.

The band’s first album THE BASTARD (often with a the subtitle “A Tale Told In Three Acts”) was quite the undertaking and an adventurous journey in the form of a metal opera that takes place in three acts much like a Shakespearean play or some other epic tale that requires an expansive narrative to convey, however THE BASTARD was not released as some ridiculous sprawling three disc set or anything of the sort. The band had the good sense to keep this an album’s length and at a normal playing time of 46 minutes, it hits all the high notes without a lot of fluff which makes this a pretty decent start for this eclectic band that would change its sound dramatically on each album throughout its career. It’s worth noting that despite the excellent production that graces THE BASTARD, this entire album was simply recorded in a rehearsal studio on an 8-track analog machine in San Francisco from July 1999 to February 2000. The album itself didn’t emerge until 2001 but got rave reviews from the metal world and put HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE on the metal radar right from the start.

While considered a progressive metal album, this isn’t the kind of stuff Dream Theater or Symphony X were cranking out. THE BASTARD was an unholy union of traditional 80s heavy metal along with what sounds like medieval English folk music however the band does manage to tease in more progressive elements and extended proggy fills. Upon first listen i was wondering why the singer sounded so familiar as did some of the guitar riffs and then it became clear that it was because of the Scalzi connection as the Slough Feg sound is strewn throughout the album’s run. Basically what THE BASTARD excels in as the narrative unfolds is basically alternate between beefy metal guitar riffs, beefy bass chops and stellar drumming narrative with the male vocals and then follows with the contrast of more light and airy folk sounds with the female vocal charm of Janis Tanaka who also plays some pretty tight bass. The connecting tissue that binds the two disparate styles is where the progressive runs tend to gravitate along with an occasional solo. At times the metal drifts into power metal territory and also an occasional black metal moment.

The album consists of three acts and fourteen tracks but for the most part the tracks run together and it’s impossible to distinguish them from each other as the melodies simply carry over and the song sort of drifts into a new one as the storyline proceeds. Exceptions occur when abrupt changes such as the bombastic metal heft of “Tyrant Dies” completely ends and the gleeful mandolin folk cheer of “The Witch’s Dance” follows. The continuity is really quite well laid out as the tracks capture all the essence of a rock your socks off heavy metal album but also cools off with exquisitely sublime moments of medieval folk music as if you left the metal concert and walked into the Renaissance fair. The brevity of the tracks is the album’s greatest strength as THE BASTARD never lags in overblown pompous cycles that many rock opera’s suffer from. Only the grande finale “Sacrifice The End” has a lengthy playing time near nine minutes and as a result is the most progressive with many differing movements, tones, timbres and elements of surprise.

Everything about this album works quite well actually. The musicianship is outstanding. The cleverly crafted compositions are all interesting by both keeping a unified feel of the entire album yet adding different elements to give each track its own personality. The contrasting vocal styles of Tanaka and Scalzi are perfectly matched and the progressive elements are tastefully woven into the big picture instead of simply adding proggy workouts for their own sake. Best of all this is metal that you can bang your head to. The metal is the real deal but the down time is quite welcome and beautifully performed. The band mastered both the metal and folk aspects perfectly and yet somehow found a perfect way to meld it altogether and craft a concept album that runs as tightly as some classical score from the distant past. Add to that the fiery passion of all the performers and this one is a true winner and perhaps my favorite HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE album of all as this one has most energetic deliveries. This was a surprise coming to this after the more famous albums that follow but i love this one a lot better. There are no weaknesses on this at all.

Members reviews

avestin
When I first heard this band, I was thrown back to my youth when I heard metal in the 80's. I mean the straightforward, heavy metal with those riffs that made me feel so good, like I have reached home and am now in a safe place. But safe is not what this album is about; especially if you listen to the lyrics of songs such as You Should Have Slain Me or An Oath Sworn In Hell (which also happen to be my two favourite songs here). I will not bother you about the details of the story told in this theme album, but instead focus on the music itself, which is what I pay attention most. I will only say it will appeal to people who like fantasy tales.

HOM has close ties to The Lord Weird Slough Feg through its guitarist John Cobbett who founded HOM (and does the vocals as well) along with other TLWSF members - Mike Scalzi on keyboards and Sigrid Sheie who is the second vocalist. The fact that this is a concept album, does not only reflect in the story that is told in the songs, but can be figured out by the fact that there are recurrences of some sound themes throughout the album and they serve as reference points and are played a bit differently each time they are brought up.

The music - well, apart form it being based on what I view as 80's metal, it brings in a fresh and complex sound into it and makes for a very enjoyable listen, perhaps even for those not into metal music (although it will require some getting used to the more aggressive sides of the album). The guitars have a cool crunchy sound and the drumming can get very energetic and enthusiastic sounding when the tracks develop more and allow for the band's wilder side to come out. What else? Well, there are traces of Doom metal there, which can be heard on the more tortured and slow bits in some songs (Hunting Tyrant), but for those who are just afraid of this now let me calm you by saying; those are merely traces of it. You can also hear some more folk-like moments when the acoustic guitar takes over on several tracks and plays a nice and relaxed tune.

When listening to them, it is quite evident to me that they are highly skilled as musicians and I admire their ability to give a depth and complexity to what would otherwise be "plain" heavy metal (not that I dislike it; quite the contrary. But that is irrelevant here).

Another excellent trait they have is the male/female vocals that sometimes sing separately and on other occasions have a sort of duet. It is impossible for me to describe the sound of their vocals, but those are not your typical metal vocals and they are clean vocals apart for occasional distorted vocals and some screeching vocals which mean to represent other characters in the story.

But what I like most about them is that they have those tracks that as soon as they begin they make you want to move and shake your head due to their excellent rhythms. They have those catchy guitar riffs and drum sections that catch my senses and guide them about as the songs goes on. Not the most complex and amazing parts, but those are certainly the most entertaining. Just listen to those two tracks I mentioned at the opening and also the last track Sacrifice/The End and you might experience what I mean.

To sum this all up, I have to say that I don't find the songs to be all of the same level. Some are very good (like the two I mentioned in the beginning) while others are less exciting and I get a feeling of unevenness as a whole. That been said, there are no bad songs here for me; just some tracks that are less exciting than others and not up to par with the bright ideas portrayed in those songs that I think highly of. This is why I think it is a good album overall, and while not an excellent addition, it would be a pretty good addition to anyone who can appreciate a good and above average metal album. Moreover, it will probably appeal only to "metal people", especially those who like the straightforward sound of heavy metal (especially 80's metal; maybe we can all it vintage metal by now?).

Ratings only

  • Pintos
  • Nergal131
  • fabprog

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