20 Jan 2013

Hammerspace - The Kings of Mediocrity [EP] & Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore [Full length] (2012, Torn Flesh Records)

Taking the 80's route to heavy metal is an approach many bands choose. The 80's saw heavy metal become a rather popular genre, and in that particular decade the genre underwent incredible amounts of change and innovation - Mimicking the sound and atmosphere of that decade has more or less become the new black, whether it involves organic production, a particular way of writing songs or using other contemporary elements in the music.

Hammerspace is a virtual band, meaning (as far as I know) that the sole member, Timothy Branch, has invented a sort of "fictional" band, kind of like Brendon Small's Dethklok. The band focuses on certain RPG/adventure elements, meaning that the lyrics often involve gaming, roleplaying games, adventure and the likes. This review was originally supposed to be about their first EP, "The Kings of Mediocrity", but in the light of the more recent release, the full length album "Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore" released by Torn Flesh Records, I decided to instead review both releases and hold them up against each other.

I found The Kings of Mediocrity to be pretty much what the name implied - A fairly mediocre journey through heavy metal scapes of varying quality and characteristic. Most of the EP was, to me at least, entirely unexciting and uneventful, with only a few moments to catch the eye. The intro for this review may seem entirely pointless, but the reason I brought up the 80's is because of the opening track, Pull the Trigger, which seems to be trying to portray the soundtracks often heard in the darker science fiction movies of the time. The problem with the opening track is the same that goes for the entire EP: It's so overdone and saturated with the concept that it becomes more of a parody rather than a homage.
Songs like The Rat with its whispered vocals and Into the Future with the harpsichordesque intro melody to me sounds like the band (or Branch, if you will) is trying too hard to fit a concept that it sort of becomes shackles chaining the band to a creed of nerdiness, which to some may be funny or interesting, but to me just seems a bit try-hard-ish.

The entire thing is a composit of thrashy nineties-like heavy metal riffs with a thing for groove, but ultimately the EP lacks edge and intricateness. The last track, Game Over, is by a long shot the best piece on the album. It is both groovier, heavier and more original than the rest, and all these things in unison make for a much more effective track than all the other tracks on The Kings of Mediocrity.

My problem with a band such as Hammerspace is that, like I mentioned earlier, the gimmicks have just completely taken over and makes it hard for me to take it seriously as a musical endeavour. Really, Hammerspace has more clich├ęs and gimmicks than all of Batman's adversaries put together. Gimmicks don't have to be bad. Take a band like Gama Bomb: Their lyrics and concept is about video games, comics and movies too, but not to a degree where it inhibits their writing abilities.

I was hoping the full length would change my mind. When I heard Prologue, the first track, I had my doubts. It sounded like a less memorable theme song from Runescape. Considering the fact that the album is released only a short time after the EP I'm not too sure what I was expecting, but Volume 1 features the exact same weak vocals, start-stop riffs, boring melodies and cheesy songwriting as its predecessor did.

More often than not repeated listening will make something stick to your halfway melted brain, but even after having listened to Volume 1 a number of times I couldn't remember anything, maybe except for the weird last half of Dagger and Cross. When I got to this part I had to pause it for a moment. Trying to bring in a bit of a folky feeling are we? It was one of the only times I felt that Hammerspace were really trying to experiment, and it obviously had some sort of effect on me. The heavy groove riffs that make up the majority of the album (and the EP for that matter) are probably best left as background music for browser games or Babo Violent, but even so the trollish humptidumpty stuff in Dagger and Cross are a bit too weird for my tastes.

Volume 1 also sees the resurgence of the track "Into the Future" from the Kings of Mediocrity EP. It was one of the stronger (though I use the term loosely) tracks on the EP, but Volume 1 is long enough in itself that it doesn't really need to reuse old tracks to achieve a decent length.
Summing up Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore is simple, mostly because the album itself is simple. Uninteresting synths, groovy but repetitive riffs, uninspired vocals and songwriting of repetitious behaviour is really what's going on, and while a few songs on the album, namely Presage and Signal Strength, did manage to provide me some minor enjoyment, but the formula quickly grows stale. The entire formula lacks depth, and while listening my mind quickly wanders to other subjects, like how interesting the wallpaper is. At least it's Branch's playing is pretty tight, and the production isn't that bad. 4/10 guitars.

Tracklist (The Kings of Mediocrity):
1. Pull the Trigger
2. The Kings of Mediocrity
3. Into the Future
4. The Rat
5. To the Fallen
6. Game Over

Tracklist (Volume 1: Reset, Repair, Restore):
1. Prologue
2. Reset, Repair, Restore
3. Dreamland
4. Dagger and Cross
5. Timeline
6. Outcast
7. Into the Future
8. Signal Strength
9. Warpath
10. Presage

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