Hellbent & Hammered are an unsigned, London-based groove metal quartet who have been around since 2004. “Death Rattle” is their first EP for a while, the band having had several members leave to go back to their native South Africa and start another outfit. In fact, the buzz about them in South Africa is pretty loud, with a campaign launched to get them over there to play some gigs.
So what do they know that we, as yet, don’t? Are they worth funding the airfare? Well, frankly I think the whole enterprise is based on local pride rather then recognizing Hellbent & Hammered‘s unheralded musical genius. Their sound is a crunchy but familiar mix of Pantera and Lamb of God, with plenty of riffs, Dimebag Darrell-worshipping pinched harmonics and growled hooligan vocals. Nowt wrong with any of that of course, but the band maintain such a similar pace across most of this EP that on first listen I didn’t notice when one song started and another ended. The songwriting is neither interesting enough or deliberately commercial enough to grab hold of your ears and assault them. And by commercial I don’t mean pop-y, I mean groove metal has always had strong choruses for you to pump your fist and shred your vocal chords to.
Final track of the four ‘Built This Way’ is surprisingly the pick of the bunch, and just when you’re thinking it’s time to move on it tempts you back to listen again. The stop-start rhythms throughout and double kick drums in the bridge bring some musical variation at last, and with just a bit more oomph in the song writing department this could have been a winner.
I hope that Hellbent & Hammered find that airfare from somewhere to play shows in their homeland, I’m guessing South Africa needs more decent metal bands to visit there. I’m sure the band would enjoy being a big fish in a small pond, musically anyway. As for making it in London? Well guys, keep trying.