Demolition Hammer - Tortured Existence

Whenever discussing New York's Demolition Hammer, the words 'classic' and 'underrated' tend to get thrown around a hell of a lot. This isn't anything new with a lot of older thrash bands, as many incredible outfits have faded into obscurity under the shadow of the 'Big Four', but Demolition Hammer were exceptionally different. A band who took the brutality of bands like Kreator and Dark Angel and made it heavier, faster and far more violent. Yet their immense contributions to metal still go relatively unappreciated.

The band's first record "Tortured Existence" was a latecomer to the thrash scene, being unleashed upon the unwashed thrashing masses in 1990 - a time when thrash was beginning to die. Normally such a late entry to the genre would fall flat with groove metal on the rise and such, but this album gave the trends a giant middle finger and thrashed harder than anything heard before - it was the heaviest album around. You like crunchy and catchy riffs? Check. Incredible amounts of shredding guitar solos? Check. Headbanging bridge sections? Check. Earth-shatteringly fast and relentlessly heavy drums? My God, CHECK!!

First and foremost, Vinny Daze need an honourary mention for his drumwork on "Tortured Existence". Its absolutely incredible - lightning fast, technical and in all honesty, this album wouldn't have worked as well without him. Though saying that, that doesn't mean that the other musicians have slacked off, as everyone's input here is of such high quality that it makes all the competitors look amateurish. Steve Reynold's vocals aren't anything new by today's standards, but they do the job perfecly well - and more kudos to Steve for 'singing' whilst playing bass too. His lyrics touch upon familiar themes, yet the way they're written have left me in awe - its not just a chorus of 'Yeah, bubonic plague!' or 'Yeah, shoot yourself!', its all crafted in a spectacular manner that few bands have managed to replicate.

As for those riffs... well, just listen to '.44 Caliber Brain Surgery' or 'Infectious Hospital Waste' and you'll be left speechless. Guitarists Derek Sykes and James Reilly excel in the riffs department, battering you absolutely senseless with a whirlwind of brutal death-thrash, and the solos - especially in the colossal '.44 Caliber Brain Surgery' - are tastefully done. They're not repetitive in any way, these guys know what they're doing and everyone in the band know exactly how to compliment them. And the icing on an already tasty and extremely brutal cake is Scott Burns behind the mixing desk, who as usual, makes this album sound heavier than a neutron star. Nothing is too upfront, and the bass is perfectly audiable - something a lot of thrash albums lacked back in the day, and even now.

Well, heres my conclusion: Demolition Hammer's "Tortured Existence" is an under appreciated masterpiece of thrash metal. I don't like praising albums so much in reviews, but when a band releases something this good theres really nothing bad I can say about it - everything is perfect. This is how metal is supposed to sound, its an album of such quality that it acts as a challenge to all other bands who may label themselves as 'heavy', yet at the same time its a statement that Demolition Hammer themselves followed up with 1992's "Epidemic of Violence". The fact of the matter is that "Tortured Existence" is one of the heaviest, fastest and most brutal albums ever made (second only to "Epidemic of Violence") and people who call themselves fans of thrash, death metal or 'true metal' in any way needs it in their record collection. And now that Century Media have remastered and reissued the album at a wallet-friendly price, you have no excuse to miss out of some of the finest music around.

1. .44 Caliber Brain Surgery
2. Neanderthal
3. Gelid Remains
4. Crippling Velocity
5. Infectious Hospital Waste
6. Hydrophobia
7. Paricidal Epitaph
8. Mercenary Aggression
9. Cataclysm

Century Media Records
Reviewer: Dave Ingram Jr.
Oct 26, 2009

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