Hamerex formed in August 2004 after having had the names Hellbound, Skab and Metal Fear. At this time Hamerex consisted of Steve Blower – Vocals/Guitar, Tom Parkin – Lead guitar, Mel Wales – Bass and Shane Cartwright – Drums. A couple of months later Mel Wales left the band, and Elliot Fleet joined at Christmas. After a short break, the band reunited again, without Elliot, to write new material and recently in 2006 the band completed their current lineup with the addition of Rob Butcher to the ranks.
It was with this line up that Hamerex recorded their current release. The Gates of Hades is their third e.p, following on from their two previous efforts from 2005, the self titled “Hamerex” demo and rather amusingly for a band in their early years, “The Best of Live 2005”
The first song opens up with a thrashy riff sounding rather like those bands from the 80’s Bay area heyday. It sounds rather like something that Anthrax might have produced, catchy groovy and riff laden. The vocal kicks in and to be honest it sounds a bit flat and out of tune to me. As the song ‘Live Forever’ carries on, the middle 8 delivers a change of pace to a heavier riff and I find my self nodding my head in approval.
A short twin lead break, followed by a very competent guitar solo is reminiscent of Iron Maiden, who the band list as one of their main influences. The song ends rather abruptly and moves swiftly into the next track “The Headless Horseman” accompanied by the sound of retreating horses hooves.
The lyrical content of this track is the part that most appeals to me, being very carefully thought out. “The headless horseman rides through the night” and also “They heard the screams going on outside, they found their heads” are excellent lyrics and evocative, reminders of times gone by.
The riffs in this track are much heavier and really thrashy in nature, with some nice little runs and solos. I imagine this one will be a favourite song when played live. Its one of the standout tracks on this release, along with the next one.
Demons begins in a more sinister style with a kind of death type growling vocal and a slow down of pace which quickly moves on into a much faster riff. There is a lot that is good about this track, the guitars in particular, backed up with a solid rhythm section provided by Elliot Fleet and Shane Cartwright. Although I feel that the bassline is a little quiet in the mix.
The thing that lets it down in my opinion, is the lack of variation in the vocals. The line is similar to all the other tracks, and essentially sang in a monotone. What it lacks is passion, energy and conviction.
The Seas And The Skies is a bit slower than the rest of the songs. But still using that typical Hamerex style which is good in one way and bad in another, as it doesn’t give the cd any variation.
The final track Gates of Hades starts up with a really chunky, heavy riff accompanied by a drum beat , then the guitars kick in with a heavy and different style immediately grabbing my attention.
Once again, lyrically brilliant. “The gates of Hades are open, the path to the underworld” is good as it gives me visions of two gates opening for a Greek warrior and behind the Gates lay darkness, and who knows what after that?
But focusing on the music, after the initial excitement that this track may offer something different, I settle back in disappointment as the pace, pattern and rhythms of the track follow the same lines as all the others. The vocal on ‘Seas’ is a little more aggressive, and a bit more interesting but once again formulaic.
I have to say if there’s anything that lets the Ep down it has to be the vocals, but they certainly aren’t the worst I have ever heard, just lacking in tone and variation. As the band continue to write, and hone their skills, this will hopefully improve.
Overall, I would say that Gates of Hades has a lot going for it. The production is good, certainly for a demo and there clearly is some skilled musicianship on display, particularly from the two guitarists Steve and Tom. Their old school influences are undoubtedly on display, but without appearing to be a complete rip off of the originals.
Gates of Hades shows Hamerex as a band to keep an eye on, with some evident potential, and a band who would certainly be worth checking out live . Gates of Hades is available to download, free of charge from Mp3.com.
Check it out and listen for yourself.
Demise of Sanity
The Headless Horseman
Seas And The Skies
The Gates Of Hades
Chris Moules -Vocals
Steve Blower – Guitar
Tom Parkin – Guitar
Elliot Fleet – Bass
Shane Cartwright – Drums