I think it is safe to say that the ferocity and sonic viciousness of metallic hardcore protagonists Ringworm has not abated or diminished over their twenty plus years brawling with the senses. The indisputable evidence comes with new album Hammer Of The Witch, a towering and vindictive slab of destructive raging and antagonistic creativity. Packed to the brim with thirteen vitriol spewing tracks that just as venomously unleash a range of uncompromising riffs and addictive grooves, the album is a commanding onslaught of spite and animosity, simply unadulterated hardcore excellence.
Formed in 1991, it is fair to say that Ringworm has left an indelible mark with their fusion of metal and hardcore, debut album The Promise in 1993 setting the Cleveland band as a sizeable proposition before a hiatus of sorts was ended by the unleashing of the critically acclaimed Birth Is Pain on Victory Records in 2001. Subsequent albums like Justice Replaced By Revenge four years later and the following The Venomous Grand Design of 2007 reinforced and strengthened their grip on passions and scene. Scars three years ago continued the stretching of the band’s creativity and power, the same pleasing accusation you can throw at Hammer Of The Witch, the band’s debut on Relapse Records. Recorded with Ben Schigel (Chimaira, Walls of Jericho) producing, the album is a merciless tempest chewing up and spitting out everything from ears to emotions.
Opener Dawn of Decay emerges from a cinematic intimidation, a sense of epic danger spawning a weave of carnivorous basslines, rapacious riffing, and combative rhythms, all honed into a prowling entity which sizes up its victim before exploding into fire of musical causticity and vocal threat, the tones of frontman Human Furnace as always living up to his moniker. The song stalks the senses from start to finish, the guitars of Matt Sorg and John Comprix abrasively ravishing air and ears whilst drummer Danny Zink gives them a further mighty battering.
The excellent start is potently backed up by the corrosive wrath of Bleed and the nastily venomous Leave Your Skin at the Door, both individual tirades of inventive riffery and precisely sculpted contagious grooves courted by the deliciously dark hearted tones spawned from the bass of Ed Stephens, his opening of the second of these songs a mouthwatering provocation. Each track is also marked by keen sonic endeavour from the guitars; theirs an acidic play within the riot which even in brief colours raises the potency of the anger.
The toxic Exit Life rails against ears next, its narrative and approach singular in venom and hatred but fully magnetic, before Psychic Vampire belts and engages the senses with rhythmic violence and a deceptively seductive groove which winds around and recruits the passions. The track is a maelstrom of vehemence, lyrically and sonically, and rich infectiousness. It is an intrusive antagonist that is hard to have enough of, the same that can also be said of King of Blood, another unbridled onslaught which savages and ignites the emotions with dramatic grooves, temper driven riffs, and bitter rhythms. The track in many ways is similar to its predecessor, the one trait you could lay against the album with a regularly familiarity across some songs, though it does not reduce the pleasure and power of the release one iota.
Through tracks like the torrentially consumptive I Recommend Amputation and the predatory We’ll Always Have the End as well as the raging causticity of One Of Us Is Going to Have to Die…, band and album abrases and sears with compelling efficiency and enterprise even if each lacks some of the spark of previous songs, though amongst them the title track takes its victims on a hellacious ride of physical and mental ferocity which simply ignites the passions, it’s almost demonic poisons irresistibly and dramatically enthralling.
The final trio of tracks starting with the flesh and synapse scorching Vicious Circle of Life lift the album back to its opening plateau, the fearsome slice of tempestuous hostility scarred with great guitar acid soon thrown under the shadow of the brilliant Die Like a Pig. The bass of Stephens digs deep for its strongest guttural growl whilst HF soaks every syllable and rage spewing sound with bile spawned malevolence and passion to match the creative rabidity of its partners of dispute.
The album closes with slab of prime hardcore/punk jaundice in the riveting shape of Height of Revelation. The uncivil and rigorously inciting melee of sonic and rhythmic rancor is a thunderous and thoroughly incendiary last triumph for passions and album. Hammer of the Witch is a breath stealing, bone splintering furnace of acrimony and virulent contagion. It is masterful and thrilling assault on the ear which if not the pinnacle of Ringworm’s career is certainly right up there. Hardcore has never sounded better in the hands of the ‘veterans’, and they show no signs of losing their devastating anger and invention either…Happy Days!
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