REVIEW: Magic Hammer, “Most Extreme Ultimate Thunder”

Keeping in mind the old adage, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, review” – and maybe “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one,” – I present you the inaugural This Burning City Review: 2009’s inexplicably wonderful MAGIC HAMMER: MOST EXTREME ULTIMATE THUNDER.

TL;DR PULL QUOTE: Catchy, compelling and unpredictable, Magic Hammer exists in a genre of its own; unstoppable dance music with Viking blood in its veins.

The first 25 seconds or so of the album seem predictable. And just about at the moment where you go ‘okay, yeah, there’s nothing new here’ and your brain starts to tune out, the track (“Dance on Fire: Retribution”) pulls a sucker punch on you and suddenly, flawlessly morphs into an incredible, wheeling dance anthem with warm and enticing lyrics. And then a heavy guitar shred drops right into the middle, and then it’s right back to the dancing again. And then the opening of the second track, “Blooddrunk”, starts with a random collection of sound effects and noises and a scream and then there’s a guitar that shreds for three seconds and melts into a quick piano sting and then the drums come back…

This is going to be your life while you listen to this album: every song twists inside itself, genres and instrumentation fluxing wildly from moment to moment. These changes always move in a clean and natural way. It’s not spastic or disjointed; imagine a dance party chained to a rock while the Kraken is coming fast, and its wild gyrations document the struggles to escape its fate. You’ll hear everything from old-Irish-country drinking songs to country and western banjo to 90’s keyboarding and melodic piano. It’s crazy.

There is no way to predict where the songs are going to go, but the energy stays consistent throughout- there’s not a slow moment in the thing. And I defy anyone not to get up out of their chair while the album’s on. You will not be able to stop yourself – fingers, feet, head, something’s gonna move.

In fact, there’s enough good stuff in here that DDR should just go ahead and slap out a full-album vanity edition for the Hammer, like Rock Band Beatles or Guitar Hero Aerosmith. DDR: Dance on Fire Edition. Mark my words, this needs to happen.

Each track runs about four minutes, long enough to fully enjoy but never so long as to become tedious. The only major misfire on the album is the cover “Pills I Took”, track 4; this track just doesn’t quite work. The lyrics are unappealing and it comes off feeling strained; maybe country and western and eurodance are just too far away from each other to find a good blend? The banjo riff tossed in at 2:26 is a fun spice, though.

There is absolutely no questioning the artistry, fun and ferocity of this album. It carries the blood of vikings in its veins. Most Extreme Ultimate Thunder has a serious image problem, though. The cover and all the publicity shots are Metal with a capital M, but the music itself is bright and hot and catchy dance anthem fury. I applaud Eric Brown’s balls-to-the-wall approach to his own publicity, but I agree with some other reviewers – he may have niched himself right into a corner that he can’t escape without making some kind of sacrifice he may not want to make.

The dissonance between visual images and actual product may be a core part of the concept, a part of the genre twist, but it may also keep appreciating audiences for this music at bay. And that would really be a shame, because this album deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting now.

Buy the CD at Amazon, iTunes or get lossless editions at Magic Hammer’s Bandcamp. (Recommended: $8 is great and direct support of artist is always best!)

Read more about Magic Hammer at Free Music ArchiveNashville Scene, and BkSalsa. Follow Magic Hammer on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook