It is an old cliché – never judge a book by its cover. I am of course, old enough to know better, but I still assumed, picking up the delightfully-named Fuckhammer’s EP, that it would be awfully-produced death/grind. The cover contains a lurid photo of a hammer covered in blood, the song titles are sick and twisted, and the band are called Fuckhammer! However, it turns out I was wrong on all counts.

There is not a blast beat in sight on this short EP. Nor is there a horrible production, much to my surprise. What we have here instead is some immaculately-produced heavy sludgecore, featuring musicians well known on the Irish metal scene, both north and south of the border. Much more Crowbar than Cannibal Corpse, the band lock into a slow to mid-paced groove, yet they do so with thunderous heaviness – the guitar sound on this EP reminds me an awful lot of early Swedish death metal (yet clear as crystal), and the vocals are a nasty, gurgling rasp, reminiscent of Iron Monkey.

One thing you can definitely say about Fuckhammer is that they know how to riff your face off. There are some fantastic, gut crunching riffs scattered throughout the EP, in particular on the song `Hillbillies’ which comes straight from the sludgecore book of blues-laden groove. Each song is has a dark, grim atmosphere, a simple, direct approach and is as heavy as lead. I get the sense that this must have been immensely enjoyable to record!

It certainly isn’t a perfect release however. For me, the vocals are fairly monotonous and get rather annoying after a while. A little bit of variety and expression wouldn’t go amiss, along with a touch more clarity; the vocals really sound like someone making vowel sounds into the microphone. As I mentioned earlier, there are some killer riffs on the EP, but not really enough to make each song shine; after the initial `oh yeah!’ moment, the music seems to fade into non-descript, instantly forgettable plodding. The songs are simple, often just repeating two or three riffs in sequence – I get the sense that the musicians on this EP could have put much more into the music than they have done. It is clear that they are talented riff writers, and also know how to create a dark, grim and filthy atmosphere, but they have limited themselves too much on this brief EP in my opinion.

Overall it isn’t bad, but I suspect these guys could achieve a lot more if they put their minds to it.

(6.5/10, Jon Butlin)