So, if you were asked to name an Israeli metal band, my guess is that about 90% of you would automatically think of Orphaned Land. Well, you can now add Hammercult to your Israeli metal bands of note, with this, a digipack EP of cover songs and a couple of newbies. I’ll be honest and say that I’d never heard of them, or their extreme thrash attack, but it would appear that this is their second EP since 2011, and they’ve also managed to cram in three full length albums since that time too! It seems that the five piece are nothing if not prolific.
In terms of feel, I have to say that I was immediately reminded of Witchery – not in that Hammercult are a blackened thrash band, but more that this short EP of cover tracks reminded me of the Swedes’ 1999 EP, “Witchburner”, perhaps by virtue of opening up with a storming rendition of Accept’s “Fast as a Shark”! This is followed by a relatively straight-laced version of “Ace of Spades”, though delivered with sharp, shrieked vocals, and a bit more of a penchant for the double-bass drums. I’m not really an aficionado of Running Wild, so can’t really say how close to the original their take on “Soldiers of Hell” is, but I have to report that it does seem like a fun cover, and one that probably suits a drinking session! Their cover of “No Rules” by GG Allin has a proper euro-thrash slant on the punkish antics, both for better and worse, while tackling a lesser known early Slayer track like “Evil Has No Boundaries” (and clearly, Slayer never met my neighbours), returns some interesting results, sounding not unlike the kind of track that would have nestled nicely onto the classic “Slaytahnic Wehrmacht” Slayer cover albums of yore.
In terms of the three tracks the band have here from their own catalogue, “Rise of the Hammer” sounds like it would probably be more fun live than it is on record, with some clearly anthemic moments that will translate well into fist-pumping crowd participation. “Steelcrusher”, which sounds like some of the better moments of the latter Judas Priest records on very heavy steroids, would be better if it lost the superfluous first minute and a half and got straight into the NWOBHM meets thrash bombast. “Let the Angels Burn”, as a straight ahead thrasher is probably the pick of the bunch, having some serious chops while channelling some of the slightly deranged feel of classic Swordmaster.
In terms of score? Well, it’s always tricky for a release that’s more than half cover version. Personally, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and if taken for what it is – a well meant tribute to acts that have meant something to the band, then I think it’s a release worth getting if you manage to find it for sale. It isn’t going to change the world, and tellingly, with the exception of the third track, all of the covers are better than their own material, but you’ll have fun listening to it.
(6/10 Chris Davison)