posted on 4/2008 By:
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard of Gallhammer, but they were most recently brought to my attention when I happened to see Nocturno Culto’s movie. The flick presumably documents the daily goings-on in the world of Darkthrone, and it includes no mention of day jobs but plenty of grainy black-and-white footage of dudes cross-country skiing and dragging big boxes around in the snow. Besides being one of the most hilarious/awesome cinema epics I’ve ever seen, the movie included footage from a trip to Japan during which Culto and Fenriz attend a Gallhammer live show. The band (comprised of three women—nice to see Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation aren’t the only solid all-girl metal act in Japan) put on an impressive show, and thus my curiosity was piqued. Gallhammer bills themselves as a crossbreed of Hellhammer and Amebix. Ill Innocence is a little more than a run-of-the-mill crust/black metal hybrid—though not spectacular in any respect.
Gallhammer’s stated influences certainly dominate most of the songs here, and Ill Innocence is as filthy and low-fi as you please. The album shuttles back and forth from speedier crust punk rippers like “Kill the Queen” to the shuddering, rickety lurch of “World To Be Ashes,” wearing its influences on its sleeve more often than not. Bassist Vivian Slaughter’s songwriting is proficient but workmanlike for much of the album, and the band’s riffwork is similarly reliable but rarely really sinks any kind of hook into the listener—though Gallhammer aren’t likely banking on catchiness to sell these songs, nor are they atmospheric enough for the importance of individual riffs to fade. Fortunately, they’re working with more than just the normal punk and black metal tropes. Unexpected influences creep into the band’s sound a number of times throughout Ill Innocence. “Blind My Eyes” and “Delirium Daydream” lock into rocking grooves before laying down driving post-punk melodies; the former also features some bizarre (and kind of irritating) Melt-Banana-style yapping. The album also ends bizarrely—“SLOG” and “Long Scary Dream” are both spaced-out crawlers featuring dreamlike melodic builds and crescendos. At times it sounds as though France’s Amesoeurs have left as hefty mark on Gallhammer’s music as Hellhammer have.
Though Gallhammer’s weird melodic content can be interesting, Ill Innocence still falls far short of outstanding. Not only does Gallhammer’s songwriting often fail to impress, their musicianship is roundly average (evidently all three members were originally vocalists and learned instruments specifically to form this band) and even Vivian Slaughter’s rasp could use a little more power. That said, this is a young band yet, and if Gallhammer improve their craftsmanship as they have from 2004’s Gloomy Lights and develop the unconventional elements of their sound, they could begin releasing really noteworthy albums within a few years.
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