Full album stream: Ringworm – Hammer Of The Witch

Ringworm Hammer of the Witch Cover Image

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When it’s done correctly, there’s really nothing to dislike about metallic hardcore. Hell, I love it even when it’s not that good (‘sup, Sworn Enemy?). Heavy, aggressive, abrasive, passionate, in your face, uncompromising: everything I love about both styles in one headbanging package. Cleveland, Ohio was ground zero for the genre’s inception. Two bands — Integrity and Ringworm — defined the sound, and more than 20 years later they’re still at the top of the heap.

Ringworm’s latest, Hammer Of The Witch (Relapse Records), is an aural-back-alley-street-fight of a record; 13 tracks, not a single fuck given. The recording mix is perfect, with both guitars matched evenly against a machine-precision rhythm section. Vocal institution Human Furnace is still full of piss and vinegar, as song titles like “Leave Your Skin At The Door” and “One Of Us Is Going To Have To Die…” can attest. Blast beats and wailing solos interweave with brutal riffs, elevating the songs from basic hardcore workouts to something even more sinister. Even if you hear an obvious lead-up to a breakdown, it still hits like a sledgehammer each time. Too many bands of this style try to write songs around breakdowns instead of the other way around, and it keeps a lot of them lumped together in the generic hardcore bin.

At 13 tracks, Hammer Of The Witch doesn’t overstay its welcome. It helps that there isn’t a single clunker to be found, or any unnecessary intro/outro fat to cut. Start, slay, end, next; less is definitely more.

— Chris Rowella

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