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Grimm recording by speleology students - 93%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 7th, 2012

Grimmly recorded indeed was this album by the cult death / doom band Thorr's Hammer way back in 1995 - maybe the weather in that year was extra icy-cold (June 1995 - was it icy-cold then? - probably not!) or on the other hand unseasonably warm which must have riled the members somewhat. Thorr's Hammer was one of the earliest projects worked on by modern-day Grimm Brothers Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley and even in those days they were serious students of subsonik speleology: their twin guitar excavations churn through tunnels of thick granite and black basalt, accreting a thick sludgy layer of crust and scree on their strings while the rhythm section of Jamie Sykes and James Hale supplies the jackhammer energy to power mining operations. Solid earthy riffing is emphasised throughout the recording to the point where in a couple of tracks in the middle of this recording (my CD comes with a bonus live track "Mellom Galgene") the music starts to look a little monotonous.

The main wonder of the band though was the then seventeen-year-old ice-blonde angel Runhild Gammalsaeter whose unearthly death-metal throat-shredding talents added an extra layer of crust to the Grimm-guitarists' lithospheric creations. She wrote the lyrics which are all in Norwegian and unfortunately on my copy there is no English translation but they appear to refer to Germanic mythology and a love of Norway and its landscapes. Gammalsaeter acquits herself admirably on all tracks though towards the end of the title piece where she is accompanied only be percussion, her rumbling is getting a little strained which is understandable given that she has been singing the song for quite a time at such an impossibly deep level.

The highlight of the recording is the bonus "Mellon Galgene" in which the band trudges through slag heaps of thick guitar slurry over and over until the eighth minute shen the hypnotic trance induced by the droning build-up overcomes everyone and all enter a tribal dance with the rhythm section keeping up a vigorous throb. The whole piece is artfully constructed: before the music reaches its peak, it teasingly slows down and drags out its middle section, becoming ever more earth-encrusted and decelerating to a crawl. I had expected the denouement to be sloppy but everyone maintains a tight band discipline right to the very end.

Not long after this live performance Gammalsaeter returned to Norway and Thorr's Hammer disbanded with the remaining musicians forming Burning Witch. "Dommedagsnatt" remains Thorr's Hammer's only significant recording which is highly recommended to Sunn0))) fans for its thick and grimy guitar sound and Gammalsaeter's vocals.

The original version of this review appears in The Sound Projector (Issue 14, 2005 - 2006) which is now out of print.

Thorr's fuckin' Hammer! - 95%

overkill666, July 20th, 2009

Man, it’s always a shame to see such great bands break up early in their careers. Such is the story with Thorr’s Hammer. As their vocalist was only an exchange student, they were unable to keep it together when she left the United States for Norway. Thorr’s Hammer is really the essence of great death/doom metal. It’s easy to get lost in this stuff.

Thorr’s Hammer is a forest of sound and atmosphere. It’s easy to get lost in the sound. Each track has that ability to make me sit back in my chair, shut my eyes, and lose myself in the music. I can’t say that for many bands, so it’s a very positive thing. The tone of the guitar is so thick and meaty, it causes the vibrations to be soothing in a way. Though, this isn’t soft lounge music. You won’t hear this in an elevator either (though that’d be awesome). The riff work is slow like many doom metal bands, but has the pace to where it isn’t boring. It doesn’t just drone on. Also, the way the bass guitar juts into the mix is well done. It pops up and just makes the sound that much heavier. I wish I could get my bass guitar to sound like these death/doom bands. It’s the epitome of heaviness. The interesting thing about Thorr’s Hammer is that the death metal and doom metal are at a 50/50 in equality. There’s just as much death metal as there is doom, so nothing is overwhelmed. ‘Troll’ is a great example where both genres shine through.

Lastly, the vocals. They’re good enough to get their own paragraph, so a lot of detail must go into it yes? Well, as you can tell from their page, it’s a woman doing vocals. I’ve heard a lot of people make the argument that women are only used in metal for commercial purposes, and therefore they are mediocre. Runhild Gammelsæter is an awesome vocalist, to put it simply. Her vocal work is just as heavy as any man who could’ve joined the band. She puts many other female vocalists to shame. I really like her style, the brutish death grunts really give the music an edge. She sounds like many of the vocalists from the 1980’s death metal scene.

Thorr’s Hammer is an amazing band. Everything about them just has a vibe that I can connect to. Right down to their lyrical interests, they are a very cool band. This is death/doom that doesn’t bore me stiff. That’s quite hard to find nowadays. This is an old school gem.

Female Fronted Metal that isn't Shit- Part 3 of 4. - 89%

caspian, March 24th, 2008

Thorr's Hammer only released one EP but it's still a pretty important beast- SOMA's and Greg's first (or at least one of his first) project, a female singer, which as far as I know was pretty unique for a doom band to have at the time- it still is, really- and the whole thing was basically a prototype doom/death/sludge thingy that's gone on to influence quite a few bands since.

Of course, importance, uniqueness and influence don't always indicate quality- just because you're the first doesn't necessarily mean you're any good. Luckily, Thorr's Hammer seem to be quite competent at what they do, using a fairly simple structure- get one riff, two at most and then just do some variations on it- and applying it extremely well. Certainly everything is pretty lean and focused- the guitars rarely do much except trudging along with slow, deadly downtuned slo mo riffs, the bass not really doing anything except providing some really, really low frequency fuzz, and the drums in particular doing a great job, just ticking along, somehow tight and loose at the same time. It's definitely an example of the understated but still solid musicianship that's required in these kind of bands- an impeccable command of atmosphere, and highly disciplined playing, everything perfectly in it's place- the deadly (and absolutely HUGE) ending of Dommedagsnatt in particular being a great example.

The vocals deserve a mention, obviously. Certainly it's surprising that the epic guttural vocals are supplied by a female, the fact that it's a 17 year old Norwegian (and an extremely attractive one at that) means that one could almost consider it a gimmick- if the vocals weren't freakin' awesome, that is. Fact is that the guttural vocals are quite epic, and the sung/chanted vocals are also excellent, everything fitting perfectly with the churning downtuned riffs.

Overall there's really not that much else to say- a solid doom death sort of thing that crushes pretty freaking hard. Definitely worth owning if you like your metal slow and brutal.

A Slow Death by Doom - 90%

Metalich, April 21st, 2007

Before female vocalists with growls were topical and gloom could be bought across the food-court, Thorr’s Hammer rises out of the cold winter of metal, circa ’94 with Dommedagsnatt, a cult classic of doom/death. While an EP, it clocks in at thirty two plus minutes; four tracks, one of which is live. While the live track typifies semi-poor production, it in fact does not detract from the song. In many ways it enhances the grand rawness of the album.

First and foremost is the female vocalist. Gammelsaeter’s vocals very between soft female droning to tireless growls that do justice to the death genre; this isn’t your operatic or goth vocals that are all the trend these days, but the droning of frozen, inevitable doom. This is the real deal: Serene, raw, and ugly as needed and when needed. While I like a good singer as much as the next guy, some types of music require the under produced, dragged screaming into the void, type of rawness; this delivers. The drums pound away, not a means of keeping the beat so much as to hammer Gammelsaeter’s vocals and O’Malley’s guitar chords home. Maybe that’s how they chose the group's name; the drums, vocals, and guitar jointly if methodically hammer you into a senseless empty vessel.

The guitars epitomize the doom/death style, as they are endless chords slowly dragged across lonely landscapes of despair. They are heavy, thick, and grueling as the music becomes a crushing molasses of weight that buries your senses six feet deep. It is then your soul is crushed from realizing the universe simple could care less about you.

And that is what good music does; it invokes the emotions typified by its style. This does that with no quarter offered or given. It is a love it or hate it affair, for this isn’t doom, nor is it death; it is a slow death by doom. If you are a collector or fan of doom/death metal, this needs to be in your collection.

Absolutely fuckin' excellent. - 98%

mutiilator, June 22nd, 2004

This is one of the Doom Metal genre's hidden gems. Most Stephen O'Malley projects are worth checking out, but Thorr's Hammer is one for the ages. The highlight of this heavy-as-fuck death/doom band is the vocalist. Though the rest of the band is from the US, Runhild Gammelsæter is a female singer from Norway. With her at the reins, the singing ranges from clean and angelic, to some of the best grunts i've ever heard. As seen with the Brazilian Black Metal band, Nocturnal Worshipper, women often outshine men when they take over the duties of vocalist.

The music on this ep is similiar to Burning Witch, but perhaps not as slow. As with any O'Malley band, the guitars are thick and heavy. The drumming is crushing and pounding. Combine this with the Norwegian lyrics and growls (sometimes paired up with the clean vocals at the same time), and you have one hell of a band. The fourth and final track is a live recording (from a show or a rehearsal - i'm not sure). This partially sacrifices the sound quality, but compared to other live/demo recordings, this is perfection.

Thorr's Hammer are one of the many cult Doom bands to have quickly emerged and dissipated. This ep has been immortalized among the ranks of Thergothon, Worship, etc, as it fully embraces and symbolizes the purest form of Doom/Death.