Hammer Of God


Metal Blade Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Christian Death Metal.

Man, those are three words I never thought I'd use next to each other. But why should anyone be surprised that in the genre of heavy-hitting metal there would be a more religious form of the music - well, religious past the point of glorifying Satan and murder?

Australia's Mortification could well be the leader in their genre, as their 1999 disc Hammer Of God shows. The band - bassist/vocalist Steve Rowe, guitarist Lincoln Bowen and drummer Keith Bannister - occasionally get a little too preachy or they stretch concepts a little too far, but this disc is more enjoyable than some people would tend to believe.

Some people might not like the idea of being preached to while listening to a good ol' fashioned headbanging disc. Fine - block out the message. It's surprisingly easy to do; I've had lots of practice with all the demonic metal I've listened to in this gig. Okay, so now we're going against the aim of the band, so to be fair to them, keep an open mind about both the album and the message.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It would be far too easy for some skeptics to write this disc off as merely religious zealotry. But there's more to the story than that; Rowe uses this disc as a celebration of a victory over cancer (which he refers to in songs like "Visited By An Angel"), so excuse him if he's in the mood to praise God. He's actually got a good right to.

To Mortification's credit, they often do keep the religious messages in check; a song like "Martyrs" could have easily come from any band who writes music to make the listener think. And if you didn't know the personal beliefs of the band members, you would almost accept a song like "In The Woods" coming from the pens of any of a gaggle of death metal bands out there. Even the inclusion of keyboards on a song like "The Pearl" just seems right.

Yet there are times when Hammer Of God gets a little too preachy - or believable. "Liberal Mediocrity" is one example ("Rightly divide The Word Of Truth / understand Scripture and its use") where the less said, the better off the band would have been. Other songs like "God Rulz" are just throw-aways. And then there's the laugher, "D.W.A.M." - an acronym for "Daniel was a mosher". Okay, sidebar with myself for a second... gotta remember who my audience for this review is going to be... gotta watch the language... okay, let's try this. Give me a friggin' break. This song is stretching it so far, you can see things starting to snap from the pressure.

One has to question whether Hammer Of God really needed six bonus tracks tacked on, including an "instrumental" version of "Metal Crusade" (which still features one or two vocal lines... hello, instrumental means no vocals!). But there are one or two gems in this mix, including "At War With War" (though even this track starts to get too preachy towards the end).

I don't like religious music in general, and I really wanted to hate Hammer Of God. But musically, this is a very sound effort, and Rowe and company prove themselves to be great songwriters and musicians. As for the message - well, I was brought up in a Catholic household, so it's not like this is all foreign news to me. Mortification seems to only occasionally stray past the limits of preaching in their music - and it's the restraint they show in general that works to their advantage.

Hammer Of God is worth checking out, even if you listen to it only for the musical content and block the rest out. But who knows? Someone might hear something in the lyrics and start thinking about things. And in the end, I think that's what Mortification's goal really is.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.