Friday, November 13, 2020

Detroit - "Let The Hammers Fly" EP Review!!

Due to the immense slowdown in news as of late, and the unlikelihood of a major new album release this month, I'm posting our 137th monthly CD review on The Sault Metal Scene today, and we're finally looking at defunct local/Toronto hardcore punk/crossover thrash quartet Detroit's debut EP "Let The Hammers Fly"! The album artwork pictured is a recreation based on a low-res photo of one of the physical copies, I will update this if I find a scan of the actual liner. Independently released on December 27th, 2008 at their live concert debut at The Oddfellows Hall, this EP features Detroit's classic (and very familiar) lineup, including current Slumshine frontman Brenton Ellis on vocals, his old Labour Of.../Maximum RNR bandmate Curtis Faux (recently of White Cowbell Oklahoma) on guitar, and Brent's then-Lion Ride bandmates Mark Rand (now of Cross Dog) on bass and Mikey Hawdon (The Inner City Surfers, The Fairmounts, and his uke, et al.) on drums.

A lot of the finer details on "Let The Hammers Fly" have been lost in the sands of time, including it's original price, but the album had a limited print run and was largely succeeded by Detroit's second & final album "Brace For Impact" in 2009, which featured re-recordings of 5 songs from their debut. Not having done so in the follow-up's review in 2010, I will compare those 5 songs to their revisions here. Each song name below is linked to the copy uploaded on our YouTube channel. Featuring 11 tracks running for a blistering 16 minutes in total length, let's let the titular hammers fly!

The opening song is "Blue Collar", which was also re-recorded as the second track on "Brace For Impact" Kicking off with Mikey's very familiar seven-hit drum intro (which you'll hear on all but two songs here), this 97 seconds-long delivers an assault of hardcore-tinged thrash with a solid groove to the riff and a great bass line during the bridge. The gang vocals on "I'll sleep when I'm dead!" are effective, and Brent's underrated screaming ability is put to strong use! Comparing to the 2009 re-recording, it's near identical structurally (aside from an extra yell at the end). but it is a little faster, and the production is noticeably better, with less of a tinny sound and more oomph. That makes the re-recording optimal, but this definitely kicks off the first EP on a high and heavy note! Second is "Lord Beer Me Strength", which has more of a punk tinge to Curtis' guitar work, and it's paced more like a punk song, even down to clean vocals in the chorus!

Needless to say, these leave a false impression, as it feels like the song will run longer with a traditional structure, but it ends after just 74 seconds. Solidly done while it lasts, but given Detroit's punk pedigree, this felt like an unfinished song. Next is "St. Christopher", which later turned up as song #6 on "Brace For Impact". Atypically opening with a simple four-hit intro from Mikey and religious-tinged shouting from Brent, everyone jumps into a hardcore frenzy after, and this song returns Detroit to their crossover thrash wheelhouse, including strong pounding guitar work and aggressive & speedy drumming throughout it's 85 seconds length, so this is an early highlight! Production aside, the 2009 re-recording has a more distorted intro, but is otherwise functionally identical. Fourth up is "On Madness Reared", another song to be re-recorded on "Brace For Impact". Musically, this delivers more of the same hardcore/thrash hybrid fury in a short form factor.

The almost surf-inspired guitar licks and vocal tradeoffs from Brent to his bandmate are very catchy, and everything works so well for genre fans, but I was wishing this would have lasted longer than 86 seconds! The 2009 version is played slightly faster, but it's otherwise no different structurally. That's followed by "Circle Of Thieves", which makes great use of Mikey's rapid fire drumming, but this song is mostly driven by the vocals, which are relentless and increasingly sound strained & nasal. The music proper isn't bad, but before it can really get going, it ends after 55 seconds (and there's shorter ahead!) Not my favourite song on the album, especially as it didn't even feel half finished. Next is "Forward To Death", whose title was slightly changed to "Foreword To Death" when re-recorded for "Brace For Impact". The longest song on offer (at a diffuse 2:37), and the last of 2 songs without their standard drum intro, the opening 45 seconds or so are much slower and more serious in tone.

Once things start to pump up in aggression, the song shares more in common with punk, almost like if Billy Talent had a little  more screaming (if that's a fair comparison to make.) This is a good showcase for Brent's clean vocals, and it lets the guys stretch their legs on something less in-your-face, with Curtis and Mark trading off well throughout! I like Detroit faster and heavier, but this works well as a musical showcase! The 2009 re-recording drops the quiet "1-2-3-4" count-off entirely, but is otherwise identical beyond the improved production. Track #7 is "Shithouse Ratt", which oddly starts with a fakeout of their usual song intro before kicking things off as you'd expect. The verse has some of Detroit's quickest and most aggressive music yet, but the melodic chorus/bridge does give fans of that side a little something. A lot was packed into 101 seconds here despite an abrupt ending, and this is a solid track with strong musicianship while it lasts!

Song #8 is "Random Eyes", which opens with steady drums and stop-start riffing before the full band kicks into gear, and this is a very hardcore-friendly song when Brent's vocals are in play! The gang vocals are somewhat overdone here, but the aggressive music is well done for this song's brief 72 second length! Not a lot else to say, songs this quick in a short time period can blend together. Next up is "KilloRama", a 93 second ripper with Brent's screaming vocals strained almost to Alexisonfire-meets-black metal levels, if you can picture that! Curtis gets to have some fun on guitar with this one, and the chaotic nature is appreciated, but I think this one is too vocally dictated, and it's easy to lose track of the music as a result. Not a bad song, but not well weighted. The penultimate song is "Spiritual Autopsy", which is the last of 5 songs re-recorded on "Brace For Impact", though I'm surprised it's not called "Let The Hammers Fly" given that the album name is in the lyrics multiple times.

More of a thrash metal-inspired song, this is easily one of my favouites on the EP, with a nicely paced yet attacking structure, a good balance of Brent's harsh verses with some clean singing, and strongly aggressive bass work from Mark in particular. The 104 seconds just speeds right by on this very solid track, though again, I wish it was longer! As for the 2009 re-recording, it's a few seconds faster but is otherwise the same song before the production upgrade. The EP closes with it's shortest track, the 54 seconds-long "T-Minus" (with a name like that, I'm surprised it wasn't at the start!) This song is a solid excuse to fire on all cylinders one last time, and it fits well with the heaviest of earlier tracks on the disc, but when Brent announces that "we explode", there's nowhere to go from the level they were already at, so the anticlimactic nature wasn't to my liking. Diehard fans will like the brutal note to end on, however!

So, what are my belated final thoughts on Detroit's debut EP? Overall, if you want an explosive blast of crossover thrash metal, this will do the trick! An album with such short & often fundamentally similar songs by design is hard to critique song-by-song, but Detroit knew exactly what they were doing, and they were able to craft memorable and aggressive hardcore punk tunes that were sure to get a mosh pit going wherever they played. Brent's vocals could be strained at times, but he had some very solid screaming on offer, and Curtis' strong riffs, Mark's well seasoned low end bass work, and Mikey's dependably hard hitting drums all came together nicely! My favourite songs included "St. Christopher", and "Spiritual Autopsy", but no song is bad, and despite seeing almost half of the songs re-recorded just a year later, the EP doesn't sound bad even in 2020, just a little tinny in comparison. My main quibbles are with some songs being too short, mainly if it felt like it ended too soon for comfort.

In production quality alone "Brace For Impact" was Detroit's best CD, but it only has 4 original songs, so fans will not want to overlook the hardcore fury of "Let The Hammers Fly"! It's a shame that Detroit broke up in 2010, so early for a band with such promise, though as we know, the guys had busy musical schedules locally and in Southern Ontario, and still do today. Give "Let The Hammers Fly" a listen at the above links, and I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, albeit earlier than normal! Next month in this series, I can't predict what will be reviewed or when, but of course, our next "Where Are The New Albums?" post on December 2nd may offer clues, and if any musicians play live locally next month that I can tie something in with, that would be worthy of precedent. It will not be of a Treble Charger, Inner City Surfers, or Chase Wigmore album, due to our 6 month anti-bias buffer. Stay tuned in any event, and for more news by Monday! Thanks everyone!

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