Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch (Relapse Records)

Sunday, 16th March 2014
Rating: 9/10

After a three-year hiatus and freed from the shackles of their former label, Cleveland’s hardcore mainstays return with a vengeance, set to destroy everything in their path. Heavy and brutal as ever, Hammer of the Witch is sure to please fans of old and impress the newly-initiated with what may be their finest release, given their catalog and history. After landing with Relapse, the band sounds just as strong and vicious as they have in their 20-plus years.

Ringworm have always been a band that seemed to be on the outside looking in, a group of outcasts, if you will. Too metal for hardcore kids and too hardcore for the long hairs. That being said, the strongest aspects of the band are in full display on Hammer of the Witch. The dual guitar attack from Matt Sorg and John Comprix brings the low-end chug and blazing solos that set up Human Furnace, who is always at the front of the band’s sound. Coarse and venomous, HF sounds as scary and intimidating as ever, and that’s hard to imagine given the punishment he’s doled out to his vocal chords over the years.

Like a Slayer-infused Hatebreed, or a Terror-soaked Discharge, Ringworm seamlessly blend heavy, groove-laden hardcore with lightning-fast punk and thrash on Hammer of the Witch. It’s nothing new, as they don’t deviate from the same formula they and their contemporaries in bands like Integrity and All Out War have been doing for years. The thing is, that after this long, they have mastered their craft. The end result is a perfect metalcore record that should rank among the genre’s classics.

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