Now You Know: Hammer FightThursday, 2nd January 2014
Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Style: Death/thrash; rather catchy death/thrash, but don’t call them “beer metal.” Ever.
Personnel: Drew Murphy (bass, vocals); Todd Stern (guitars); Ryan Blackman (guitars); Justin Spaeth (drums).
Latest Release: Chug of War (2013; Horror Pain Gore Death Productions)
“We definitely don’t wanna be goofy. We also don’t wanna come off like we take ourselves way too seriously. We take writing and playing seriously, the rest is all dick jokes. It’s definitely a fine line.”
So says Hammer Fight bassist/vocalist Drew Murphy, the man at the helm of what some are considering the next in a very short line of legitimate “beer” metal bands. Such terminology is entirely too limiting, and something we should even back off of (“Contrary to popular belief, we only have three songs that mention booze,” says Murphy), for the fact remains that this New Jersey four-piece have the chops and death/thrash wherewithal to cause a ruckus via their new Chug of War outing. According to Murphy, the band’s marked progress since their 2011 has been the result of a little elbow grease, not to mention the band is rather adept at penning a catchy tune.
“We’ve worked really hard since day one. And there’s been no shortage of bull shit that should have slowed us down along the way. We’re gonna keep working as hard as it takes to move to the next level and beyond. This band was started with the intention of making it our day job. So the plan is to work as hard as possible for as long as it takes. Even if that never happens, we’ll keep going for it. I can’t think of any reason to quit doing anything this fun.”
Don’t be fooled by Chug of War’s tongue-and-cheek song titles (see: “I Didn’t Feel Like Drinking (Until I Started Drinking),” “Get Wrecked,” et al), for the tonnage of warped riffing, hearty vocals, and lead pile-ons are worth taking heed of, specifically the all-instrumental “Stellar Mass.” “The deal is, it’s a rad tune,” says Murphy. “I’ve always wanted to record an instrumental, specifically one that was the longest song on the record ha-ha. “That thing had been sitting around on my computer since we started the band. I’m just glad the guys dug it as much as I did.”
Having recently wrapped a run of North American dates this fall leading up to the release of Chug of War, Hammer Fight has proven to be rather adept at road doggin’-it in a time where shrinking pockets, shady guarantees, and hit-or-miss crowd turnouts are enough to deter most bands. Not for the Hammer Fight lads, though.
“If you don’t mind being essentially homeless, it’s awesome,” says Murphy when queried about the band’s time on the road. “We all really love it. The worst part is coming home. It’s not for everyone, though. I’ve toured with plenty of guys that couldn’t get into the whole being poor and dirty all the time thing. We’re pretty good at having a good time no matter what, though. This is definitely a life style we prefer. We all seem to agree that that was the most fun tour any of us have ever done. We said that after the tour in April too. So I guess things are getting better. There’s plenty of interesting experiences.”
More important that the good reviews Chug of War is receiving and the successful tours, the fact Hammer Fight came together as a result of several veteran New Jersey metal musicians comes across as the most satisfying aspect to Murphy. After all, most bands crawl before they walk, take countless lumps before success, so on and so forth. Hammer Fight just so happened to do it a bunch of precursor bands.
“That’s what made this gel so well when we first got together,” Murphy finishes. “We all learned the hard way what NOT to do before. The most important lesson we all learned before was probably, if you’re whole team isn’t working toward a common goal, you’re fucked. This is the most solid team I have ever worked with. Everyone does their part and more.”