Life on the Street
San Francisco’s Hammers of Misfortune are out to prove there is still a place in music for conceptual, melodic, prog-art metal. 17th Street, their fifth studio album and first since 2008, combines elements from previous releases with a veteran feel. Original member John Cobbett has shown all his vocal and guitar tricks, and on 17th Street he puts them all together in a cohesive collection, cementing the band’s sound as distinctive while displaying the influences of artists like Dream Theater and Thin Lizzy.
Hammers of Misfortune have been through several lineup changes in their decade-plus of existence. On 17th Street Cobbett is joined by vocalist Joe Hutton (formerly of The Worship of Silence) and singer/guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf (Saros, Amber Asylum) as part of a six-piece assault that never feels too large. While the songs have complex arrangements, everyone’s parts are featured in ways that work best for each song.
17th Street has more speed and fewer soft moments than previous releases. “Romance Valley” teases you with a soft intro but blazes through the rest, including an interesting goth-tinged chorus. It’s followed by “Summer Tears,” a ballad that could have come from the mind of Brian May. “The Grain” does the best job of showing the best of the band’s skills with a melody that, if isolated, could be part of a Broadway show. Not all of the songs work this well, but the high points far outweigh any missteps, and 17th Street succeeds as a whole, which is how it should be enjoyed.