13 years after their last release and venerable American power metal originators Omen return with their latest album Hammer Damage. By anyone’s standards that’s a hell of a long time, even bloody Metallica could get an album out in that time frame! Still, it’s good to see them back and their 3 year run of albums on Metal Blade in the early 80’s (Battle Cry, Warning Of Danger & The Curse) are rightfully considered cult classics.
However, before we even get to the music there’s a point that needs to be addressed with Hammer Damage and that’s the terribly uneven mix. The vocals are in your face but the main problem is that during the solos the rest of the band drop that far down the mix it’s like they’re playing in a sound proofed room….in a different studio….in a different country.
Anyway, this is an album of straight up trad/power metal and all the boxes are ticked accordingly, from histrionic solos to lyrics recounting tales of a bygone age. Kenny Powell, the sole original member, leads from the front and riffs and solos like a man possessed whilst vocalist Kevin Goocher has a slighly awkward, raspy delivery style that doesn’t initially fit the music but you get used to it by the end.
The main problem though is the lack of memorable material.
Harsh though it is to say, the music comes across as hackneyed and lumpen, with a lack of memorable hooks or choruses. A few tunes such as “Chaco Canyon”, “Hellas” and “Era of Damage” go some way to re-addressing the balance but there’s simply not enough on Hammer Damage to maintain interest.
The tragic reality is that the music Omen helped pioneer 3 decades ago has moved on considerably and they’ve been left behind, languishing in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, traditional metal bands such as Grand Magus and their ilk are making vibrant albums that are head and shoulders above anything found here. 5/10