Judgment Hammer 

Arbiter of Fate

Stevensville's Judg-ment Hammer delivers the kind of thrash metal blasted from any number of stages around the Bay Area circa 1981–1985. For the uninitiated, that means songs about death, destruction and vengeance built inside five-plus minute opuses composed of multiple movements delivered by players who can flat out shred. It also means tight jeans, sleeveless vests and white high-top sneakers. These guys deliver on all fronts.

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People often dismiss metal as the domain of shiftless meatheads. While that perception is debatable, there is no denying playing the music—particularly this style—requires a dedication to mastering the instrument above and beyond three chords. Blazing fast songs like "Kill or Be Killed" and "Swift Justice" contrast against tracks like "Thicker Than Water" and "Never Repent" that feature slow, melodic sections hearkening to the glory years of Metallica's first three records. This isn't mimicry, it's an homage.

The band is best known, since before their members were even out of high school, as The Four Horsemen. After a couple demos and live recordings, it's great to have a true release from this outstanding local band. Fans of the Big Four—Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth—should absolutely check this recording out.

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