Guitarist John Cobbett, late of Ludicra
and Slough Feg
, is now putting everything he has into his rich and compelling progressive-metal band, Hammers of Misfortune
—a wise choice, I think, because across 12 years and five albums, despite several personnel configurations, they've proved a growing delight. They began as Unholy Cadaver in 1995, but soon shed that name and moved in a direction atypical for metal, with clean male and female vocals, occasional acoustic guitar, organ, and piano. Cobbett's lyrics read more like realistic fiction than horror or sci-fi, and the band's fifth full-length, 17th Street
(Metal Blade), is in part about his sense of place and feeling of loss as neighborhoods gentrify and people fall between the cracks. The intricate, painstakingly sculpted songs suggest a patina of decades of footprints and moss and grime, giving a sorrowful depth to the dazzle and flash, a real dread to the darkness, and a heart to the classic-metal hooks. —Monica Kendrick The Gates of Slumber, Venomous Maximus, and Earthen open.