HAMMER DOWN HARD was formed by renowned hard rock drummer singer/songwriter Lonnie Hammer (Jack Russell’s Great White, Every Mother’s Nightmare, Black Oak Arkansas) in the Fall of 2017. The brainchild of Hammer, with assistance from manager and business partner Kim Allegrezza (The Allegrezza Agency), HAMMER DOWN HARD features some of the finest musicians in the hard rock and heavy metal music scene. The debut album, Total Annihilation, presents all-star guest performances by members of Shinedown, Candlebox, Saliva, Great White, Black Oak Arkansas, Twelve Stones, Winger and Surrender The Fall.
There is no better way to beat off the impending Winter blues with high energy and soul crushing charismatic music, which is exactly what you get with Hammer Down Hard. And sometimes music leaves you in awe where you struggle to find a way to put how you feel into words, which is exactly what happened in this case, but I will do my best to capture my thoughts and emotions to this fantastically epic album, Total Annihilation.
Total Annihilation is just what Hammer Down Hard will do to the music industry once they hear this album. They will completely take it over and leave a lasting impression on anyone who is lucky enough to listen. This is the kind of song where you release your inner rockstar, particularly in the breakdown. You will grab your hairbrush, spoon, pen, whatever is near and pretend its your microphone, strike a brooding pose and sing along (of course you will need to air guitar the solo as well). The vocals are gritty and have the classic hard rock vibe with just a touch of old school heavy metal. The guitar solo is absolute fire and spotlighted beautifully with the cadence of the accompanying guitars. Even if you don’t want to release your inner rockstar the lyrics are certainly empathetic enough for anyone who has ever been held down by someone or something, only to have their fire reignited and fight back. This is your fight song and the world is cheering you on.
It’s not all about high energy and speed with this album, HDH shows their diversity in slowing down the tempo while never losing the passion. Wakefield is what I would consider a power ballad that anyone who has ever had to leave home, can relate to. The song is a beautiful reflection of what it must be like to constantly be out on the road while yearning for that familiar place where we can expect to find safety, warmth, and love. Much like Total Annihilation, it is not a set in stone type of song where you have to be a rockstar in order to understand or feel the lyrics. If you ever had to leave home, thinking your journey was meant to be walked elsewhere, only to find that wasn’t the case, and you want to go back to where you started, this song will speak your soul. Sometimes we feel when our life has become “predictable,” we need to search elsewhere to spice it up, then find out we never should have left. There is solace in “predictable” and someone else is dreaming of having that kind of life because they are missing their home right now.
Christine is the quintessential love song that will make every woman wish her name was Christine and this song as about her. But don’t be fooled by my saying it is a love song, where you think it is a slow dance type of song. It keeps with the hard rock vibe and is pretty fast paced. From the lyrics, it sounds like the tempo keeps the passion from the person it is inspired by. Nobody said that love has to be slow and sultry. Sometimes it burns as hot as the sun itself and is as fast as a Harley on the open road.
HDH finishes off the album with the energy it started out with, in Killing Time. The way they can maintain such stamina throughout the song is very impressive. Again with the breakdown, it draws you into the moment with an almost seductive quality, only to be slayed with the guitar solo. It is almost like a sinister version of the cat and mouse game where you have a love that burns so deeply you will do anything to make someone yours. You hope your patience will pay off and you will finally have the heart you desire. The vocals are framed magnificently with the rhythms of the drums and guitars, and captures their range in a profound way.
All in all Total Annihilation is rich with charisma and depth. You can tell they draw influence from many genres and bands where they do not sound like anyone else. It is all Hammer Down Hard, and it will crush you.
AraPacis (Ara-Patches) is a female-fronted metal band hailing from Montreal, Canada. Formed in 2003 by guitarist Jerry Fielden, and fronted by Scots singer Shelle Macpherson, their main goal is to re-create some of the original aspects of 1970's Hard Rock and Progressive Rock and fuse it together with 21st Century Prog Metal, Doom Metal & Metalcore to make an interesting metal hybrid.
AraPacis is certainly a band that breaks all barriers, which is why I respect them. They can incorporate so many different genres into their music but maintain some order so it does not sound out of place. That speaks volumes for their artistic souls and creative minds.
Setting the pace is Order of the Ember Queen with electrifying vocals and heart pounding rhythm. I love the playful banter between the vocalist and guitar, then the mediator of the keyboards steps in to keep everything in check. I really appreciate the wide range of tempos and pitches in the song that keeps your interest throughout the song while at the same time, when it is over, leaves you wanting more. The keyboards add a touch of electronica sounds which puts me in the mindset of ELO but not sounding referential at all, merely a wink to their style.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Metal met the Blues? Wonder no longer, AraPacis has answered that question with Dirty Soap. And it is surprising just how well the two go together, as well as a testament to the range this band of artists can create when they put their heart to it. The vocals go from haunting to gritty, while the guitar goes full on blues. Get to the guitar solo which that genre is known for and you all of sudden find yourself wanting to sit back in your chair while sipping some whiskey, thinking of days gone by.
At the beginning I said you would be on an adventure of musical genres with this album, and I was not lying. Propaganda Messiah has to be the most interesting example of this, with a mix of Death Metal and Beatnik style. You have the growling snarl of vocals then changing into an almost operatic style, not to be outdone by the guitars and drums which follow suit with the changing of styles. This song plays with your mind and ears in a delightful way because you don’t know what to expect next, which is sometimes just what we need in our lives.
If I had to choose a favorite song, which is really hard for me to do, I would have to say it is Spearhead. The vocals are spot on and the lyrics are powerful. It has a nice blend of hard rock and old school metal. It is a song that lingers in your mind and you will start singing in random places. Plus, I thoroughly enjoy the vocal range in this song in particular, often times vocalists will get in a rut and sing the same style to keep the album cohesive. They show you can have cohesion with variety. The rhythm of the drums and guitars are understated but definitely not out shined, they are just adding their own flair in their own subtle way.
If someone asked me to describe AraPacis and Paradox Of Denial in one word, I simply could not do it. That would be doing such a disservice to their unique style and the way they create music with such reckless abandonment. Their artistry is something you must experience for yourself and once you do, you will no longer see music in set terms and rules. You will see it as an organic creation from free spirited souls that just create music from their hearts and with their combined passion.
Johannes Maria Knoll is an Austrian guitar player, composer, and author who has worked with various international artists.
Intensity and passion are two words I would use to describe the music Johannes Maria Knoll creates. With each riff, breakdown, and change up he gets your heart to quicken and releases your mind so you can create your own musical story, with his music. Transcended will truly take you on a spiritual adventure that by the end I wouldn't be surprised everyone has a moment of enlightenment.
The Fall of Man is the perfect way to start off your musical adventure. The guitar really drives in the melody and has a carnal cadence to it, like you are a hunter going after the life you want. The change ups are the obstacles you overcome and the melody is your moments of pride for overcoming those obstacles. Honestly while I listened to the song, it has a very Soundgarden-esqu vibe to it, which anyone who knows me, knows Soundgarden is near and dear to my heart. I love how this song keeps your mind active, in a sense, because of all the change ups within the rhythm and style of the song. You cannot predict what is going to happen next in the song and that creates almost a sense of danger, which is quite enticing and not something easily done. Yet it is done in such a polished way, it does not sound chaotic or sloppy. Everything fits together in perfect harmony.
The Fall of Man -- Johannes Maria Knoll
One of my personal favorites was The Great Flood. There were some electronica elements mixed into the gritty hard rock rhythm. Also a testament to Johannes skill was the way he could make the guitar "speak", so no lyrics were needed. The guitar gave body to the song and added this unique element that I don't hear very often in instrumental music. It actually had an almost guttural aquatic sound which suited the song title perfectly. You could envision yourself almost drowning within the music only to be saved at the end with a musical epiphany.
Each song has their own story to tell, and no two are even remotely alike. One that I believe will speak to the inner dancer in all of us is Resurrection. It has such a haunting melody, your soul immediately begins to move with it. With each chord of the guitar it reflects a movement of the body and before you know it, you are completely consumed and you just have to allow it to move your body. Even if its just to sway to the rhythm. Then it changes up the tempo and brings that fire inside to overcome all that has been holding you back. The music gives you strength to fight and become reborn. And with your rebirth you can finally become your enlightened self and help others reach that euphoric peacefulness you now have within your heart. Because even in death, there is an opportunity to be reborn. You only need to want it, to escape the darkness, to release the shackles of what society or the world has made you believe. To give in and accept that eventually, everything will turn out the way it was meant to be.
Something I respect a great deal with the entire Transcended album is how Johannes Maria Knoll creates spiritual music without forcing listeners to conform to his beliefs. Which is what I honestly believe spirituality is, it's a personal belief system, meaning it's all up to our interpretation. We are not here to force our views upon others, rather express ourselves and learn from each other to become better people. And even if you are not spiritual you will certainly enjoy his music because he allows you to create your own beliefs, stories, and visuals. It is refreshing for spiritual music to be open minded, and it's a great way for the artist to share a part of their soul with the listeners and allow themselves to become vulnerable to the world while sharing something so sacred like religion, spirituality, and beliefs. For that alone, he has my admiration. Thank you for making a safe haven where everyone can have their own enlightened journey regardless if they are of a different faith.
Johannes Maria Knoll Official Pages