From the lovely city of Chi-town comes a gut-busting barrage of Thrash, Death Metal and Metalcore all rolled into one goddamn lethal pig in a blanket. Formed in 1998 HURTLOCKER has opened for a plethora of big name metal acts and have been slowly edging their way into the scene for some time now. Three demos later we have the debut long-player, “Fear In A Handful Of Dust”, boasting competent instrumentation, solid drumming and a healthy dose of aggression.
The absolutely heavy yet modern guitar tone hits you right off the bat like a caged monster which has escaped from its bondage. It is very reminiscent of EXODUS’ “Tempo Of The Damn” as the sound is brutal and thick yet remains crisp enough to allow the intricacies to be mulled over endlessly. This is stellar when confronted with the blistering “Painted Red” and “Symptoms” in which riffage of bliss rolls over the listener like a two-ton hammer. The riffs Tim Moe vomits do feature a handful of excellent cuts only suffering from the fact there is an equal amount of filler and mediocre guitar-work. The two previously mentioned tracks boast the best riff collection and do not lose your attention throughout; however, as the disc progresses many of the compositions begin to blend together and the record as a whole begins to drag. Moe also appears to run out of riffs and this becomes quite apparent once “Painted Red” finishes and every track that follows becomes desperately reliant on one or two main riffs to sustain a whole three minute barrage. This not good at all and gives the album as a whole the pancake effect.
Pancake effect, the fuck is that you ask? Pancakes always seem like a good goddamn idea when you smell them cooking in the morning and are seeking something tasty to fill your stomach, yet by the time you finish you’re goddamn sick of them. HURTLOCKER are a huge stack of flapjacks. The riffs simply do not go straight for the kill and lack the numbers to sustain the blasé compositions populating the album. There are a couple moments where your interest is piqued once again mostly due to an excellent sprinkling of solos, the best being that Alexi Laiho sounding number at the end of “Painted Red”. Despite the excellent solo work the lackluster Hardcore vocals combine with the spotty riffage dragging the compositions in the muck and halting the album from ever achieving genius.
Besides Grant Belcher’s annoying vocal performance, which does not fit the music at all and the at times weak riffs, the album is pretty solid. Dan Ditella’s drum work is quite impressive, including several long streaks of double-bass patterns which get the neck snapping and blood rushing. Ditella is certainly competent and I would of liked to see a bit more fills thrown about but that is a small complaint in the grand scheme of things. Dan Manzella also compliments the rhythm section with solid bass-lines but suffers from being a bit difficult to pick out as well as being a bit underutilized in the song structures.
For a debut full length album “Fear In A Handful Of Dust” is pretty good. If you are looking for one of the stronger Metalcore albums to hit the market post KILLSWITCH then I would urge you to check out HURTLOCKER. Grant Belcher certainly has what it takes and if he could churn out about 2-4 more strong riffs per track the band could easily have propelled themselves into the upper-echelon of Metalcore. Keep an eye on these guys if nothing else as I am sure their next album will be further developed and many of the rough spots will be smoothed over. (Online January 17, 2006)