by John Kindred
– Publisher —
Instrumental guitarist Sean Baker returns to the fray with a new band, ClownHammer, and self-titled debut CD release. Joining Baker in this new endeavor are fellow Sean Baker Orchestra bandmates bassist David Donigan and drummer Clint Sabon, with guitarist Alfredo Riojas and vocalist Bill Jones. The CD features nine songs, eight vocal and one instrumental, and was mixed by Bruce Bouillet (Racer X) and Matt Figurski.
ClownHammer offers music fans Modern Metal excursions that are heavy and aggressive. Musically and vocally the band references straight ahead Metal much like Black Label Society. The music also pushes into Metalcore territory with growling, guttural vocals, and down-tuned guitar rhythms. As with a lot of today’s Metal music Bill Jones moves between clean and unclean vocals. The kick drums of Sabon are clearly audible and are the driving force behind the music, whether maintaining a typical 4/4 groove or sliding into a furious double bass beat.
While ClownHammer starts on the heavy side with the opener “East Side Story,” the music quickly shifts into Modern Metal and never relents much after that. The barrage of brutal riffs is complimented with Jones vocals that again move from clean to Metalcore and back again. Jones’ voice is not overly impressive, delivering your standard run of the mill delivery for this genre of music.
With an album that is more focused on a specific genre, it seems Baker keen sense of musical diversity gets lost in the shuffle. The rhythm guitar is jarring, hitting you with a harsh tonal quality that offers a gritty, dirty sound that is a little too loud in the overall mix. This also covers up the vocals a bit making them harder to hear.
There are times were the music shifts into slightly more dynamic arrangements, “Hypocrite” and “Soul Ambition” where the vocals contrast between actual singing then unclean vocals. But the overall vibe maintains an extreme Metal heaviness. “East Side Story” and “Streets” offer a strong Black Label Society influence vocally.
After several spins ClownHammer is a love it or hate it CD. Fans of Modern Metal will surely be drawn to the music but Traditional Heavy Metal followers will likely shy away from this release.
Genre: Modern Metal, Heavy Metal
1. East Side Story
2. Everyone Needs to See
4. Soul Ambition
6. Writing on the Wall
8. Wasting Time
9. Down With the Clown
Label: Shredguy Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10