Omen - Hammer Damage

Omen Hammer Damage cover
Hammer Damage
DSN Music/Pure Steel Records
Omen used to be one amazing US power metal band with a similarity when it came to epic atmospheres to that of old Iron Maiden, but with a unique vocalist in JD Kimbal, whose shrieky howls and raspy yet melodic voice made Omen quite unique. They did release an album after he left with Coburn Pharr (who you might remember as a member of Annihilator), which was an attempt at commercialism, not too bad, it even saw them charting albeit slowly, but when they “returned” in 97 with “Reopening the Gates” it was a misguided effort that sounded more like a band trying to go down the groove metal path and it obviously tanked… call it bad judgment or whatnot, but it sucked hard and it’s probably to this day the absolute nadir of the band.
A new album ensued in 2003 with Phantom X’s Keniv Goocher, which was more like it, but it took Omen more than a dozen years to come up with a successor, with only some “rarities compilations” being released in the interim. So after thirteen years what could one expect from the twice delayed “Hammer Damage”, which was originally meant to be released several years ago, but was pushed back, because of a flood and because of various concerns over its quality? An absolutely epic album, I guess, but “Hammer Damage” largely fails to deliver, despite its best intentions. I will give the album praise for the tracks, since while they’re more simplistic and not as great as those of the “JD” era, they’re decent… but that’s about where I’ll draw the line. Goocher is a poorman’s Kimball, who might try but at times sounds strained. He’s not at all aided by a clean, but also “weak” production and mix that sounds both clinical and has a super crappy drum sound – that is not much better than that of a drum machine. The production is really an albatross around the back’s collective neck as it really dries every little ounce of liveliness and energy from the songs and kills their potential to a large degree…
And while almost every song on “Hammer Damage” could have been a potential semi-classic, with proper production and a slightly better vocal performance (which is by far not all that bad), I can hardly think of any album that has caused me such disdain because of its poor production. It’s really a pity because song like the “Hammer Damage” (probably a tribute to JD), “Cry Havoc”, “Eulogy for a Warrior” and “Knights”, as well as “Caligula” are not all that bad. Even the touching tribute to his Greek “brothers” is a bit in vain, as this might be quite “kavlotek”, but it’s translated poorly on the album… a missed opportunity or a wakeup call, I guess that’s up to Kenny Powell to decide, if he’s sober enough to steer the band into a new glory ride, instead of a slow downward spiral.
This could have been a really enjoyable album, but it lacks very much on the execution domain, the spirit, the psyche is there, but the flesh is not too strong...