HATCHET, Frailty of the Flesh (2006, demo)

The skull:
Angry skulls chomping on band names are always welcomed by the Council. I think it’s safe to call the weapons flanking this skully fellow “axes,” and not hatchets, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you name your band after a prosaic and utilitarian tool. You gotta do something to make it look scary. Although obviously drawn in pencil, this cover transcends the shittiness of most covers thusly produced, even if it’s also clear that the artist decided that one half of his skull looked a lot better than the other half, and then just copied and flipped the good half for both sides. That’s the kind of shoddy, half-assed work we like to see around here. The band kept up this motif at least for a while, and there’s a second, entirely different version of this image floating around: skull biting logo, backed by axes. Hatchet clearly embraces the skull in a praiseworthy manner.

The music:
Hatchet are one of the better rethrash bands working the US scene these days, better than Warbringer, but not as good as Havok (nor as good as Hexen. I would love to make a 4H joke, but I can’t think of another young thrash band that starts with H. And Hirax doesn’t count, even if everyone in that band but Katon is a kid.) Their latest album has a bit more tempo variation and melody than most of their bedenimed brethren, but this early stuff is pretty uninspired, a joyless catalog of the three or four thrash cliches upon which the entire revival is evidently built. Hatchet are actually from San Francisco, but it must be said that as of 2007, they couldn’t even stand up to the third tier of bands from the first wave of thrash in that great city. They play tightly but there are no surprises in these songs, and the drumming is mercilessly stock. There can’t be more than five different beats on this entire demo, which is maybe appropriate since every song is basically the same tempo. On the plus side, Hatchet doesn’t sing about beer or moshing. I couldn’t actually find a copy of this demo to review, but I was able to find contemporary live videos on YouTube for all these songs, and then they were also all re-recorded for the band’s proper full length debut, Awaiting Evil. I emailed the band and guitarist Julz Ramos got back to me in minutes, but he’s out on tour right now, for at least a month, and couldn’t send me a copy of the demo. Sadly, the skullection can’t wait that long, but I appreciate his cooperation!
— Friar Johnsen