Label: No Remorse Records Release date: 25-09-2020
Hittman popped up on my radar last year at the Up The Hammers festival in Athens, Greece. I witnessed the band’s return after a twenty-five year hiatus. Unbeknownst to me at that time, Hittman are a legendary band of the late 80s, which had so much promise after their debut self-titled album. They can be described as a heavy/hard rock band with a strong leaning towards power and progressive musical elements. Back in the day, there were obvious comparisons with Fates Warning and Queensrÿche. I wouldn’t categorize them as a USPM band but I’d imagine a typical USPM fan would lap up Hittman without batting an eyelid. Unfortunately like most good things that we as a human race don’t deserve, Hittman hung up their boots by 1994, having released two full-lengths and a few demos and singles. But Hittman are now back and if their 2019 live performance I witnessed was anything to go by, they’re a rekindled band with so much vigour, enthusiasm and power.
While I spin Destroy All Humans, I can hear a certain familiarity with the songs played live almost a year and half ago at the aforementioned heavy metal festival. They did preview some of the new songs back then. Before writing this review, I also listened to their debut album, in order to bring out any comparisons with their latest output. If you haven’t been piqued by the earlier genre phrases I threw at you, let me reiterate the band’s style. Hittman does a great job at mixing European power metal melodies with the punchiness of American proggy heavy/hard rock. While the European counterparts try to make everything sound epic, Hittman have these moments of epicness in their choruses and whammy-bar driven guitar leads. But at the same time, the verses and riffs are hard-hitting. The glue that sticks everything together is Dirk Kennedy’s vocals. It’s probably one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in the recent past. His range from brooding and emotive to powerful air-raid siren like screams is quite simply put – extraordinary.
With regards to the instrumentation, the mixing and production, I think Destroy All Humans is very well recorded and all the instruments are tightly played and mixed. I can hear the rhythm section clear as day even when the guitar solos or the vocals are center-stage. I did have a bone to pick with the production being so clear, compared to the 80s debut’s grainy nostalgic production. But hey, I’m over it and it does grow on you. The instrumentation neither seems overdone nor overcompensating anything lacking in another department. I’d attribute this to the song-writing and arrangements. It’s quite straightforward. Once you have the formula and template down, I suppose it’s easier to piece together all parts and play them to perfection. The twin guitars, the bass and the drums do their part of making this record feel like one cohesive masterpiece.
Probably the only blemish on this perfect record is that I was able to predict what the band was going to do next in a particular song. I’d attribute it to the simple/straight-forward song structures that I mentioned earlier. They do call them “formulas” after all. Is it a drawback? Definitely not. Does it take away anything from the album? Definitely not. This is just a heads up for you so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
It’s not hard to grasp the lyrical influence from the album title – Destroy All Humans. They deal with injustice, hardships and basically humans being responsible for everything terrible on the planet. I think. The songs that stand out for me musically also have memorable choruses. The track Breathe’s very singable “Just remember to breathe” or Code of Honor’s commanding “Guilty! You’ve been served…Guitly! Of no crime” are total bangers which will get you singing along in no time. Total Amnesia is another hard-hitting track where I’d imagine an entire audience would be joining in on the chorus. Alas, if only live gigs would return once this blasted pandemic ceases.
That said, Hittman’s return album is thoroughly enjoyable, with each track offering something for the listener. I’d even argue that it’s an easy top ten album of the year pick in my books. Although it appeals more to the metalhead who appreciates 80s heavy metal or hard rock, I would encourage others to listen to it as well. In terms of dying subgenres, Destroy All Humans is an important record of our times especially since there aren’t too many bands playing this style with the underground cred as Hittman. The album is a grower and I can say it’s at par with the legendary releases by the Rÿches, the Fates Warnings and others of their ilk. Go ahead and give it a spin!
- Joe Fugazi – Drums
- Jim Bacchi – Guitars
- Dirk Kennedy – Vocals
- John Inglima – Guitars
- Greg Bier – Bass
- Destroy All Humans
- The Ledge
- Code of Honour
- Total Amnesia
- 1000 Souls
- Out in the Cold
- Love, ‘The Assassin’