Abe quit baseball, Eli quit his after-school job, and Henry dropped out of college. The three Ismert brothers who make up Hammerhedd have a natural gift and a greater calling. Perhaps the definition of les enfants terribles, these metal-minded midwesterners from Kansas City are mostly too young to get served at the venues they slay, but you wouldn’t know it to hear their music. Drawing comparisons to contemporaries like Gojira, Meshuggah, and Mastodon, Hammerhedd blend heavy genres into a perfect sludge of driving rhythms, brutal distortion, and just a tinge of melodic mischief. Their sound achieves a kind of home-grown, organic, and authentic made-to-mosh barn burning bombast that gets the walking dead banging their heads.
Words like prodigy come to mind when you learn that Hammerhedd have been shredding almost this hard since they were in short pants. As a literal brotherhood growing up in a big family, they were exposed early on to the kinds of roadhouse blues, rock, and r&b popular in Kansas City. Basically untrained, they came to their instruments naturally through the osmosis of musical family elders. And when their dad showed them Metallica, they took to it like sharks to the water. When the oldest of them was only 11, the band gained national attention after footage of their pitch-perfect cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” earned the approval of the metal legends themselves.
But while age brings wisdom, youth brings potential. With their whole lives ahead of them, these teenagers who play like seasoned vets are inhaling a wide berth of musicology from Otep to Primus, Zeppelin to System of a Down, and are even now discovering Phil Spectre’s detroit sound through 60’s pop. The process of synthesizing their influences is a thrilling mix of alchemy and energy. Lead singer, guitarist, and eldest brother Henry (21) describes the second nature connection the band has as one only family can understand. Excitedly they refer to that moment of pure, wordless connection shared by the bass, rhythm, and riffs as “wide eyes,” a sense of discovering something wild, holy, pure and eternal and realizing that it’s flowing from their very souls.
Bassist Abe, the youngest at 16, says his classmates see his manic music as something of a novelty, a sentiment echoed by drummer and middle brother Eli (18). While their peers are listening to Travis Scott and pop music, the brothers Ismert are something of a rarity in the sprawling suburbs of Kansas City. While some of them haven’t even left the state, their righteous rock has traveled the world racking up millions and millions of views, shares, and streams and inviting praise and accolades from many of metal’s most notable rockers, not just Metallica.
Turns out taking the show on the road at the height of a pandemic was a no-go, but during the pandemic years Hammerhedd have taken the time to truly hone their sound, stripping away anything non-essential. “Everything serves the song, the riffs, the rhythm. We’re not trying to confuse people.” Having previously plugged in with a number of regional festivals, as America re-opened the brothers finally got to hit the road and do “real band shit,” getting out there and summoning their legions.
The new single TUNNEL is built on a solid four over four beat that anchors the violently thrashing guitar over a tightly controlled beat that sets the metronome inside your head. Perhaps drawing inspiration from the band’s namesake, the lyrics describe a tunnel visioned protagonist willing to set aside a rich full life in pursuit of a single minded goal, shouting “Not content/ I’m never satisfied/ Always creating demons/ Just to to maintain my fire.” And the pounding guitars certainly help fan those flames.
While Hammerhedd may have already achieved infamous notoriety at such a young age, with a tight brotherly bond, tireless energy, and the appetite of an apex predator, you can already smell the blood in the water for these promising young headbangers.