San Diego Hardcore Punks Doc Hammer have returned with “Neon Devil”, 12 songs to inspire some serious drinking! The opening 10 seconds of it might make you think you’re listening to a classic rock release from Aerosmith or something before it bursts into life like a Motorcycle hitting the freeway and letting the throttle out. “Hevy Drugz” is a blistering 55 seconds of rocket fuel that sets alight the blue touch paper and even throws in a solid breakdown mid-song. “Vamparty Diaries” takes the storytelling wordy lyrics of Everytime I Die vocalist Keith Buckley and goes toe to toe with the genre pioneers to describe the party animal lifestyle of excess while taking a moment to quote “All My Life” by the Foo Fighters with “Done done and I’m on to the next one” changed to “No tomorrow and it’s on to the next one” repeated in style. The false ending bringing things back for an extended breakdown section and repeat line is like another track within the tune. “Wet Money” is a sub two minute burst of upbeat finger pointing that has the sing-a-long ability of the finer Cancer Bats tunes while “F.I.T.BA.P.” slows things down for some staccato riffage and quirky Alternative Rock tones that wouldn’t be out of place if they were conjured by Josh Homme. The slightly slurred vocals calling for self medication are wonderfully unhinged.
The party anthem of “Comanche Crew Cut” recycles riffs and chord progressions you’ll have heard elsewhere in the genre and while it may not be as heavy as some of its peers and influences, it’s fantastic fun. Doc Hammer likes to party and get weird and it shows, louder and faster than the most. Getting serious for a minute, “Race Riot” has some thought provoking lyrics while showing some more control over the music which no doubt becomes chaotic fun live. The Southern Rock edge threatens to spill over but doesn’t quite reach it, though it has great engineering with an excellent fuzz in the guitar mix and a decent drum sound. Diving into political territory with “Borders” which takes a slick look at the current US situation with sense of seriousness and nauseating tongue in cheek humor that might be lost on a few is equally great fun and it has some Iron Maiden inspired chord progressions! “Finish Line Frenzy” has an insatiably relentless groove coupled with angst laden lyrics while breaking out for the turn around that changes riffs up as the song plays out. Capturing the energy that Doc Hammer no doubt bring live is the mark of great production and while there could be a little more hammer in the footwork in the mix, everything sounds great.
Taking a stompy turn, “Winter Girls” is a sleazier tune than you might expect from from a Hardcore Punk band but in the style it works surprisingly well lyrically while musically some 80’s Hair Metal influences are nodded to with a tip of the hat. Doc Hammer inject them into their core sound like a drug to the main vein rather than letting them take over. Similarly after an old school punk bass heavy introduction and huge pick slide, “Funder” kicks in with all the adrenaline of said drug taking hold. Almost breaking the vocals with an elongated scream that threatens to crack into a cough would actually be a fine place to end the album. “Borrowed Time” steps back to the mid album tracks with a slick and energetic tune that rarely deviates from its thin blue line while begging for a breakdown or solo to pop out. “Spit The Claw” is actually a pair of tunes with a 90 second or so silence between them. The first half is more has some Metal-lite sounding punk riffs while bouncing into the Southern Rock territory in some of the breaks. It sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to “From Dusk Til Dawn” with some dusty, bluesy elements that make you think about drinking neat whiskey in a bar. After the silence, the second half of the track comes to life at 5:29. What the “Whoa” bits are about, no idea, but the sentiment “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine” that comes belting out is spot on and where they pulled the final solo from, no idea. It begs to be inserted into at least one of the other cuts. There is no doubting that the raw power of this album should bring the band success [7.5/10]