‘Blood On Their Hands’ (Illuminated JAMS 32) MALCOLM DOME
SLEDGEHAMMER MUST feel like the proverbial partygoer who turns up so late the other guests have already left – and the hosts have the carpet sweeper out!

Four years ago, the Berkshire trio were being mentioned in the same breath as Maiden, Leppard and Saxon – potential giants, for sure. So what happened? Why have the other three released 13 albums between ’em now, whilst ‘Blood. . ‘ is SH’s first? You’ll have to read the forthcoming feature on this band to get some answers. What’s of sole concern here is . . . the music.

Positive points first, ‘BOTH’ shows the ‘Hammers to be erudite, concise musos. Subtlety may not be Sledgehammer’s strongpoint live, but on vinyl, they’ve introduced a number of surprising rhythmic nuances that can’t fail to impress. And the band were obviously a tight, efficient unit when this was recorded 18 months ago, making bassist John Jay’s recent decision to quit rather a pity.

But the overwhelming political slant of just about every lyrical line is almost unbearable. And their message, albeit a worthy one (upholding the rights of the individual), is delivered with little sense of humour or articulacy. Moreover, on some occasions, the vocals have been mixed up so high that the instrumental clarity suffers – a bad move. Sure the technique works well on ‘Over The Top 1914’ and the anthem ‘Sledgehammer’ but it leaves ‘1984’, ‘Garabandel’ and ‘Perfumed Garden’ standing at the altar begging to lose their virginity – they’re simply too chaste.

Overall, ‘BOTH’ is a reasonable debut, but we all know what happens to those who turn up too late for a party.

‘In The Queue’ (Illuminated) April 1984
New Wave (the Jam) meets Heavy Metal (Motorhead) on a special sledgehammer-shaped picture disc. The energy’s certainly there and the song itself isn’t bad either, punchy and pointed with plenty of staccato bite.

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