Like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath before, Hammerlord proudly announces its name during a track on its debut album. The Lawrence group, which features former members of the Esoteric and Evermourn, proves equally forthcoming about its chosen genre, inserting the phrase "heavy metal" into several songs. Having established its identity and calling, Hammerlord starts branching out from its power-thrash formula, taking a black-metal detour into grim, foresty ambience with "Sick Like Our Crimes" and aptly using darker tonal shades during "Shut Your Eyes," a song about falling into a colorless abyss. Stevie Cruz uses clean harmonic vocals and a killer Danzig impersonation sparingly yet effectively, when he's not screaming himself wheezy over spiraling riffs. Hammerlord delivers a few silly lines (Bang the head that doesn't bang!) and knowing references (We ride the lightning), but purists need not fear: These are dedicated veterans of the metal army, not condescending hipster mercenaries.