Browse the tourism website for Oslo, Norway and the capital presents itself as a vibrant panorama of pastel storefronts, fjord-side eateries and sleek modern architecture nestled among snow-capped mountains. But in the eyes of local noise rock trio Hammok, the city takes on a grim facade long documented by the country’s black metal starter pack. Jump/Dance/Fight, their debut EP suggests the best way to get through the woods is to punch and smash, no matter how idyllic the scenery around you. In just 20 minutes, Hammock presents their work of nihilism as peace of mind, letting strumming guitar riffs and martial drums replicate the sensations; the higher the wall of sound, the less sensation there is.
Singer-guitarist Tobias Osland and drummer Ferdinand Aasheim are childhood friends who have spent the past decade playing together in numerous projects. They started Hammok during the shutdown in early 2020 at the age of 22. Alongside bassist Ole Benjamin Thomassen, they sneaked into their studio to write songs daily to overcome isolation. As an eerie silence enveloped the world, Hammock defined their menacing sound as a raging orchestra from within; an embroidering guitar run anchored by foreboding power chords, bass lines hitting the fuzz pedals they run through, and pounding drums that only triple in speed. swallowed up by clashing cymbals and tom fills. The fury on display Jump/Dance/Fight brings to mind the sheer volume of the Madman and the tonal brilliance of the Fall of Troy.
What makes Hammok’s debut EP stand out in the relatively simple arena of noise rock is their clever interplay between music and lyrics. The band elevates the genre as a way to add weight to confessional thoughts while also offering solutions, however bleak they may be. “Nothing to be dead inside/Just feeling around you,” Osland croons on “J/D/F,” as if the secret to overcoming depression is finding a comfortable place to curl up in its endless caverns. Come the end of the song, he introduces a new guitar riff through the reverb, the main chord relief of which gives a palpable sense of hope. During “Counterpoint,” Hammock fulfills the pop imperative to dance through the pain with frantic, bloodcurdling screams. “That’s the only point to prove to me/That it’s all for naught,” Osland growls, his clean delivery and striking sound echoing those of Touché Amoré singer Jeremy Bolme. Even the muted piano notes that open “Smile,” a relatively tame number about the pitfalls of social media, act as a focal point as the swirl of stressors in the lyrics come flooding back. These moments show how Hammock goes beyond the simple formula of the genre: write the heaviest riffs possible, turn up the distortion, play loud, in search of a more memorable and exciting effect.
All but two of his songs hit the two-minute mark. Jump/Dance/Fight is a tight, cohesive set that flies by, thanks in part to the band’s own Osland producer duties, with an eye for clarity and tension. After the first listen, it almost feels like a fever dream. a sudden, chaotic spiral that obscures your view before abruptly dissipating with the Outro. in fact, Jump/Dance/Fight It’s a polished introduction that introduces Hammock not only as noise-rock newcomers, but as erudite students of the genre who hit the ground running.