Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love. Sometimes they’ll be obvious—more like an almost-Hall of Fame-worthy album that just slipped slightly under the radar—and other times it’ll feel more like Justify Your Shitty Taste… which brings us to today.
Now, wait! Stop! I know we’re about to talk a groove-metal album from 20 years ago, but I just had to take a few minutes to talk about how great Living Sacrifice’s The Hammering Process, from 2000, really is.
This will all seem hard to believe, but there was a brief moment in time where Christian label Solid State Records was actually putting out a bunch of cool, at-times-cutting-edge stuff. Even the albums’ layouts looked good; everything was clicking for some of these bands, and Living Sacrifice, who had put out several full-lengths that no one ever heard before this one, were right on the cusp of this minor movement. A case could even be made for the band—whose earlier output ranges from death metal to groove-laden thrash—being ahead of the groove-metal curve. And with this album, everything came together.
Cut to 20 years later, and no one gives a shit—I mean, I’m writing this and I just found myself zoning out—but, really, this record is awesome. I know groove metal just sucks, it’s just the worst, but Living Sacrifice make a very good case for it all over The Hammering Process. Let’s take a closer look.
Let’s start at the beginning, with killer opener “Flatline,” which takes a Roots groove and percussion-heavy approach to its slow-burn intro before bringing to mind second-album Fear Factory in its delivery. I mean, all of that sounds pretty exhausting here in 2020, but there’s a killer solo adding some levity, and, man, somehow Living Sacrifice created groove metal that gave energy instead of sucking it away from the listener.
“Bloodwork” is an awesome rapid-fire assault of frantic grooves; this beats Meshuggah at their own game. Some songs lean just way too hard into Roots, sure (“Not My Own” is almost hilariously aptly named). But check out the sludging “Altered Life” and just try to not air drum along; groove metal is rarely this fun. The good-cop vocals work because they don’t sound too pretty; the riffs work because they absolutely shred.
Sure, it’s easy to tune out a song like the awesome “Hand of the Dead” as just too by-the-numbers, a boardroom-created mean median of Roots and Chaosphere and Demanufacture, but… well, yeah, you’d be right, but Living Sacrifice manage to make this album light and fun enough to listen to while still having the skills and intensity of all those records. Sure, it came a bit late to the party, but there’s a certain something about this record that makes me return to it more than I probably should, that makes me hold it in slightly higher regard than even some of the records it’s emulating pretty hard.
And stick around for late-album epic “Burn the End,” which threatens boredom but delivers a surprisingly engaging journey.
I’m not saying this record doesn’t drag on a bit: by the final third, yes, a bit of ennui strikes, and, while I usually make it through the whole thing, it’s a bit trying at points.
Here’s the clincher, though: as the years have gone on, I’ve reached for The Hammering Process more than I have for Roots. Those numbers don’t lie: Living Sacrifice may have dabbled in a fairly grim form of metal on this record, but they somehow pulled out a winner, a minor classic, a record destined to be forgotten by all but a proud few, who shall carry the groove with them forever and ever, amen.