Lotus - Hammerstrike CD

Hammerstrike, with its warm, danceable qualities and rock-n-roll “edge,” adds another chapter to Lotus’ legacy as accomplished studio artists.
Lotus originally formed in 1999, playing an assortment of instrumental tracks and touring extensively, cultivating a loyal and far-flung base of devoted fans.  After releasing a "live" debut album in 2002 named "Vibes," three increasingly well-received studio albums for Harmonized Records, and 2007's ambitious double "live" disc, "Escaping Sargasso Sea," Lotus has forged a reputation for excellent showmanship in concert, and for providing interesting, well-produced albums in the studio.  "Hammerstrike" (their studio debut on SCI / Fidelity Records) provides an interesting counterpoint in their discography.  The analog recordings on "Hammerstrike" exhibit a sort of "throwback" quality that hearkens back to older albums from yesteryear.  Yet, the electronic grooves, seductive beats, and modern edge are specifically carved and sculpted for the ears of today's listener.  The tracks on this album are infused with sonically contrasting styles, as certain tracks linger melodically while others drive forward on the strength of guitars and drums.  The overall mix of the album is pleasing, well-produced, and worthy of repeated listens.     


"Behind Midwest Storefronts" kicks the album off on the strength Mike Rempel's expressive guitar.  His playing is loose and exploratory, then ramps up with further intensity as the song approaches its conclusion.  "Age of Inexperience" opens with screaming guitar, bouncy bass lines, and likable vocals.  The musicians add interesting details to this composition, as synthesized flourishes are layered over a foundation of drums, bass and guitar.  The title track "Hammerstrike" ambles loosely over the musical terrain, featuring exploratory guitar in a rich tapestry, weighing in at over 6 minutes long.  "Bellwether," showcasing cow bell, electronic punctuation, and Rempel's trademark guitar, coalesces into one of the highlights of the album.  "Modicum" meanders past, utilizing airy guitar and evanescent lyrics to capture a more subdued side of the Lotus equation, while "Invincibility of Youth" inspires similar thought processes with its collection of yearning violins and cellos.  "Alkaline," with acidic guitar and expressive keyboard work, rushes forward in joyous, head-spinning fashion.  "Turquoise" spotlights guitars, keys, and vocals in wistful fashion, paving the way for "Disappear In a Blood Red Sky," which concludes the album.


In reviewing "Hammerstrike," I was very impressed with the direction that Lotus has taken in this new phase of their career.  They have generated plenty of buzz and momentum after landing high profile festival gigs and gaining larger audiences, but don't seem to be resting on their laurels.  The collection of tracks on "Hammerstrike" is danceable, fun, and engaging, but also thoughtful, deliberate, and well-composed.  I find the "throwback" quality of the album to be enjoyable, as Lotus has fused the merits of 70s "deep cuts" with their signature, organic sound to create a varied, satisfying album.  The 10 tracks spotlighted on "Hammerstrike" feature exciting grooves, accomplished guitar work, and demonstrates Lotus to be hitting on all cylinders as they move forward in 2009.

- By J. Evan Wade