Hammerax was founded in 2006 by musician, composer and instrument designer John Stannard who had design and manufacturing expertise in all manner of chimes, chime trees, temple blocks etc.
His Hammerax team produces novel, inventive percussive wares including gong/cymbal hybrids in the Boomywang, Glass and HellBell, and cymbal 'enhancers' such as Chick Magnet and Supercollider.
While the Hammerax range also boasts Liquicy, a line of cymbals producing a haunting vibrato and 'slow motion' visual effect, it is their latest buzzing, rattling innovations we are interested in today. First aired at NAMM 2014, there are now over a dozen new monstrous metal models to choose from.
We have six weird and wonderful examples here to put to the test, including Slap, Bash, Crash Course, Snap Shot, Chisel and Spanky – models which invent and perhaps reinvent onomatopoeic terms for cymbals.
Those who are not fans of effects cymbals, it's time to look away now... For the rest, you could be in for a real treat with this curious cacophony of USA-made metal which, frankly, look more like landmines than items you'd add to your beloved drum rig.
With the exception of Bash and the top section of Spanky, each of the other models here are finished in a matte black, allowing only the edges to allow a glimpse of the shiny aluminium. Rather than silk-screening, each topmost disc has the Hammerax 'H' logo, individual model name, size (of the largest disc in a set), and 'Patent Pending' neatly stamped into the 2mm-thick metal.
This adds to their indestructible, 'bullet proof' qualities which Hammerax jests have been torture-tested – while also suggesting that you can hit them as hard as you like – with your sticks, of course.
Both Slap and Snapshot comprise two cupped or dome-shaped discs. While the upper portion of the Chisel is also cupped in shap, the bottom pairing is flat and sports several cuts (like slices of cake), across and completely through the metal in towards the centre.
The 11" Crash Course and 8" Bash are both triple sets, featuring various hammering indentations in
regular patterns on many of the sections. The slightly domed Spanky with its crinkly-edged partner is the only model here which is designed to sit directly above another cymbal and, at 4", also happens to be the smallest.
One by one, each piece of metal madness is swapped and changed with the usual brass wares of crashes, chinas and splashes. Snap Shot and Slap seat together in a similar way to a pair of standard hi-hats – this (and the fact that each one is designed to fit on a standard cymbal stand), is possibly as close as we get to convention here.
Both models produce a loud 'clop' sound when struck directly atop the 'domed' areas while, hit at the very edge, they sound similar to leaving a hi-hat slightly open.
However, this all depends on how tightly they are attached on the stand and this ultimately affects the openness of each multi-disc set. This will also determine the length of the sound produced – but it's great fun experimenting... Hands up, who has experimented by stacking one cymbal on top of another? Well, this is the sort of effect that is quickly achieved with many of the models here.
Striking the edge of the dual-layer Chisel while simultaneously striking the kick drum creates a stunning effect – a beefy low-end from the kick, coupled with the incisive, slashing sound gives potential for instant tinnitus while providing impressive, punching accents upon each beat – a bit like applying huge levels of compression.
Blast beats or any drum parts requiring short, sharp, stabs is great for the Chisel and also one or two of the other multi-layered discs excel – especially when placed under moderate to tight tension of a stand's wingnut, which literally tightens up the sound. 'Faster! Harder! Louder!' appears the requisite mantra as each one is given a succession of rapid strikes. Superb at the edges, or basically anywhere necessary to produce a sound in conjunction with a well-aimed rimshot of a tightly tensioned snare perhaps.
The compact Bash (eloquently described by Hammerax as "a screaming 8" weapon of mass destruction"), is extremely aggressive. Each section produces its own individual cutting tone – then we have the actual filling of the aluminium sandwich which bumps and grinds against the top and bottom slices – for a stack comprising some of the smaller discs, this has plenty to say.
Hammerax's brief for the Bash must have been to create a percussive effect with the ability to slice through a wall of amplification like a hot knife through butter. Held aloft, the Spanky sits floating above the bell of the ride – a convenient position (especially with a large bell), as we can introduce instant accents which rapidly disappear.
Crash Course does pretty much as it says on the aluminium – described by Hammerax as possessing "a complex burst of midrange fury" – nicely put and enough said – but like most of the models here, they will leave any passer-by bewildered...