“Bloody Hammers are a heavy rock band from Transylvania County, North Carolina.” Their latest ten-song disc, Under Satan’s Sun, was released in 2014 on Napalm Records. “Although commonly viewed as gothic rock, the band have incorporated elements of doom metal, stoner metal, and psychedelic rock.” By their name and the label they’re signed to, you’d think this was a death metal band. You’d be incorrect. Like today’s Scandinavian creep-rock forerunners Ghost, and genre pioneer and visionary Vincent Furnier (Alice Cooper), this is a rock band.
Bloody Hammers have a thick, meaty, swampy guitar tone, reminiscent of earlier Black Sabbath. Melodically, they recall bands like Blue Oyster Cult. They’ve also got a catchy, excellent vocal and the melodic sensibility of a true forerunner doom metal band, like Trouble or The Skull. Throughout the disc, the songs are cogent, very well-written, and have a very nice mix and master job. Under Satan’s Sun is loud, rich, and each instrument sounds like it should.
With a very thick, in-your-face sound, the album opens with a melodic, melancholic “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”. Here, listeners are introduced to the workings of the band: tight performance, fairly uncomplicated song structures, a sonic wall of guitar distortion, well-sung vocals, relaxed tempos, and subtle keyboard overlays. Keyboard overlays add that Steven King esque layer of creep to the tune, which otherwise is as innocuous as “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. “The Moon-Eyed People” recalls a relatively unknown band who juxtaposed thrash metal riffology to rich and melodic vocals, Crunchy. The well-sung “clean vocal” from Anders Manga keeps this firmly in rock territory, as thrashy as the verse sounds. “Under Satan’s Sun”, the title track, is almost anthemic; the tune begs for memorability. Blending melodic and rhythmic elements from diverse genres like punk, classic rock, and doom metal, it knocks it out.
It’s easy to appreciate Manga’s ability to sing – he backs off notes at the right times, adds emphasis at the right times: he has dynamics. Dynamics add so much to a song, and an entire album of dynamic rock? Destined for good places. Besides the surf-rock meets gothic swagger, “The Last Alarm” is a good example of vocal dynamics right from the beginning – this is one of the little touches that differentiate a good singer from a great one. As for stringwork, this is a rock band, not virtuosic shred: listeners’ ears are treated to a wall of plush, overdriven guitar and bass that hits like a front. Guitar solos are brief and well-performed, not sloppy in the slightest. Drums firmly drive the band. Lyrically, they’ve got these pretty tunes, with creepy ‘messages’ – effective, subtle, and subversive. The vocal layering & harmony on this disc is near perfect; that the songs are able to stir varied emotions is a testament to their effectiveness.
As a US citizen, this reviewer is delighted that we’ve finally got a “homegrown”, modern band that can compete toe-to-toe with Ghost, Scandinavia’s princes of darkness. Bloody Hammers are going places, death metal moniker or not. Recommended for all fans of well-performed, good rock and roll, Under Satan’s Sun is a fantastic record: melodic, warm, rich, ridiculously heavy, and inviting. Go for it: pull the trigger and pick this up.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Death Does Us Part
The Moon Eyed People
Welcome To the Horror Show
Under Satan’s Sun
Dead Man’s Shadow On the Wall
The Last Alarm
Band lineup (Live):
Bill Fischer: Guitar
Anders Manga: Bass/Vocals