There are bands that play hopscotch with genres, and then there are bands that lurk slowly into your ears. Bloody Hammers straddles both categories – the side project of Anders Manga, which often mixes styles to produce an eclectic and moody arrangement. The band serves as a hard rock outlet outside of his eponymous darkwave solo project. Started in 2012, the band from North Carolina USA has since produced four albums over nearly five years; garnering enough attention to get signed to Napalm Records in 2014.
Bloody Hammers has produced albums consistently over its five-year existence, which gives an astute indication of Manga’s work ethic as a musician; and a testament to how productive he is with his talent. Manga is not alone in this process – accompanying him is his wife, Devallia, who provides songwriting input, as well as her keyboard; the band has a rotating roster of members whenever performing live.
Their most recent album ‘Lovely Sort of Death’ adds to the type of fuzzy rock Bloody Hammers is known for, and brings in what Manga knows best: an ethereal blend of darkwave with a helping of pagan rock. The album touches on topics such as witch burnings, ritualistic outer-body experiences, ancient figures, ‘space’ travel and typical gothic rock tropes.
The opening track “Bloodletting on the Kiss” serves as a fitting intro, as it sounds like a creepy prelude played by the DJ in a goth club early in the evening to warm up the crowd of darklings awaiting the next classic to be spun amongst the cobwebs and clove wisps.
“The Reaper Comes” is what doom metal would sound like if done almost completely with keyboards and without overbearing, heavily down-tuned guitars. All the mopey-keyboards present to make up the suppressive, nigh-calming feel of Death approaching to take the listener across to the other side.
“Lights Come Alive” touches on a certain forlorn sentiment. On the peripheral the track is open to self-interpretation and the lyrics further reinforce the doleful emotion attached.
“Messalina” is a typical gothic rock trope and plays just as such: the title is the name of a femme fatale related to the Emperor Nero during the Roman era. If you’re part of the old school crowd, you may feel inclined to yell “*insert seminal gothic rock band name here* has already done it!” and you would be correct; this further reinforces Manga’s return to his favoured source material.
“Infinite Gaze to The Sun” continues the gothic tropes by referencing another staple: the final embrace of Death. A fuzzy mid-tempo song with a catchy bridge, complimented by Manga’s competent vocal abilities and Devallia’s key-fiddling.
A song that displays the album’s pagan influence is “Stoke the Fire” which concerns witch burning (obviously). The track contains a tone that is quicker than the rest of the album with the band’s characteristic psychedelic hard rock feel.
If you are hoping for doom metal outright, the track “Ether” strikes chords that bear brief glimpses of Doomsword or Candlemass; but these dissipate as soon as they fathom. It is worth mentioning that it is the heaviest track on ‘Lovely Sort of Death‘ and can easily be a fan favourite for live sets.
“Shadow Out Of Time” is pleasantly chilling in that it conjures up mental images of abduction and the sight of a UFO, hovering silently overhead. The synths and keyboards do a brilliant job of lighting up your imagination as the song progresses to the final fade out.
“Astral Traveler” bears the same quick tempo as “Stoke the Fire” and continues the album’s pleasing stoner/pagan rock experience on astral projection.
The final track “Catastrophe” can be considered the gothic rock conclusion to “Ether” but from a third-person perspective.
‘Lovely Sort of Death’ in its entirety strikes the tone of a musician playing with magic he knows, whilst weaving in a little something more intimate. Tracks wander between pagan and gothic rock unwittingly, with a brief detour into doomed territory but return to the main hazy darkwave atmosphere of the album. Worth a listen if you like your rock buzzy and just a little esoteric.
‘Lovely Sort of Death’ Track Listing:
- Bloodletting on the Kiss
- Lights Come Alive
- The Reaper Comes
- Infinite Gaze to the Sun
- Stoke the Fire
- Shadow Out of Time
- Astral Traveler
- - 6.5/106.5/10