If you’ve been giving even a cursory level of attention to this thing we love called heavy metal of late, you will have been struck by the remarkable growth of occult rock and metal bands. The self titled debut album from this North Carolina mob is another name to add to the burgeoning pile of records laden with sulphur and inverted crosses. “Bloody Hammers” is an unexpected surprise of a record, packed to its Satanic hilt with dark style, a bit of panache and enough collective promise to have you filing under: ones to watch.
Surprise number one: Bloody Hammers are nowhere nearly as heavy or doomy as their moniker would at first suggest. I don’t know about you but I thought a record called “Bloody Hammers” would come roaring out of the speakers, punch me squarely in the jaw and jump up and down in my cerebellum until I beg for mercy. Not a bit of it. “Bloody Hammers” is, despite all the Satanic echoes and grooves, an unfailingly polite record. At times I felt they were like the new neighbours popping over for a chat and a batch of their really rather lovely homemade lasagne. Yes, that kind of polite. Bloody Hammers are firmly in the rock end of the rock and metal compass. Although there’s more than a nod or two to Black Sabbath (take a look at the Master of Reality inspired album cover, for example) but there’s also plenty of Pentagram style here too and, obviously, a few Hammer horror flourishes.
Surprise number two: this is a record packed with songs. Yes, songs! Remember them? In much the same way that Ghost or The Devil’s Blood resurrected a 1970s vibe and brought a whole new audience to an oft forgotten genre, so Bloody Hammers have continued mining that rich furrow. Like Ghost, Bloody Hammers have crafted an accessible, easy record and one that could get a crossover audience. There is plenty to like here: the spiky ‘Witch of Endor’, the plaintive ‘Say Goodbye to the Sun’ or the bluesy ‘Souls on Fire’ are just three examples of a fledgling band, imbued with a rather old fashioned approach to writing songs,executing their craft with a certain level of panache.
Surprise number three: I had planned to bury this record. Yes, I know, you’re supposed to approach everything with an open mind but when I first heard this record, I wanted to spout vitriol about how it was all wrong: that it was not doomy enough, not dark enough and not evil enough. And then I put it on again. And again. You know what: I like that it’s not too doomy, not too dark and not too evil. Being these things has probably made me listen to it a whole lot more. That’s the nicest surprise of all.