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Bloody Hammers

Soulseller (2012)
Rating: 8.5/10

It seems that the 1970s are back in fashion! There’s Ghost and their high levels of spooky gloom strangeness, and now the intriguingly named Bloody Hammers from North Carolina are inviting us to their own black mass.

From the ultra-cool, retro artwork to the equally retro sound, Bloody Hammers’ self-titled debut opus is one for any fans of bands ranging from Pentagram to Black Sabbath, and from Blue Öyster Cult to Black Widow. This is a quality record that oozes atmosphere and creepy suggestion, with its sombre, yet somehow dreamy guitar sound which is classic doom with a dash of 70s psychedelia, coupled with that almost lackadaisical vocal sermon.

Just when you thought that British doom bands had ruled the roost forever more, these occultists take to the fields with their goat-heads and candelabras, in celebration of sacrifice. Imagine if the film The Wicker Man (1973) was a record and Bloody Hammers are the sort of band who would be directing.

This is remote, gothic, and steeped in quagmire fog, right from album opener ‘Witch Of Endor’ with its clanking drum and cosmic riff. There’s a hint of Brit doomsters Cathedral in that groove, but vocally it’s almost innocent, reminding one of the rainy 80s UK goth scene, with bands such as Bauhaus and punkier American acts like The Cramps and Misfits.

In fact, Bloody Hammers have so many influences that they are almost, somehow, original in their style of doom rock, and with the emphasis very much on retro, at one moment this could be Corrosion Of Conformity circa Deliverance (1994) and then Joy Division. However, this isn’t doom for the depressives. Bloody Hammers reeks of Hammer Horror splendour and is about as musty as Dracula’s coffin at times.

Going back to that opener we’re treated to a killer chorus and buzzing riff before leaking into the organ-drenched moans of ‘Fear No Evil’. It’s the sort of track that transports us back to the 70s, and again it’s all about the power of suggestion. Vocalist Anders Manga may not have made doom metal his living but he does a hell of a job at recreating those Dennis Wheatley novels.

‘Fear No Evil’ is nothing more than a casual plod through the local graveyard, but such is its foggy atmosphere we can’t help but be drawn in by the misty tentacles.

The same could also be said for the squirming concoction that is ‘Beyond The Door’ with its sexy doom riff and booming drum. The ghoulish yet streetwise twang of ‘Souls On Fire’ also reeks of chilling charm. Bloody Hammers, just like Sweden’s Ghost, keep things extremely simple in their quest for evil domination. Strangely, the ingredients on the box may well have been the same elements that enabled Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General and Pentagram to succeed where so many others failed.

Rock ’n’ roll is all about achieving great things with a stripped down sound and by keeping things fresh, and it’s fair to say that there’s no real thrills available here, just solid doom ’n’ roll that stirs up a mighty wind that forces the stark branches of the trees to continuously tap on the window pane. And, if you’re not moved by the eerie tinkling of ‘Say Goodbye To The Sun’ then you’re clearly already dead. This is the standout fright-fest of the record, a trick or treat tip-toe through the garden of unearthly delights that never raises its monotone vice above a whisper and brings to mind the macabre exploits of Type O Negative.

Anyone with a guitarist called Zoltan and a drummer called Curse has just got to live up to the hype, and believe me, Bloody Hammers do. At times this opus is bloody brilliant, so grab your torch and take the dark path to the churchyard.

Neil Arnold

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