There once was a time when the little known Bloody Hammers were making like the even lesser known Vardan by releasing new albums with shocking rapidity. Perhaps this was their way of getting their name out there and keeping whatever low-level momentum they garnered moving in the right direction. Unfortunately despite some good ideas, the music often felt slapped together and rushed with inconsistent results. The talent and potential were definitely there, but the results weren’t quite up to snuff. In my review of their 2014 opus Under Satan’s Sun I prescribed a longer time between releases to allow their ideas to germinate, marinate and ruminate, and perhaps they took the advice to heart. Now after a 2 year absence we get Lovely Sort of Death and the lay off seems to have done the dark denizens little good, with their amalgam of occult rock, goth and doom still lacking consistency and impact, despite the occasional ace up their old timey sleeve.
For those in a hurry, Lovely Sort of Death sounds like a side project by members of Tiamat, Ghost and H.I.M. with the style of each bleeding into the writing to some extent. That makes for morose, often low-energy gothic-tinged doom rock with a dark vibe. Sleepy opener “Bloodletting on the Kiss” recalls the 80s Darkwave scene and weaves little traces of Type O Negative through the charnal mist and vampire aesthetics. It’s not a blow away kind of song but it sets the mood well. Follow up “Lights Come Alive” could almost be a Beauty of Gemina cut and goes for that same style of goth mopery The Cure utilized so well. “The Reaper Comes” channels the Black Brick Road era of Lake of Tears and the mid-period works of Tiamat well, creating a gloomy, minimalist little slab of melancholy for all the sadboys and sadgirls out there.
The problem once again is their inability to craft an entire album worth of these kinds of songs, and the remainder of Lovely is up and down quality-wise. “Messalina” is classic goth-rock and works well as such, and “Stoke the Fire” is like premium late period Cemetery. But cuts like “Ether” and “Shadow Out of Time” drag along with depressive apathy and leave me feeling little to nothing at all. “Astral Traveler” is more spry and lively but remains unmemorable and indistinct with little to catch and hold the listener’s attention.
It will go down as a mystery why Lovely clocks in at 47 minutes when the band only had about 25 minutes of “good” material. Dropping 2 or 3 of the weakest cuts would greatly improve the overall flow and quality, but hey, I’m just a lowly reviewer who thinks he should run his own label with an iron fist ov steel. The length plus the overall lack of fire and urgency conspire to cause ADD as the album drags itself along with few flair ups of energy and oomph. Even a laid back doom/goth rock platter needs peaks and valleys, and I’m afraid too much of this is valley in search of elevation.
Founding frontman/bassist Anders Manga continues to improve as a vocalist and walks a line between Johan Edlund (Tiamat) and Daniel Brennare (Lake of Tears), besting neither of them but finding a happy middle ground. His wife and fellow gothminister, Devallia supplies all the organ, piano and keyboard gobbledygook and does a fine job, mostly maintaining an understated presence while adding color and atmosphere in small ways. Guitarist Bill Fischer plays along accordingly, supplying minimalist goth melodies and simplistic riffs. They make for a somnambulist bunch on many of the tracks, but when it works it works. That said, too many of the songs lack the kind of hooks that put asses in the seats and keep them there. With such a laid-back approach, those hooks become even more crucial and they’re just not present on most of the album’s back-half.
For some reason I always find myself rooting for Bloody Hammers. I like a few tunes on each album, see the potential and wish they did more to live up to it. Lovely Sort of Death isn’t that breakthrough album, but for hardcore gothic-doom rock fans, there’s enough good stuff here to warrant a peekaboo. Since I have no more suggestions on how to improve the next album I’ll just wish them luck and good tidings.