It seems Bloody Hammers has a new album in the pipeline every few months. In fact, this is the third of their platters I’ve reviewed since late 2012, which pretty much makes them the anti-Necrophagist. Under Satan’s Sun is their first album without a topless woman on the cover (which I take issue with, purely for marketing reasons, mind you), but their style continues to broaden and evolve, blending the occult rock shtick made so notable by Ghost with the throwback doom of Hour of 13 and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. To their credit, despite the hyperkinetic release schedule, their last outing showed significant improvement over their debut. They seemed to gain a better sense of where they wanted to go musically and the writing took a step up as a result. Unfortunately this time they take a partial step backward, with some songs fully realized and steeped in doomy/gothy rock goodness, while others feel underdeveloped and dare I say it, rushed. There’s a good core idea here and you can certainly hear it on certain songs, but it isn’t realized consistently enough to make a sizeable dent in my music appreciation lobe, and that’s frustrating.
The album is actually quite a tease because it starts off so well and lulls you into a false sense of awesomeness. Opener “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is easily one of their best tunes to date with a heavy Uncle Acid vibe and the same kind of big riffs they would use to propel such a song. It’s much less heavy though and goes for mood over sonic disruption. It’s that mood that makes it so funky and dark and though it’s laid back, it has an ominous feel that sells. “Spearfinger” is a groove-heavy grinder that rocks quite hard in a slow, methodical way and the simple chorus reverberates through the catacombs of my head quite often. “Death Does Us Part” is the album “single” and it’s a heady mix of 70s organ abuse a la Iron Butterfly and modern goth like To/Die/For, though it comes uncomfortably close to “Black Brick Road” by Lake of Tears.
Other nice moments come with “Welcome to the Horror Show,” which effectively mimics the keyboard heavy 70s horror rock vibe made popular by musicals like Rocky Horror and The Phantom of Paradise; and the title track which comes across like watered down Uncle Acid, but still has a nice sound.
The rest of the album is much less convincing, and tracks like “The Moon-Eyed People” and “Second Coming” channel Hour of 13‘s doom rock, minus their charm and hooks. Others like “The Last Alarm” and “The Necromancer” are simply flat and dull (despite occasional moments of Peter Murphy-esque gothic glumness).
The yeoman’s work here is done by organ/keyboard wizard Devallia, who keeps things interesting with her old timey, satanic church revivals and psychedelic rocking. It’s her playing that buoys some of the less snappy tunes and makes them tolerable, if not winners. Founder/maestro Anders Manga still sings in a way that constantly reminds me of Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, Briton Rites, et all) and I like his vocals, but he can’t elevate a song that needs extra help. My main issue this time is the riffs by Zoltan. The guitar doesn’t feel very central on many of the songs and there’s a paucity of truly killer, shirt snagging leads to hang one’s hat on. When you add a bunch of underwhelming song writing excursions, the doom rock ship starts to sink like…a regular rock.
Speed kills and haste makes waste and perhaps that explains the up and downs of the Bloody Hammers discography. I’m not a music doctor, but if I was, I’d prescribe longer times between releases so as to let the musical muse marinate and stew in the juices of creativity and inspiration. We don’t need a new album every 8 months and I’d rather have one truly killer platter than three with issues. Not a bad release, but definitely one that should’ve/could’ve been better.