Before we get started, look at this album cover. There's an old saying, "You can't judge a book by it's cover" or, in the case of musical offerings, you can't judge a record by it's sleeve. Some of the best looking albums have absolutely nothing of value inside and, sometimes, the most bizarre record jackets have the greatest music you've ever heard in them. And that brings us to the latest album from Bloody Hammer, "Under Satan's Sun".
There was a time when I would scour the record store looking for the next great album, something new that nobody had heard of yet, based solely on the album cover and song titles. If I had come across Bloody Hammers' "Under Satan's Sun" album, adorned with a retro font, caped skeleton and woman in a casket, I definitely would have bought it. And I wouldn't have been disappointed.
Bloody Hammers is Anders Magna's band and he plays guitar, bass and provides the vocals on "Under Satan's Sun". The organ playing comes from his Wife and band mate Devallia.
The music they play falls into the horror/stoner metal category. Magna cites Alice Cooper as an influence and occasionally the music resembles Monster Magnet. Additionally, the influence of Black Sabbath is somewhat evident but, then again, hasn't all metal been influenced by Sabbath?
The songs are heavy, slower in tempo and incredibly catchy. The guitar sound is more of a fuzz than the crunchy sound we're used to hearing on metal albums. The aforementioned organ is subtle throughout the songs but adds to the horror rock sound.
Magna's voice is clear and powerful, more pleasing than I expected but you can't judge an album by it's sleeve. When he hits the higher notes, it almost has a Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister) quality to it.
For me, "Under Satan's Sun" really hits its stride on track four, "The Moon Eyed People", a rocker with an infectious chorus and an awesome guitar sound. Here especially I hear the Sabbath influence but it's only an infusion and not a sound-alike. It's a hypnotic, head-bobbing little ditty.
When you hear the term "horror rock", one tends to think of Rob Zombie, The Misfits and the like. The horror rock part of "Under Satan's Sun" is found in the lyrics and the moodiness of the songs. It's subtle and not an in-your-face onslaught of aggression.
However, there is some aggression to be found on "Under Satan's Sun" in the surprisingly upbeat "Dead Man's Shadow On The Wall". Here, as in most of the tracks, the music is direct, understated and not over-produced, which is fantastic. One gets a real sense of the band and not the expertise of the sound engineer.
"The Last Alarm" sounds like a cross between surf-punk and the theme from The Munsters. It follows the classic "quiet, loud, quiet" formula to great effect. And the record finishes strong with the powerful "The Necromancer".
"Under Satan's Sun" is a surprisingly catchy album and not quite what I expected. I guess I was expecting to hear the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarrantino film, based on the album cover. What I got was a real treat. Simply, is a straightforward, horror influenced, rock album done quite well. There a few clever intros to some of the songs that reminded me that, while this is a serious album, Anders Magna also has a sense of humor. So, enjoy the album cover and enjoy the record. Bloody Hammers; who would have thought?