As the UK’s second-best writer once wrote in Sonnet 43:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Well, lets have a go, eh Shakespeare?
- The album was recorded entirely in Transylvania County, NC.
- An LP cover featuring no fewer than 9 nipples and 4 lady gardens.
- A husband and wife band, I always like those.
- They added synths to their rock because they live in the town next to the one Bob Moog did.
- You could buy a limited edition version which came with a hand-crafted Ouija board.
- They invent new verbs ‘Just ahead my adversary aggressing rapidly toward me’**.
- Chief ghoul, Anders Manga, always wears a top hat – that always works for me.
- Vinyl produced in Satan’s favourite colour, lilac.
- Lyrics evoking death, vampirism, death, dying gladiators, death, sexually insatiable Roman empresses*, death, being burned at the stake, death and the sensual joy of eating really thick toast slathered in
Welcome to the underdome, lair of the rather silly, but rather excellent Bloody Hammers and their 2016 LP Lovely Sort of Death. I would have lived and died without ever hearing them if it wasn’t for Victim of the Fury, so thank you sir. If truth be told I was born a sucker for this band, I have no resistance at all to their sound – synthy goth rock with a velveteen teen-scene sheen, daddio. Deal me in.
Raising the coffin lid is ‘Bloodletting on the Kiss’, which really wasn’t what I expected. It swanks in sporting a cape formed of darkest Sisters of Mercy keyboard FX circa-Floodland and prowls around being all stylish and vampiric, I absolutely love it for being all overly dramatic and restrained, even the shouty bits. Moogy moody. All of which really wasn’t the towering guitar assault I was expecting, especially with the (Roky Erickson inspired) band name Bloody Hammers. Obviously it gets 1537 bonus points for the boobs in the video:
(at 4:43 exactly, if you’re a knocker fan in a rush)
Also confounding my preconceived perceptions of Lovely Sort of Death is the brilliant ‘Lights Come Alive’, which rather unusually borrows the kind of grandeur and plateaus I associate with the 80s likes of Simple Minds and their earnest ilk; bands just don’t really go that windswept winsome way very much anymore. But of course what it serves up is that most quintessentially gothic and, tellingly, that most quintessentially teenage opiate, drama. I’ve always loved a good bit of drama in a track, hell, Queen got me into all this after all. Surely though ‘The Reaper Comes’ will be a blast of icy guitar rock-outery? no, as it happens we get a slow-building track that despite the title is far more Pink (Floyd) than black. Damn you Death and the Fairlight you rode in on!
You want drama, well after ‘Messalina’s rocking out we hit my fave track on the LP ‘Infinite Gaze to the Sun’, about a Roman gladiator’s last minutes alive, it really is as hammy and glorious as all that implies, in addition to rocking out like a bastard undertaker on a spree. I’ve fallen in love with this track, you know exactly where the choruses are building to and precisely when the pay off will come and it’s performed so well that none of that matters more than a mote on the eye socket of a skull. Plus there aren’t enough songs about gladiators in my view.
Add in a stoner doom track about ether called, umm, ‘Ether’ (the weakest link on Lovely Sort of Death despite going for a Sabotage vibe) and a great chugging track about burning witches ‘Stoke the Fire’, the Gary Numan gone (not very good) prog of ‘Shadow Out of Time’, the pure Orange Goblin-esque rock out of ‘Astral Traveller’ and the bass-synth-tastic ‘Catastrophe’ – and that’s your LP dead and done.
Lovely Sort of Death isn’t flawless as I’ve mentioned and I’m torn between respecting the fact that Bloody Hammers play it all totally straight without any discernible humour creeping into the coffin, or mocking them for the pretension of it. On the other hand, that is really one of the things I like best about gothic music, the fact that to make it you do need to just forget about looking damned silly, set the pretension gauge up to 11 and really go for it. But, let’s face it, they look like a Rob Zombie reimagining of The Munsters which is why I do find the whole thing really rather silly and that does add to the layers of enjoyment of it for me.
Oh and that Shakespeare guy and his Sonnet 43-y thing? seems like he did know his darkwave goth rock after all:
I shall but love thee better after death.
PS: As I bought a super limited edition of 300 copies version of Lovely Kind of Death, I also got a bonus CD of 4 additional tracks – which I literally found again rattling around inside the LP just now, the highlight is the monstrous downtuned ‘Halloween’ (who’d have guessed they liked it?) which is great. ‘At Dawn They Sleep’ switches tracks almost into KMFDM territory and has made it onto my exercise mix^^, whereas ‘The Shrine’ and ‘Altar of Fear’ are much less interesting offcuts.
*if I remember my classics education properly, Pliny tells us that she had 25 partners in 24 hours in an endurance competition with a prostitute (which she won); history was silent on whether this led to cystitis. It is also very probably a load of unpleasant sexist propaganda, cooked up over nothing^.
**Bye love, I’m just off to aggress the dog around the park, be back in a bit.
^take that Pliny! 1537: Fighting for Today’s Issues.
^^called ‘Jog piggy! Jog!!’, future biographers.