Bloody Hammers: Songs Of Unspeakable Terror (Napalm Records)
Returning from their crypt in Transylvania County, North Carolina occult rock n rollers Bloody Hammers return with an album that adds another gory string to their Satanic bow and arrow. Anders Manga (vocals/guitar) and wife Devallia (organist/pianist) move into otherworldly realms as yet untouched by their occult musical leanings. They have adopted the funky, punky attitude of bands such as The Misfits and The Cramps. With the “woah woah” refrain A Night To Dismember immediately has the Danzig/Only trademarks all over it. But why? I hear you ask, why have this gloomy doomy duo moved away from the psych/doom rock riffs into a much more punk-influenced sound?
Well the answer like most things last year is Covid 19, fresh off his darkwave project Manga was stopped from touring so he and Devallia set about recording a new Bloody Hammers based upon the New York C.B.G.B alumni like the bands mentioned earlier, albeit still with that Bloody Hammers occult doom sound, B-Movie soundbites and a generally schlocky feel of something that would have been introduced by Elvira. You can hear tracks such as The Ones Who Own The Dark, the anthemic We Are The Damned and I Spit On Your Corpse blasting out of a Hearse Hot-Rod racing through a graveyard in at midnight. Manga’s booming vocals and chainsaw guitar playing augmented by the searing synth lines of Devallia, for a record that is very true to the spirit of every horror-punk band ever, on Waking The Dead especially they have nailed the sound of The Misfits better than the Misfits. Coming from an enforced withdrawal from touring etc has led to this genre shift from an established act, one that has been achieved very soundly. 7/10
Gatecreeper: An Unexpected Reality (Closed Casket Activities)
Seen as one of the leading names in modern death metal Arizona heavyweights Gatecreeper have dropped a surprise album that, like the Bloody Hammers record is unlike their previous releases, as it is almost a split release with themselves. The main part focuses quite heavily on the more politically charged acerbic sound of grindcore with the tracks whizzing by in a flurry of rusty saw riffs and barked vocals, none of them really longer than 2 minutes. Where as the final song Emptiness is a monolithian 8 minute plus doom that makes up half of the EP’s runtime.
The inspiration behind this was Black Flag’s My War and is something the band have been wanting to do for ages. They wanted to write an EP full of sounds they were not known for, it was only when the pandemic hit they finally decided to write a record that features nasty grindcore and doom metal, as there was no expectation of singles or tours to support it. Something of a vanity project yes, but one that will hopefully influence their future releases. A surprise beatdown in a the middle of January, that’s very welcome indeed! 7/10
Hunted By Elephants: Carry On (Self Released)
Following on from their well received debut Rise Of The Elephant in 2019, London based classic rockers Hunted By Elephants set about writing their follow up almost immediately, bolstered by the success and radio play of that albums singles. Now I will say outright that what Hunted By Elephants do, is not by any means unique, they are clearly inspired by the likes of Free, Humble Pie along with more modern names like Rival Sons, so their blues-based ear-friendly hard rock is nothing new, but when done well this music is exciting, it stretches back to the first mega-titans of rock n roll and with stations such as Planet Rock doing their best to champion bands that have this ‘classic rock’ sound then there are no shortage of bands that will try an capture that essence of Purple, Zeppelin, Sabbath et al.
Hunted By Elephants (which poses the question what did the band do to the elephants to end up in this position?) take there musical influences seriously deciding that their record should be captured like the bands of yore, this means that all of the songs here have been recorded live in the studio with all the members together (a novelty in this Covid world) the studio tweaks (mastering etc) were added afterwards of course but the bulk of what you hear on Carry On is the four musicians jamming things out in the studio. It means that there is an analogue hue to the record, songs for vinyl if you will. With the easy going strut of Let Me Be easily sliding into the Lizzy-like title track.
The pulsating low end hum of Raymond Phelan’s bass gives a rich warmth when met with Alex Buttice’s enthusiastic drumming, they are a fiery engine room but also deft when the record slows down into slinky blues sounds. Roman Flourendzou’s six string is all buzzing riffs and solos that are stepped in panache but never work to hard to get a reaction, and finally Apostolos Liapis’ rich vocals have that soulful edge of that has become the staple of a classic rock singer as he languishes in the Plant-like gruffer mid range occasionally teasing with his top notes.
As the record plows on The Weapon brings the folky flourishes of Led Zeppelin III, Keep On Giving Me Loving is pure Coverdale filth, while Towards The Light is a grandiose Deep Purple-like ballad replete with organs. Carry On is great hard rock record, I said at the beginning of the album that when it’s done well this ‘classic rock’ sound can be very exciting and Hunted By Elephant do it very well indeed making for a brilliant follow up! 9/10
Supermoon: S/T (Self Released) 
I’m not really sure what sort of substances Vasilis Tsigkris has been using but it has certainly made him very creative. He is the driving creative force behind Supermoon which was initially a solo project, and to a point still is as Tsigkris plays everything on this record, but they are now a fully fleshed out four-piece spacecraft on the live stage anyway. This debut record is ready to take the listener on a trip through the very fabric of time and space. How Supermoon go about this is by playing hypnotic, heavy psych rock record with walls of fuzzy guitar riffage, rhythmic, tribal drumming and shamanistic, chanting, heavily echoed vocals (Mantra).
Lyrically inspired by spirituality, nature, folk tales and mythology, there is a Eastern influence to many of the songs, moving away from bands such as Kyuss and Yawning Man into acts such as Goat (if you’ve never heard of them I suggest you check them out) The music here is created to bewitch you into a steady head nodding trance the dense instrumentals guiding you on this cosmic journey through a kaleidoscopic soundscape. Only with the final track Moon Rabbit does the heavy grooves give way to a more ambient atmosphere with a two part closure to this record. A stirring debut from this Athenian act, serving suggestion is your substance of choice then play nice and loud. 7/10
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