Bloody Hammers frontman Anders Manga has strayed quite a way from his southern roots—when he spent most of his childhood attending tent revivals and hiding rock records that he mowed lawns to afford, from his parents—to now fronting a goth-rock band with his wife Devallia, who shares in his love for goth culture, which is more of a lifestyle for the pair who live in rural Transylvania county in North Carolina.
“I grew up in the south and my pastor was always talking about how Alice (Cooper) and Ozzy (Osbourne) worship Satan and sacrifice babies,” Manga told American Songwriter about his childhood. “And I remember watching how he (Alice Cooper) would come out of his coffin (during performances). And I thought, ‘Okay, this is probably something that I want to try to figure out when I get older.’ But I remember thinking it was kind of fascinating.”
Even as a young kid, Manga understood the brutality and insincerity in the world for what it was and saw his ultimate exit from the church, after experiencing its hypocrisy and paranoia. And when his church started to forbid certain rock records, he rebelled even more, turning to the dark and alluring side of rock and roll.
“It kind of revealed some of the bullshit they would tell me at church,” Manga said. “They had everybody believing in this satanic stuff and panicking because it was on TV. So, we had to hide our records. But that made it more fun, because they were so forbidden to listen to. Whenever I went to revivals, and church things, the pastor would bring up albums, and to me that was a shopping list. And I would mow people’s grass around the neighborhood to go and buy those records.”
Manga and Devallia now write their own music—the kind that would make their teenage selves proud. For their new release, Songs of Unspeakable Terror out Friday (January 15), the couple spent most of 2020 in their rural home outside of Charlotte, day-drinking, playing ‘70s horror films on a loop and jamming to their favorite NYC punk bands in their once saw-dust covered basement studio where they used to craft wooden Ouija boards.
“We had just finished our record, The Summoning, like six months prior,” Manga told American Songwriter. So, he was surprised when their label Napalm leaped at it, agreeing to release it under Bloody Hammers, instead of the dark wave project Manga had imagined it for—which he had started in order to combat what he calls his ‘winter blues.’
Usually, the introverted couple likes to stay off of social media and news, to counter any excessive or unnecessary stress, similar to Manga’s ‘winter blues’, but in 2020 there were two public events that actually helped to kickstart the theme on Songs of Unspeakable Terror. One was an Instagram post and another a tragic loss of arguably one of the best musicians of modern times.
“One thing that kind of kicked off a simple vibe we were going for was Little Richard, when he died,” Manga recalled. “When we got the news, we started jamming a lot of Richard’s stuff and that’s swayed into some other jams to Misfits and New York punk stuff.”
Manga, who was a brief resident of New York in the early 2000s, remembered how much he loved the punk bands that came out of the scene, when he saw The Ramones’ drummer post about the bad shape New York City was in during the spring peak of the pandemic.
“I remember Marky Ramone posting on Instagram— you could see people were really kind of shaken up in New York,” Manga said. “I lived there in 2001 and I’m not saying I’m a New Yorker, but I got a little feel of the spirit of the city. And my favorite punk bands came from that area like the Misfits.”
With such seriousness occurring naturally in the world at that time, Manga wanted to write music that was in some ways more light-hearted, but that still aligned with his love for NYC punk and the simplicity of ‘50s rock and roll.
“On this particular record, I was going to the world outside and looking,” Manga said. “And it was looking pretty terrifying. But deep and dark was just not the mood I was going for. I was thinking fun, ‘50s drive-ins. I was going for dark, fun I guess.”
What followed, tying Little Richard’s 50s drive-in themed rock and roll with the punk darkness and aesthetic, was the first single, appropriately titled, “A Night to Dismember.” Complete with goth, Halloween, horror imagery and simple rock riffs in the style of The Misfits and Type O Negative, ignited by Little Richard’s charisma, Songs of Unspeakable Terror unraveled. Each song adhered to the theme, with titles like “Waking The Dead,” “Night of the Witch” and recent single “Hands of The Ripper,” which came to fruition as a Frankenstein song.
“When it first appeared, it just appeared as a vocal and I didn’t understand it yet,” Manga said about ‘Hands of the Ripper.’ “So once I had the title written down, which was a title for another song, it just fit into the melody like a puzzle.”
Like the Type O Negative and Misfits of the world, Bloody Hammers music is riff driven, because that is what naturally comes to Manga first. Lyrics are more difficult to come by for him. Luckily 2020 was full of external inspiration, and Manga didn’t have to force much of anything for Songs of Unspeakable Terror.
With every change of 2020, one thing remained the same for Bloody Hammers- recording—they have never been in a studio and never will. They have recorded everything at home from the beginning and really have no desire to do it any other way. This allows the couple to remain in their horror haven away from the real-world terrors like Church, which Manga has never returned to. He and Devallia would much rather stay home making Ouija boards and records. Because for Manga, like his and Devallia’s lifestyle, music is not a choice. It just is.
“Music is just something I just have to do-no matter how old I get,” Manga said.