Two years ago, N.C. musician Anders Manga was recording music in the room above his Charlotte garage.
On Friday – four days after releasing a highly anticipated third album under the name Bloody Hammers – Manga and his band played England’s massive Download Festival, performing for more than 90,000 music fans alongside Aerosmith and Linkin Park.
“We didn’t even go to the frying pan,” he says, calling from his new home in Brevard. “We went straight to the fire.”
Bloody Hammers wasn’t even a band when Manga – a darkwave musician who catered to the electronic goth Purgatory crowd – posted the heavy sludgy, doom/stoner metal album on Bandcamp under that name.
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“Within 24 hours, a Dutch label emailed me and wanted to put it out on vinyl,” Manga says. The label, SoulSeller, sold out of the first pressing through pre-orders before the record was even released.
Then Bloody Hammers was invited to play Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin.
“I had to get a band together real fast,” says Manga, a Greensboro native who was raised near Trinity and High Point. A deal with Austrian metal label Napalm Records (home to the Sword, Monster Magnet and DevilDriver) followed.
“I thought, ‘This is crazy. Everything is falling in my lap. I don’t have to do anything,’ ” he says, with a laugh. “A long time ago, I was submitting to all the labels. Nobody wanted to talk. Now everybody is coming to me. I haven’t called anybody.”
Bloody Hammers quickly churned out two more albums – 2013’s “Spiritual Relics” and now “Under Satan’s Sun.” He put together a band comprised of his wife, Devallia, on keyboards and musicians from Raleigh and Huntersville (where the band practices), and hit the road touring the U.S. and European festivals. But Bloody Hammers has yet to play Manga’s old hometown.
“Most of the interest has come from horror festivals and Europe,” says Manga, who has played Asheville’s Orange Peel with Bloody Hammers and Tremont Music Hall as a solo artist. “It’s nothing strategic. We haven’t had much interest from Charlotte.”
Bloody Hammers’ story isn’t an overnight fairy tale. Manga recorded and toured nationally under his own name for more than a decade. One of his songs was featured on The CW’s supernatural drama “The Vampire Diaries” last season, and he still plans to release material as a solo artist.
In the ’90s, he met with labels.
“(It was) ‘Can you sing more like Eddie Vedder? I don’t hear a single,’ ” he recalls. “It’s better and it’s worse now. There’s not a lot of an industry left, but there’s more artistic freedom.”
Although it’s technically the group’s third album, “Under Satan’s Sun” feels like the true rollout for Bloody Hammers. It’s a concept album of sorts, inspired by the folklore of Western North Carolina, where Manga and his wife moved after a decade in Charlotte.
“I bought a book about ghost stories of the Carolinas when I was in Charlotte,” he says. “ ‘Black Magic’ (a song) on the first album was sort of about the Brown Mountain Lights. I wanted to write a whole album based on those stories.”
The track “Spearfinger,” he says, is about a Native American spirit who roams the woods removing the livers of lost children. “The Moon-Eyed People” is about mountain cave dwellers rumored to have originated from Wales. “Death Do Us Part” is set at Lover’s Leap, while the accompanying cinematic video was filmed at Crowders Mountain.
“I wanted to be here and visit those places. It’s awesome,” he says of the hiking and waterfalls, but adds that the terrain can be daunting. “Our house is 3,000 feet on top of a mountain. I would kill myself if I tried to walk out in the yard.”
He chose a vintage horror style for an album cover that ties the project together.
“I wanted it to feel like a ‘Tales From the Crypt,’ where each song is a short story that could stand on its own,” he says.
The horror themes, retro images, interest in classic comics, TV and film put Manga in the company of monster-loving musicians like Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper, who crafted careers out of a preoccupation with darkness.
“Sometimes it’s just a subconscious way of dealing with death,” he says. “My father and mother died before I was 15. It seems like I got drawn more to that kind of stuff around that time, but I was into it before.”
He pauses – then says, laughing: “I should probably go to a psychologist.”