Before there was Sunn O))), there was Thorr’s Hammer. Now, the word “legendary” gets tossed around a lot, but few bands can actually bear such a hefty description. A band like Thorr’s Hammer—Seattle’s female-fronted death-doom quintet, which lasted for less than two months and then disbanded—are more than legendary. Thorr’s Hammer are mythological.
The band started sometime between winter ’94 to spring of ’95. They played only two shows before their reunion gigs in 2009 and ’10. Most notably, the group featured a Norwegian singer whose face and likeness is now printed on thousands of CDs, records, shirts, longsleeves and hoodies worldwide (whether official, bootleg and/or handmade). Yet, she was only in the band for less than the span of one season. And what moves faster than those halcyon days of our late teens and early 20s? For their part, drummer Jamie “Boggy” Sykes, bassist James Hale, guitarists Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, and vocalist Runhild Gammelsæter spent some of that time in a basement in Ballard, WA, constructing some of the heaviest and most devastating music ever to befall human ears.
We spoke with O’Malley one early spring morning while he strolled through his local cemetery in Paris. We found Anderson amidst his Southern Lord empire on the West Coast. Sykes is back in the Pacific Northwest. Catching up with the members nearly 30 years after the fact meant asking some of them to talk about their very first bands. In the case of Anderson, O’Malley and Sykes, that almost meant untangling and parsing the brief existence of Thorr’s Hammer from Burning Witch, the band they formed after Gammelsæter’s return to Norway. Inevitably, the legend of this band is composed of different oral histories. Facts are relegated to personal, sometimes conflicting opinions, and details are like faces in an impressionist painting. That is to say blurry suggestions, frequently filled in by someone’s own narrative. What remains is the overwhelming notion that these songs document a time that was truly remarkable. Even mythological.
Need more classic Thorr’s Hammer? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on Dommedagsnatt, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.