Alestorm fans, considering the slightly ludicrous nature of that band’s twisted pirate metal, will probably already have a good sense of humour – guilty as charged, m’Lord. They will have taken note of the emergence of Christopher Bowes’ (Alestorm’s vox and keys) new project Gloryhammer and be looking forward to more of the same. Most probably won’t be surprised by the emergence of a singular, identifiable comic hero (Angus McFife isn’t quite Eddie The Head just yet – yes, he does look a bit like Thor with that hammer of his), the fantastical backstory or belly-shaking song-titles. However, I doubt all will seriously be moved by the creative choice of genre (“Heroic Fantasy Power Metal”) or the music itself.
Tracks like “Angus McFife” and the 10-minute pounder “The Epic Rage
Of Furious Thunder” echo the thumping NWOBHM of Maiden and Priest,
whilst the softer, lyrical beasts of “Quest For The Hammer Of Glory” and
“Hail To Crail” run parallel to the rousing war stories of Turisas. Of
course, the nippier, synth-loaded power metal numbers, such as “Amulet
Of Justice” and “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee”, are a tad more
Thomas Winkler’s dynamic, soaring clarion cry is perfect for the task
at hand, especially when the harmonies kick in behind it, but the
programming tweaks that allow him to sink deep enough to become the
character Angus McFife render his input utterly underwhelming.
The songwriting spends a lot of time stripping chords from the
fantasy playbook and, consequently, is about as structurally innovative
as a bag of chips with the cheese-munching lyrics repeating ad
infinitum, ad nauseum. There’s also plenty of material that doesn’t
quite sink its teeth in hard but, equally, there’s plenty that you’ll
find humming to yourself later. Take “Magic Dragon” for instance – you
have to say it’s about as slick a piece of music as you’ll find
anywhere; paced to perfection, strong on intriguing tones and delivered
with a great deal of pomp and circumstance.
The surprisingly sincere “Silent Tears Of [A] Frozen Princess”
(although a giggle can still be had if you half-listen and mishear
“frozen pizzas” as I did) is my personal favourite, providing a
melancholic, focal axis to the album and a break from the simplistic
chicanery that surrounds it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid album and
one that will divide opinion because of the many bases it touches. If
you think you may already be a fan of heroic, fantasy or power metal and have
a sense of humour, you should be giving the Gloryhammer a swing. If
you’re not and you don’t, I’d advise you to duck and cover.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/03/gloryhammer-tales-from-the-kingdom-of-fife/