(Evan Clark reviews the new album by Gloryhammer, which was released by Napalm Records on May 31st.)
Hark! And hear the glorious call of power metal! Before you now stands the mighty Gloryhammer, the last bastion of true fantasy power metal for the modern age. Perk up your ears mere mortals, and journey with us on the third chapter from the Kingdom of Fife! Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex finds our heroes returning back to their rightful time to combat the evil forces of blah blah blah…
Okay, for those who don’t know, Gloryhammer is the symphonic power metal project founded by Christopher Bowes of Alestorm fame. The band is known for their over-the-top, satirical approach to the genre. Take a seat, grab a goblet of ale, and try not to take things too seriously.
On their third go around Gloryhammer are more centered and focused in their efforts to provide both laughs and head-banging power metal. The music on display is both forceful in its satirical and overblown sci-fi-fantasy storytelling, with tons of little moments of humor, and effortless in its speedy power metal song-writing. There is machismo, bravado, and a striking sense of self awareness, yet also unabashed love, to be found on this record.
The band’s promotion for the album is hailing it as the greatest power metal album of all time. While that may not be the case — and trust me it’s not — it does deliver on a promising package of escapism, catchy fantasy hooks, and acrobatic guitar playing. The album is dripping with poppy keys and bombastic drumming, and some really entertaining storytelling, with songs about deadly unicorns, and magical jetpacks, as well as a lengthy climax, that follow through on the promise of grandiose symphonic metal.
While listening to this album the strongest feeling I kept coming back to was how much fun everyone seems to be having. Even when some of the back-end songs start to drag, there’s always a modicum of pure bliss underneath it all. Whether it’s the villainous narration of the antagonist, Thomas Winkler’s continued exaltation of the “Hoooots”, the frantic blasts from the drums, the over-the-top eurobeat synths, or the roller-coaster ride that lead guitarist Paul Templing takes you on, everything comes together as a celebration of adrenaline, and fun.
There are some negatives, however. For one, even though the album clocks in at 49 minutes, which isn’t exceptionally lengthy for a power metal record, it does still come across as too long. There’s no real bad song throughout the record, but a few just continue to go on, despite having shown everything of worth on the track within the first few minutes. This may be an epic power metal album, but some of the pomp and power is lost when a decent song goes on and on and on. While the closing track is effective in its use of length and scale, unfortunately the feeling of wanting to move forward happens around the 70 percent mark for a decent chunk of the latter-end songs on the album.
The second big mistake would have to be the main vocal performance. While Thomas Winkler does have an a impressive voice, with a lot of control and power behind it, the silliness of the plot gets in the way and he ends up infecting the music with a higher-pitched and more nasally performance, almost as if he’s doing an imitation of a power metal vocalist. I get that the project is supposed to be humorous, but even in comedies, some gravitas is required. The silly moments have their place, but a more straightforward approach on some of the tracks would have elevated the material.
Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex is another prime example of how power metal can still be relevant in the world of metal. Gloryhammer, representing all the positives of the genre, and unfortunately some of the negatives, continue to cultivate a strong catalog of ferocious power metal anthems. And as an added bonus, the album isn’t dragged down by unnecessary ballads, which so often find their home on records of this genre. Overall, even with a little too much fat on the end, Legends is a worthy contender for greatest power metal of… at least the last few years.