STUPENDOUS musicianship, stupidly brilliant lyric and concepts that focus on the alternative histories of Bonnie Scotland…must be Gloryhammer’s newest release.
Is Christoper Bowes under the pay of the Scottish tourist board to create a mythos to rival Northern Ireland’s success as the setting of Game of Thrones?
Last time out the medieval struggles on ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife’ scoured the distant parts of the Pictish state after the ‘Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’
But fast forward to the 13th generation of the McFifes and we find ourselves in the alternative timeline of ‘Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards’. After his defeat in the Battle of Dunfermline the evil sorcerer Zargothrax has been in frozen slumber – a slumber that the Chaos Wizards are determined to destroy and bring back the scourge of mankind.
Stop sniggering at the back and pay attention! For all the madness on the lyrical front this is a superb example of power metal. And, given the mad nature of many a symphonic or power metal’s lyrics why shouldn’t Bowes et al take it to the next level. On Voice-Modulated Star Nucleus Thomas Winkler manages to keep a straight face while singing about the Astral Hammer, the Quest Lords of Inverness, and the ‘Heroes (of Dundee)’
The best form of drama, whether it be based on pathos, bathos, satire or comedy needs the performers to stand straight and allow the audience to enter that state of suspension of disbelief. Immersing yourself in the Chaos Wizards universe can also cause oneself to question whether Gloryhammer are taking the piss or paying genuine homage to epic metal anthems. When we interviewed Bowes on the release of ‘…Kingdom of Fife’ he insisted it was the latter, and rhymed off with affection band names, albums and individual songs. Thus, we not only suspended belief, but also granted Bowes the benefit of the doubt…
Let’s be clear though, the Alestorm front man gives full rein to his own performance on keyboards and effects…sorry the credits say he is on Positronic Oscillator Command. The rest may be playing out Bowes Scottish sci fi wank fest, but they are more than bit part players. They really play and play well.
Ben Turk’s drums – sorry Percussive Phi-Quason Battery – hold the entire sound together, preventing it spinning into a Super Massive Black Hole of over-expressiveness. On ‘The Hollywood Hootsman’ (yes, that really is a song title) he varies between solid rhythm and just the right amount of fills, and the title track has some serious pounding going on.
Paul Templing’s riffage on guitar (Dark Matter String Manipulation Interface) is equally impressive on ‘…Hootsman’ with a measured solo. Indeed throughout the album it is that ability to measure the guitar input that is a tribute to Templing’s performance and the song arrangements. Lest we forget, James Cartwright’s bass (Trans-Dimensional Subsonic Cluster) is a constant anchor, bridging Turk’s drums and Bowes and Templing’s exuberance. ‘Victorious Eagle Warfare’ and ‘Heroes (of Dundee)’ are two examples of that (astral) bridge.
The whole album is again based on the struggle between McFife and Zargothrax, this time across a galactic tapestry during which sacrifices may have to be made to ensure victory…but we’re not going to make the mistake of plot spoilers. You’ll have to stick with it to find out the outcome. But there is one song that will nag your core, will insinuate itself into your very melodic temples like shrapnel from an Astral Hammer’s strike may pierce your heart… ‘Universe on Fire’ is a throwback to the 80s roots of power metal. It is catchier than an STI at a Mars Brothel.
Damn you Gloryhammer, we can’t get the chorus out of our minds!
And, this is the real secret of Gloryhammer. For all the nuttiness, the weird styles and the lyrical ludicrous nature of the band the tunes are tremendous; songs that soar; and music that laughs at the po-faced ‘serious’ metal acts. For some Gloryhammer will be a guilty pleasure; for the rest of us it is proof that we don’t need a note from teacher to have FUN.
Review by Jonny
A lifelong Metalhead and prolific reviewer, Jonny is a part of the team here at Devils Gate Media. Since 2006, Jonny has been the owner of BELFAST METALHEADS REUNITED.
Check out Jonny’s blog for more album and gig reviews.]]>