Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, March 22, 2013

Absurdly brilliant, absurdly wonderful: glorying in the hammer

IT used to be fantasy power metal bands were a dime a dozen across the wastelands of Europe and the northern reaches of Scandanavia, but with attempts to move into symphonic prog directions the purity dissipated and nary could a power metal snappy tune be found.

Then the noble peopl of Bonny Scotland rose up in the shape of one Christopher Barnes – a man last seen boarding Buckfast bearing ships in his Pirate Metal guide of leader of Alestorm.
So far, so ridiculous – fantasy power metal originated from the singer/keyboardist in a pirate band. But you have yet to learn of the sheer glory that is Gloryhammer.
Photo by Steve Brown
In the ancient forests around the Kingdom of Fife and the territory of Dundee lurked a mighty hero, Angus McFife, engaged in a mighty battle with the evil sorcerer Zargothrax.
The tales of mighty conflicts, magic drgaons, goblins and trolls and repelling the unicorn invasion of Dundee are recounted in Gloryhammer’s d├ębut: ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Dundee’.
Stop laughing in the back…unless you get the joke your guffaws are not necessary. Bowes has produced one of the finest power metal albums in many a long trolls lifetime, paying homage to predecessors while at the same showcasing how metal of this unique sub-genre should be played.
Single Angus McFife, with its over-the-top costumed video and catchy chorus, is the perfect example of how to deliver this level of parody with a straight face. And we should remember that parody is only possible if you acknowledge and love the subject matter.
Thomas Winkler was recruited to Gloryhammer after seeing his online audition for Dragonforce (more of which in an interview with Bowes to come shortly) and Winkler delivers a stunning performance of range and depth. Behind him a tight rhythm section, soaring solos, riffage a plenty and Bowes sweeping keyboards underpin the symphonic sweep and dabble with medieval melodies.
Sure you can find a pinch of Manowar, a dash of Dragonforce, a smattering of …Dragon-era Dio and a smidgeon of Hammerfall here and there, but that’s not the point. How many new-thrash acts borrow the chord changes from ‘Tallica and Anthrax?
Gloryhammer provide a simply glorious power metal outie; even if you were to set aside the lyrics the music encapsulates the days when we all could listen to our metal and look over the fact that Iron Maiden were rattling on about dinosaurs…The music is as strong as the silliness of the songs.
The Unicorns of Dundee sets the tone for the album with bombast, only let down by the use of an occasional voice synthesised narrative to produce that deep throated accompaniment that so bedevils too many later Manowar songs: the narrative of the lyric and the ‘real threat’ to Fife from Zargothraz is told well enough through the songs without the type of growl that Turisas .
Binding the middle of the album together is the obligatory power metal ballad Silent Tears of Frozen Princess, in which Winkler shows off his voice’s range as much as in other tracks.
From there is a headlong charge to don the Amulet of Justice, shout out our Hail to Crail, delve Beneath Cowdenbeath before wrapping up with the powerhouse that is the 10-minute plus Epic Rage of Furious Thunder.
Those who gaze on at this type of metal saying it shows how metal has disappeared up its own arse. Those of us inside know that the jokes on them. They will never know that we’re laughing with Gloryhammer. As the witty pop-punksters Bowling for Soup say “Rock ‘n’ Roll is really funny when it’s serious”.
Shoe gazing introspective, foppy fringed wankers need apply here. We raise our fists, and shout out for Gloryhammer. All hail Lord McFife!
Yes it is absurd - but perhaps that’s why we love it.

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