In case you haven’t worked it out, I’m a big fan of Power Metal, which in turns mean that I often get strange glances when I walk through the town centre wearing a Sonata Arctica shirt, but also means that I have learned the silliness in life. Power Metal, to be honest, is largely a silly genre- musically it is very interesting but lyrically we’re dealing with sword, sorcery and dragons. Scotland’s GloryHammer have embraced this trope of the genre to its only logical conclusion: they are both a stereotypical power band and a mockery of the genre at the same time. They’re doing this with a very, very tongue in cheek style, though.
Gloryhammer are the ‘other band’ of Christopher Bowes, who is the keyboardist/keytarist of Alestorm, who still hold the title of being the silliest band from Scotland. They’re a pirate metal band, writing song after song that sound like heavy metal sea shanties, complete with absurdly piratical lyrics and at least one dancing midget in their videos. Bowes, as chief songwriter for the band, has already demonstrated an understanding of catchy melodies, shaping songs that reach their climax in instantly memorable and soaring choruses. In their back catalogue, Alestorm possess a considerable amount of songs that- although in the pirate metal genre- also have generous slabs of influence from the power metal world. Just listen to Captain Morgan’s Revenge and tell me that its soaring chorus wouldn’t also perfectly fit a song from, say, Sonata Arctica or Stratovarius. Gloryhammer don’t take themselves too seriously. Their first album, Tales from the Kingdom of Fife, was a medieval themed album about an invasion of dark unicorns upon the Scottish city of Dundee that seemed to include every power metal cliche possible. Luckily, the band are aware of this, and every song is an enjoyable that should be listened to with a tongue firmly placed in a cheek. Their second album- Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards- takes the madness of its predecessor and blows it clean out of the water, taking us on a journey one thousands years in the future, to the ‘distant future of 1992’, where the Scottish kingdom of Fife now possesses the ability to fly through space. There, the evil Zargothrax, a dark wizard, is freed from his slumber and tries to conquer the planet again. Whether he succeeds or not relies on you, the listener, to get through to the end of the album. Yes, there’s an actual story and theme and yes, you are absolutely supposed to be guffawing profusely from start to finish. So now we’re dealing with swords, sorcery, unicorns, dragons, but there’s also a healthy amount of laserbeams and space travel thrown in. It’s all very serious stuff.
With that said, the band are still musically talented, as is the case with all Power Metal bands. Take away the silly lyrics- and the equally over the top video- and Rise of the Chaos Wizards, by far Gloryhammer’s finest moment yet, would be at home in any of the leading names of power metal’s back catalogue. It was a soaring chorus, the now almost obligatory choral elements, an abundance of dramatic orchestration, and a vocalist who seems determined to prove that he can hit every note on a scale with ease. Vocal masturbation is, after all, a trademark of being a power metal vocalist. Every song sounds like it belongs on a different power metal album, and it is that reason why Gloryhammer are developing a devoted fan base. After all, it’s one thing to be a ‘satire’ band, but that doesn’t work if, by extension, you are an awful live proposition. If a band makes you laugh, but also creates good music, you can get into them a lot more readily. It also makes it easier to forgive their sheer silliness when you consider that this is a band who are genuinely talented musicians. The same could be said of Steel Panther, who are sleazy and crude, but who are also a legitimately decent rock band consisting of some very competent musicians who have paid their dues in the music industry. If you need further proof, then just buy the deluxe version of Space 1992, which features versions of the songs with no vocals, guitar or drums. You get to hear the soundscapes for what they are- beautifully crafted pieces of music with layering and modulation and all of the other musical effects you should expect from the genre.
If you hate Power Metal, there is absolutely nothing to like about this band- in fact, by embracing the cheesy stereotypes of the genre, they may actually make it worse for you. At least bands like Dream Evil are honest in their cheesiness- Gloryhammer seem to be doing it all with a knowing wink, just begging you to find a reason to hate them. If you hate the genre, you’ll be able to form a long list of reasons why they’re despicable, but then this album clearly wasn’t made for you. The album, and the band, exists solely for those fans of the genre who want a bit of silliness and are up for a laugh.
I have no idea what Christopher Bowes has lined up next, but its bound to be brilliant and quite possibly ludicrous. Gloryhammer are touring Europe with Stratovarius soon so be sure to check that out if they sound like they’re going to up your street!
Check out their new single here, complete with the aforementioned ridiculously fun video: