Warning: expect overuse of the word ‘epic’. GloryHammer is the power metal brainchild of Christopher Bowes, keyboardist and singer of pirate metal band Alestorm. This a concept album set in a fictitious medieval version of the Scottish county of Fife, mentioning towns within the region, such as Dundee, Anstruther, Crail and Cowdenbeath within songs.
One thing I will say about GloryHammer though; they ARE NOT Alestorm. If you come into the album expecting the humour and drunken revelry that Alestorm famously made their style with songs like ‘Wenches and Mead’, ‘Rum’ and their hilarious cover of Wurzels classic ‘I am a Cider Drinker’ you will be disappointed. What you will find is a similar chemistry to Alestorm. Whereas Alestorm took everything they could about pirates and exaggerated it in typical Alestorm manner through their songs and mannerisms; GloryHammer now do the same with Scottish folklore, myths and legend. Gone are the pirate hats, replaced with knight’s helmets and mystical robes and the cutlass swapped for sword and sorcery. There are some jokes and silliness to be found here but not in typical Alestorm manner. Instead you will find that the band members have adopted the guises and persona’s of characters from their songs. You will also find a more clean and very much straight-to-the-point approach to power metal that is described on their Facebook page as ‘Heroic Fantasy Power Metal’ with ‘EPIC BATTLES!’.
Indeed ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife’ chronicles the battles between Bowes’ character and that of vocalist Thomas Winkler in what GloryHammer themselves describe as ‘The legends of the Kingdom of Fife, when the great hero Angus McFife waged an epic war against the evil wizard Zargothrax, to free the people of Dundee in the name of glory and steel.’ I predict awesome live shows in this band’s future with chainmail shirts and suits of leather armour as Alestorm are fond to do similar in pirate garb.
What you can expect from ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife’: lyrics inspired by epic battles, fantasy lands and creatures such as dragons, keyboards that sound like the harpsichord, epic guitar solos, thundering double bass drums (and sometimes hammer on steel!) and a driving bass and finally you will experience a want to listen to the album over and over again as I did.
The album opener ‘Anstruther’s Dark Prophecy’ leads you into the album perfectly in the manner of a fantasy movie score. The song leads directly into the album’s second track ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’, an epic tale of vampire unicorns that attack Dundee. Conjured by the hand of Zargothrax who wants to rule the land, it is this song that introduces us to album hero, Angus McFife who steps up to face the unicorns. This song has a truly epic guitar solo. Next up on the album is a song about the hero of the story ‘Angus McFife’. Dundee is left in ruins after the unicorn attack and McFife wants revenge! A catchy chorus is on his side however, which I predict will be sung most whole-heartedly during concerts, indeed I caught myself singing it while listening to the track over and over. It seems McFife needs help in his quest to slay the dark wizard though, so he goes on a ‘Quest for the Hammer of Glory’. An ancient and mystical weapon that will aid him on his mission. This song features a couple of epic guitar solos and impressive vocals from Winkler. A synthesised harpsichord opens the next song, ‘Magic Dragon’. A tale of McFife on a search for a dragon that he needs to help him defeat Zargothrax. McFife must defeat the dragon in battle before he will aid him. McFife’s weapons include an awesome synth solo followed by an epic guitar solo, a thunderous chorus and lyrics that conjure the most magical of images in my imagination. Just as the album is getting to a blood-pumping stage, it slows things down with ‘Silent Tears of Frozen Princess’; a powerful and beautiful ballad about lost love. McFife remembers his lost princess, whom Zargothrax imprisoned in ice. I can’t help but feel although Winkler’s vocal talents are well suited for the epic battle music it is slightly uneasy with the soft touch that this song is supposed to have. Nevertheless a powerhouse performance is given when a female voice (the voice of the titular princess?) joins and harmonizes with him. As the last notes of the song resonate with you, it’s back to full force as ‘Amulet of Justice’ kicks in. McFife and his dragon go on a search for a legendary item that will help him defeat the dark wizard. ‘Hail to Crail’ is about McFife’s search for warriors to aid in his quest. The chorus which is simply “Hail…to Crail” is uber-catchy and will be sung at concerts whenever the song is played. An epic guitar solo does nothing to hurt the song either. Following on is the instrumental ‘Beneath Cowdenbeath’ which features some of the albums best instrumental performances. The brilliant keyboard pieces and guitar riffs make this song; that wouldn’t seem out of place on a fighting game soundtrack. The mammoth nearly 11 minute song ‘The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder’ brings the album to an end with the final battle between McFife and Zargothrax. The voice of the ‘princess’ returns to compliment that of Winkler in this epic tale of good vs evil. It is this song that introduced drummer Ben Turk’s character of The Hermit of Cowdenbeath. He shows McFife a secret passage to Zargothrax’s castle. The album ends as the album begun with an ominous voice, this time providing an epilogue. A harpsichord plays the album out and the end has come…for now.
It is easy to get lost in the magic of this album. You are swept from song to song, nay tale to tale as the battles between McFife and Zargothrax capture your imagination and heart. From the speed and fury of ‘Magic Dragon’ and ‘Amulet of Justice’ to the epic power ballad that is ‘Silent Tears of Frozen Princess’; the album is one treat after another.
GloryHammer consists of Christopher Bowes aka Zargothrax, Dark Sorcerer of Auchtermuchty on keyboards Thomas Laszlo Winkler (Emerald) aka Crown Prince Angus McFife on vocals, my fellow Welshman, Paul Templing on guitars, James Cartwright on the bass and Ben Turk (Sorcerer’s Spell and The Burning Virgins) aka The Hermit of Cowdenbeath on drums.