Gloryhammer - Return to the Kingdom of Fife (Napalm Records)
With a legacy dating back over forty five years, the genre of power metal is nearly synonymous with tales of fantastic lands, beasts, wars, heroes, and villains. While some bands stick to the traditional formula of speedy riffs and soaring vocals as pioneered by Judas Priest, Exciter, and Running Wild, other bands pair searing guitar solos with epic keyboards to add symphonic element to the blend.
The result is a musical trip to far away kingdoms to join an epic quest: a front row seat to the war of all wars.
Such is the case with Gloryhammer and their latest release, Return to the Kingdom of Fife. Continuing a ten year saga, starting with 2013's, Tales from the Kingdom of Fife, the Scottish quintet's fourth album is a master class in story telling, anthemic choruses, and incredible instrumentation.
From the opening lines of "Holy Flaming Hammer of Unholy Cosmic Frost," your gracious hosts are pleased to 'Welcome mighty heroes into this ancient land.' The track perfectly sets the scene, painting vivid images of dwarves, men, and wizards sharing the realm under Prince Angus McFife. But what's this? Beyond the keyboard solo, a threat looms on the horizon! From 'across the infinite void of time and space' looms the shadow of the wicked sorcerer, Zargothrax.
Traveling into the 'forsaken realm' of "Imperium Dundaxia", Zargothrax's scheme is revealed and the clock begins ticking towards doomsday behind the shredding guitars. Will our hero beat the odds and stop the sorcerer and his goblin army?
Beyond the kingdom's borders dwells the barbarian known as The Hootsman. Taking a page from classic Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences, "Wasteland Warrior Hoots Patrol" is a synth driven number meant to test the might of your horse, motorcycle, or some futuristic combination of the two. In essence: the speed limit is just a suggestion.
Together with The Hootsman, Prince Angus is also joined by the "Brothers of Crail", a fraternity of champions who once served the King, now led by Grandmaster Proletius. Traveling deep into the Dwarven Caves to battle the "Sword Lord of the Goblin Horde," the legion succeeds but are unable to recover the "Vorpal Laserblaster of Pittenweem". Beating the heroes to the prize, Zargothrax claimed the weapon for himself, becoming the "Keeper of the Celestial Flame of Abernathy".
In the twelve minute long final chapter, "Maleficus Geminus", the battle for the ages is thrown into chaos as Zargothrax unleashes his clone: twice the sorcerer, twice the wickedness. Overwhelmed by the darkness, hope fades for the Prince before the fight is interrupted by the arrival of the Starlords of Eternity. In an unexpected twist, the Prince's story now goes far beyond the Kingdom of McFife, 'far across the endless galaxy'.
The true ending will not be spoiled here, but the next chapter is sure to be one of galactic proportions.
The Metal Mayan review:
I admit that this album definitely a case of 'come for the music, stay for the story,' but I am absolutely glad I stuck around for the latter. Sometimes symphonic power metal lore can be difficult, especially if you have not heard the previous albums, but Gloryhammer made it easy to jump right in and understand our hero, the villain, and the conflict. That said, I will certainly give their prior releases a listening.
Musically, it's everything you could ask for from a great symphonic power metal album, and then some. "Wasteland Warrior Hoots Patrol" is certainly a favorite, it just begs for you to throw on your favorite sunglasses, get behind the wheel and floor it down the freeway.
I also couldn't help but want to dance to "Brothers of Crail". If you've never been to a power or folk metal show, you might not know that some songs warrant actual jigs, waltzing, and dancing instead of moshing. It's probably one of the most things you can experience at a concert and I would expect nothing less when Gloryhammer comes to town.
Whether you're a fantasy/sci-fi fan or just looking for an enjoyable record, definitely give this one a spin and get lost in a exciting journey!
Grab your sword and shield, and pick up a copy of Return to the Kingdom of Fife, out now on Napalm Records.
Advance copy courtesy of Secret Service PR and Napalm Records