Leaving the high seas for the medieval and mystical realm of an alternative Scotland, Alestorm vocalist and keyboardist Christopher Bowes stands resplendent in his power metal clothed kilt within new project Gloryhammer. Bowes exploits all the rich essences of the genre not ignoring the cheesiest elements too, to bring a debut album in Tales from the Kingdom of Fife which is set to ignite the passions of all power metal fans. The album is a slab of epic adventure complete with as you would expect, triumphant riffs, passionate energy, and a heart which pumps as loudly as the rhythms which mark the battlefield I victory and defeat.
The Napalm Records released Tales from the Kingdom of Fife is a concept album which narrates the story of an alternate -history medieval Scotland where dragons, wizards, and dark sorcery fuel and rule the air. Telling the tale of a glorious hero Angus McFife, who wages a long war against the evil wizard Zargothrax, in order to free the people of Dundee, the album is an epic struggle and adventure brought through ten giant slices of bombastic energy and melodic fire soundtracking a fight of good versus evil. It is a release which if power metal does not ignite any passions than it will be a relatively dry well but for genre fans it is destined to be spoken of with excited breath and rampant enthusiasm. To be honest we lie somewhere in between and found as much to impress and enjoy as we did to hide our armour from, but the truth is that the album is still rather compelling from start to finish.
With a line-up alongside Bowes (keyboards) of vocalist Thomas Winkler, guitarist Paul Templing, bassist James Cartwright, and Ben Turk on drums, Gloryhammer opens up the release with Anstruther’s Dark Prophecy, a brief portent of looming black shadows and destructive winds upon a once peaceful place. Its rising presence passes over to The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee without a breath and its successor is immediately charging through the ear with galloping riffs and a cage of firm rhythms. It is instantly virulently infectious with the vocals of Winkler soaring through the skies with expression and passion whilst the keys lay like the sun upon the senses. Whether there is anything new going on we will leave to true genre fans to decide but through the familiar sonic cascades and melodic elegance it is impossible not to be captivated, especially with the sirenesque keyboard teasing which enrich the song throughout.
Angus McFife elevates things with its even more contagious lures and thumping pulse. The bass of Cartwright is a prowling predator throughout the track whilst the keys envelope with a glorious sense of heroism to enflame further the already anthemic pull of the vocals and guitar shaped sounds. The power ballad Quest For The Hammer Of Glory fails to exact the same passions for personal tastes but perfectly caresses the struggle and determination of the hero at this point of his story before making way for the first of the two major pinnacles within the album.
Opening with a delicious and inspiring evocation of potent steely keys, Magic Dragon is a fiery and scintillating journey of unbridled energy and melodic triumph cored by again keys which leave one exhausted and blissful as well as an anthemic unity and call which even the dead would raise their hearts for. Again the song has a familiarity about it which only goes to make the encounter more invigorating and even as an old friend in sound, its realisation and delivery is quite breath-taking. The track steals top honours though is seriously challenging by the exhilarating instrumental Beneath Cowdenbeath further into the album.
Before its appearance the likes of the beautifully sculpted emotive ballad Silent Tears Of Frozen Princess and Hail To Crail with its almost regal call offer their descriptive and inviting presences though they falter in raising anything near the rapture as spawn by Magic Dragon, then again after that song they were on a hiding to nothing and emerge almost plain in comparison. Beneath Cowdenbeath though is a scintillating campaign through intense and urgent endeavour brought with skilled interpretation and thought evoking craft. It is a stirring piece of music which leaves one grinning inside and out.
Ending the tale with the triumphant climax of The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder, the album finishes off a rather thrilling encounter with epic passion and energy. To be honest expectations of Tales from the Kingdom of Fife were not exactly high even with Bowes being its mastermind, but it surprised and surpassed all thoughts with ease. Gloryhammer may not be a band to take over Alestorm in our musical appetite but certainly makes a worthy and enjoyable companion.
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