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Gloryhammer - Space 1992 - 93%

Silicon Messiah, September 25th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Napalm Records

It is the distance future of 1992 and Gloryhammer's sophomore effort is clashing the apocalyptic skies, and epic space battle is fight! Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards is 2015's most anticipated power metal release. The debut, Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife released in 2013, was one of the greatest debut albums I've heard, as well as one of the best power metal albums in a long time.

Christopher Bowes of Alestorm had gathered a bunch of musicians to create a project closer to the core of power metal. Namely epic fantasy. The smartest thing he did was to hand over vocal duties to - then unknown - Thomas Winkler. The man has a very competent voice which makes a nice complement to the humoristic lyrics demanded of him. On Gloryhammer's sophomore album, he takes a somewhat darker approach, but doesn't shy away from the high notes when appropriate.

The comedy is in the fact that Gloryhammer so strongly makes fun of not only power metal as a genre, but itself. It's simply just for tits and giggles; not everything needs to be dead serious. Hence, an intro with a Latin title is mandatory, as well as Latin phrases chanted across the album, albeit rather sparsely.

A lot of the music is built on the concept and power metal clichés of Rhapsody, including two of the strongest tracks, 'Goblin King Of The Darkstorm Galaxy' and title track 'Rise Of The Chaos Wizards'. These tracks feel like they were plucked from the Rhapsody repertoire, complete with high flying, melodic choruses and an epic feel. It works ridiculously well, and as I said, it's just plain fun. 'Rise Of The Chaos Wizards' doesn't quite deliver on my first bout with the album, but gains with each listen, before becoming one of my favorites. On top of that, the song has been given a fun-to-watch video to go with it.

'The Hollywood Hootsman' starts off with some heavy riffs by axeman Paul Templing, but moves on to a more of a standard song about the king of California, riding from the silver screen to the battlefield. Funny though it is, I wish it had offered more of Templings riffage and guitar showmanship that the intro hints of. The (ridiculously short) solo delivers however, being one of the best on the entire album. Another great solo can be heard in 'Questlords Of Inverness, Ride To The Galactic Fortress!', which shows Templing in a more laid back approach, but really showing off.

I also have to mention teaser song 'Universe On Fire'. Released early in the summer as a lyric video, it simply has no counterpart. Synth heavy and deep, befitting a disco or a retro 90's video game, the only word I can describe it with, is... cozy. Just cozy. But in fact, it is a soulfully delivered track, standing out as one of the best on the album, even though it takes a bit of an open mind to appreciate. Fans of traditional Rhapsody styled power metal shouldn't bother.

Of course, all epic power metal albums need an epic ten minute closer. This time, it's Apocalypse 1992', another of the albums highlights. Gloryhammer shows the quality of their songwriting and their flair for the melodramatic. Though not as high and mighty as 'The Epic Rage Of Furious Thunder' from their first album, it carries some rock solid guitar play by Templing and high wailing by Winkler as good and evil clash in an epic space battle for the future of the city of Dundee - and Earth.

A double album is also released, where the second disc will carry symphonic versions of each of the album's songs. I haven't yet gotten to hear this as part of the promo material, so I still have something to look forward to. (Especially because of the awesome song title 'An Epic War Is Fight'.)

Winkler, as I've said, is a really good vocalist, with a wide range and often a laid back attitude that might feel antithetic to the purpose, but it really fits in. Unfortunately, he's sometimes accompanied by layered choirs during the chorus, as in 'Legend Of The Astral Hammer'. Winkler could easily handle the situation by himself, and so it only brings it down and keeps it from becoming what they could have been.

2015 has seen several great power metal releases, as well as a few disappointments. My first listen of Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards does leave me a bit underwhelmed, even though it grows with each listen. After living with the album for a week it's sniffing the coat tails of the quality standard of Gloryhammer's debut. Still, it lacks the same initial punch. It's not quite as varied as its predecessor, but feels a bit the same from the beginning to the end. The story is easy to follow and works well in the cliché filled lyrics.

Fans of power metal will definitely find a fun listen if nothing else, and fans of the epic Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife will find a solid follow up that while not offering many surprises, is solid and - in lack of better words - great. I'm already curious about what turn album number three might take, because there's no doubt that Gloryhammer is one of the most interesting bands in today's power metal scene. Space 1992 is fight!

Standout tracks: Universe On Fire, Apocalypse 1992, Rise Of The Chaos Wizards

Originally written for 'getmetal.com'