Tag Archives: Gloryhammer

Gloryhammer to support Blind Guardian in May

What better than the band who made a concept album about undead uncorns touring in support of the band who once set Tolkien’s Silmarillion to music?

The tour take in Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and Nottingham, finishing at The Forum in Kentish town on May 22nd.

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2015 in Live Music – Ten of the Best

Touchstone Farewell Gig

It’s harder to rank gigs in any kind of order than it is for records, since you can’t relive a one-off experience. These ten are those which have particularly stuck in the mind, and there is probably a bias towards the end of the year since those are freshest in the memory.

The Marillion Convention

There is nothing else quite like the fan conventions Marillion hold every other year. They see the band perform seven hours of music over three nights including a lot of rarely-played material, all before an audience of fanatical hardcore fans. This year’s was no exception, the highlight of which was the double album “Marbles” played in full on the Saturday night.

The Session at The Swansea Jazz Festival

One cannot live on prog alone, so The Swansea Jazz festival is always a good opportunity to explore something outside of the usual comfort zone. Some sets had far too many bass solos, but this New Orleans-based quintet were the undoubted highlight, with a frontline of sax and trumpet. The first solo from trumpeter Steven Lande was like hearing a really good blues or metal guitarist cutting loose.

Ramblin Man Fair

My first open air festival since High Voltage in London a few years back took place in leafy Maidstone. Saturday saw great sets in the sunshine from Touchstone, Blue Öyster Cult and the legendary Camel, the only disappointment being the lacklustre phoned-in set from Dream Theater. But the musical highlight was much of Sunday, with a bill beginning in the rain with Anna Phoebe, Knifeworld (“Excuse me while I towel down my guitar”), The Pineapple Thief and Riverside, and ending in a mesmerising set from headliners Marillion after the clouds cleared and the moon came out.

King Crimson at Hackney Empire

The unexpected emergence of a new incarnation of King Crimson didn’t disappoint in the slightest, and the seven-piece lineup with three drummers went from intense improvised jazz-metal workouts to fresh interpretations of the stately magnificence of their 70s classics. Some too-cool-for-school mainstream critics just didn’t get it at all, but it was their loss; the set included superb performances of some of the greatest music of the 20th Century, and that’s not something you say lightly.

Steven Wilson at The Royal Albert Hall

In terms of profile, Steven Wilson stands head and shoulders above any other contemporary progressive rock act, able to sell out venues that are otherwise the preserve of the 70s legends of the genre. I made the mistake of booking for just one of the two nights rather than both, for the sets were completely different. So I didn’t get to see the bulk of “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” played live, but did see Porcupine Tree classics and an intense “Raider II”. It was still an amazing experience.

Gazpacho & Iamthemorning at Islington Academy

I got wind of this gig via a fan of Iamthemorning who was wondering aloud if headliners Gazpacho were worth seeing live. Both bands turned out to be mesmerising; the way you could have heard a pin drop during the acoustic support act really says it all, and the headliner’s absolute mastery of atmospherics managed to outdo even Marillion. Progressive rock needs more violins.

Gloryhammer at Islington Academy

One support band of 2015 deserve a mention. Scotland’s heroes were special guests to Finnish power-metallers Stratovarious, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a support act so completely outclass the headliners. They has better songs, better stagecraft, and a level of fire & passion that the headliners completely lacked.

Public Image Limited at Reading Sub89

The artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten has still got it, and his singing style is totally unique. The other three quarters of PiL are tremendous musicians; a tight rhythm section and always inventive guitarist in Lu Edmonds meant that you spent as much time listening to the bass grooves or the guitar lines as the vocals. It’s a long way from classic rock, but it’s got more in common with the avant-garde end of progressive rock than you might think.

Touchstone & Magenta at Leamington Assembly

The farewell show for Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham pulled a packed crowd to the magnificent central England venue. Because Kim had suffered a throat infection days before they gig, they added former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay to the band as cover, and the band turned into a kind of heavy metal ABBA. It certainly brought a triumphal close to one chapter in the Touchstone story. And that’s before any mention of special guests Magenta, with a performance strong enough have been in this list in its own right.

Mostly Autumn at Leamington Assembly

Rather than their customary multi-date Christmas tour, Mostly Autumn decided to end 2015 with a single showcase gig in a central venue, what an event it turned out to be. Five hours of music included remarkably varied acoustic set that featured Angela Gordon singing lead at one point, a mesmerising but all-too-short set from violinist Anna Phoebe, what was probably the last full performance of “Dressed in Voices”, a Mostly Floyd set that was far, far better than any sceptics expected, and those traditional Christmas covers. And stunning versions of the rarely-played “The Night Sky” and “The Gap Is Too Wide”.

Those were just some of the many highlights of a great year of live music. Honourable mentions to Panic Room, Karnataka, Chantel McGregor and Luna Rossa, which have featured in this blog a lot, and to New Model Army and Lazuli, both “new” to me in terms of seeing live.

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2015 Albums of the Year – Part Two

We continue the album rundown with the countdown down to Eleven, setting things up for the Top Ten.

Eleven is a very metal number….

Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic

Beyond the Buried and Me Coma EclipticA quite remarkable record that sounds like all the best bits of contemporary metal and progressive rock from the last decade put into a blender. It’s hugely varied with musical references all over the place, yet it still hangs together as a coherent whole. There is an awful lot happening on this record, and it does take a few listens to take it all in. Songs take off in unpredictable directions, and there is more than one number that feels as though it contains a whole concept album’s worth of music in seven or eight minutes.

Dave Gilmour – Rattle That Lock

Rattle That LockThis highly polished singer-songwriter album is perhaps more satisfying that Pink Floyd’s coda “The Endless River”. Though it does tend towards the middle of the road in places, Gilmour’s immediately recognisable lead guitar lights up every song and sets this record apart. While it doesn’t reach the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd’s heyday. it’s still as much about the gorgeous orchestrated arrangements as it is about the songs.

Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards

Rise of the Chaos WizardsDundee’s finest power-metallers return with the follow-up to “Tales from the Kingdom of Fife” in which the hero Angus McFife takes the battle with the evil sorcerer Zargothrax to outer space, where he encounters The Goblin King of the Darkthrone Galaxy, and with the aid of the legendary Astral Hammer and The Hollywood Hootsman defeats the sorcerer in epic battle. Unfortunately Earth and all its inhabitants were destroyed in the process, but nobody noticed because Chaos Magic. But that’s power metal for you…

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

Iron Maiden Book of SoulsThe metal veterans and British institution continue a strong recent run of albums with one of the most ambitious things they’ve ever done, a double album that might just be their best record they’ve made since their 1980s heyday. They’ve managed a double album without filler, covering all bases from galloping rockers to ambitious epics. It culminates with “Empire of the Clouds”, an eighteen-minute tour-de-force which combines Bruce Dickenson’s loves of history and aviation, telling the story of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R101 airship.

Motörhead – Bad Magic

Motorhead Bad MagicLemmy’s increasingly frail health means Motörhead aren’t the live force they once were, but in the studio it’s another matter. Lemmy has still got it, and accompanied by Mikky Dee and the underrated Phil Campbell, they rock like a bastard, with songs that barrel along like a runaway train. On record at least, with what might prove to be their final album, Motorhead are still the epitome of the primal spirit of Rock’n'Roll, Britain’s equivalent to The Ramones.

Napalm Death – Apex Predator: Easy Meat

Apex Predator - Easy MeatNapalm Death are very angry. It’s hard to make out the words, so it’s not always obvious exactly what they’re angry about, but they’re very, very angry. They combine the visceral fury of punk with the precision of metal, to produce an album that tears out of the speakers and nails you to the wall. Napalm Death show absolutely no signs of mellowing in their old age, and they’ve made a record that’s utterly uncompromising.

Steve Hackett – Wolflight

Steve Hackett - WolflightThe former Genesis guitarist has gained a high profile with his Genesis revival show of late, but he’s also hit a late career purple patch with a string of excellent albums, of which this might be one of the finest. It’s a huge symphonic-sounding work, dominated by his distinctive liquid guitar playing and gorgeous harmony vocals. Just ignore the cover art with the embarrassed wolves and focus on the music.

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Universe on Fire!

The lead track from Gloryhammer’s second album, “Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards”.

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Gloryhammer – Tales from the Kingdom of Fife

Tales from the Kingdom of FifeA concept album describing how the bold hero Angus McFife saved the city of Dundee from the evil sorcerer Zargothrax and his horde of undead unicorns?

What’s not to like about that?

Power metal is a strange thing. There are a few bands in the genre who appear take themselves really seriously and come over as po-faced and pretentious; Sonata Arctica, I’m looking at you. And then there are bands like Gloryhammer who play it with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. The fact that they’ve dedicated the album to William McGonagall should tell you something. The only thing missing is a reference to Desperate Dan.

With song titles like “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee”, “Quest for the Hammer of Glory”, “Silent Tears of the Frozen Princess” and the grand finale of “The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder”, Gloryhammer are on a mission to leave no cliché unturned and produce something that sounds like an epic soundtrack for that well-known game played with twenty-sided dice.

It helps of course that the music itself is excellently done, with some very solid songwriting and tight musicianship throughout. It’s full of thundering rockers with singalong choruses and big soaring power ballads. There are the requisite neo-classical guitar solos and sweeping cinematic keyboards, and the occasional choir. This is big cheesy grin music in the best sense of the word.

Give this a listen:

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