Tag Archives: Power Metal

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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Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels

Italy’s Rhapsody of Fire (formerly called Rhapsody) were one of the first symphonic metal bands when they emerged in the late 1990s.. Their style of “epic fantasy metal” is part operatic metal, part Hollywood film score, with Dungeons and Dragons lyrics and song titles like “The Ancient Forest of Elves”. I’ve half-jokingly described them as musically making Queen sound like XTC, and lyrically making Dio sound like The Arctic Monkeys. U2 fans have even been known to run away screaming in terror. But at their best their music can be gloriously over the top, and hugely entertaining provided you aren’t allergic to a little bit of cheese.

Their latest album “The Frozen Tears of Angels” has been out a few months now. It’s got most the traditional Rhapsody elements, such as choirs and spoken word parts by Sir Christopher Lee among others. The lyrics are another fantasy saga, rather more David Eddings than Tolkien (Seriously, a villain called “Necron”?  Come on guys, surely you can do better than that?).

While by no means a bad album, doesn’t quite seem to have the same spark as previous offerings. Perhaps it’s down to the fact they’ve not used an orchestra this time, with the symphonic parts played on layered keyboards instead. Yes, there are still some great moments, like the monstrous opening track with pseudo-orchestration backing Christopher Lee’s ominous-sounding narration – about as epic as something less than three minutes long can possibly be. And we stll have some huge soaring Carl Orff-style choral moments.  But there are also times when they fall back to some very generic Euro power-metal, which I find far less interesting than their more cinematic moments.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that they aren’t really breaking any new ground with this release. They’re largely repeating what they’ve already done before, at a time when other bands in the symphonic metal scene are still moving the genre forward. A dozen years after their debut, the likes of Epica, Nightwish and especially Therion leave Rhapsody of Fire sounding a little dated by comparison.

If you’re a fan of the band, you’ve almost certainly got this album already by now.  But if you want an introduction to Rhapsody of Fire’s gloriously over the top music, you’re probably better off starting with one of their earlier albums such as “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” or “Triumph or Agony” rather than with this one.

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