on 6 November 2010
Do my ear decieve me? Viking metal, one of the most Scandinavian of all Scandinavian metals, played by a band from the lands of Emo and Nu Metal????? yup, I guess so, and, perhaps even more surrisingly, they're not 'alf bad!
Now, lets not beat around the bush. Anyone familiar with Ensiferum or Wintersun will know exactly whats going on with Hammer Horde. Slick Viking metal with power and melodic death influences, atmoshperic keys, and both growled and sung vocals. It's not that they're a complete clone, but Hammer Horde don't really bring anything new to the already very popular sound they offer, aside from having some VERY spandexy power metal singing. Maybe there's a touch of Bal-Sagoth as well... However, they are very good at what they do, and I'd think most Ensiferum and Wintersun fans would actually get quite a kick out of Hammer Horde. The song writing is prety good, as they manage to pull off a lot of longer 6-8 minutes songs without getting boring, and the guitar playing definetly ticks all the air-guitar boxes with some really great Maiden-tribute style riffing going on here and there and a very nice interplay between the two guitars in places. And I do always have a bit of a soft spot for those harmonised tremelo riffs. The vocals are also consistently strong, woth a nice black metal screech most of the time and some cheast-beating, full on power metal clean singing ala Manowar that fits perfectly. There's even some flutes and a bit of a Celtic jig on 'Triumph of Sword and Shield'. The only thing they're lacking is originality and a bit of individuality. Actually, its a bloody great album when i think about. sadly, just nothing I;ve not heard before
Under the Mighty Oath is defo a very good Viking metal album, and I guess HH is currently the best stateside band playing this style of music. However, that doesn't hide the fact that its a sound thats been done to death. If this had cae out in 2004, I would have given it the full five stars, but sadly they'll have to settle for four as, although this is a great album, its in a style thats been done to death already. Hopefully, after they've had some time to develop, they'll get more of a distinct sound and try to but a new spin on things.
People looking for a good 60 minutes of Ensiferum style music will probably lap this up, but anyone feeling a bit jaded about the genre may wish to look elsewhere. However, the quality of the musicianship on offer is definitly of a very high standard, and if Hammer Horde can find a bit more of their own identity on their next album they might turn out to be one of the better Viking Metal bands.