During my teenage years I listened to power metal so obsessively that I read every professional and personal “best of power metal” list and watched every YouTube power metal compilation I could get my grubby, uncoordinated mitts on. Even so, bands I somehow overlooked, such as Vhäldemar, are regularly brought to my attention. A Spanish band that’s been active since 1999, Vhäldemar released a pair of relatively well received albums in the early 00’s, featuring influences far-flung as Gamma Ray, Manowar, and Rhapsody. After independently releasing a couple of underwhelming records in the early half of this decade, they’ve found a new home with Fighter Records, a label known around these parts for harboring the disasterpiece that is Tales of Gaia‘s Hypernova. Will Against All Kings display a return to form for Vhäldemar – and a shot at redemption for their label?

Thankfully, I can’t think of a power metal album in recent memory as far removed from Hypernova’s aesthetic as Against All Kings. While that record represented the fluffiest aspects of the power metal genre to the point of unintentional parody, Vhäldemar’s sound here is riff-based and immense. Cutting out much of the melo-power metal influence that defined their earlier material, Against All Kings is Heavy with a capital H, and falls squarely into the school of Big Dumb Fun populated by largely mid-paced acts such Manowar, Hammerfall, and Dream Evil. This isn’t a revolutionary approach by any stretch, but I find Vhäldemar’s pairings of massive walls of power chords with anthemic gang choruses to be strangely satisfying and addictive, and at just under forty minutes it leaves me wholly satisfied yet consistently slamming the replay button.

While most of Against All Kings opts for the reliably solid mid-paced approach, well-spaced spikes of speed keep the record engaging so as not to risk falling into a monotonous routine. “Old King’s Visions (Part V)” showcases Rage-esque riffage that flexes guitarist Pedro Monge’s technical muscle and injects the proceedings with a shot of instrumental complexity, whereas “Howling at the Moon” employs classic Helloween rhythms alongside catchy folk leads and a fantastic chorus to become one of my favorite tracks in the genre this year. Speaking of Helloween, “Walking in the Rain” is an outright oddity in that in mimics that band’s modern sound with startling accuracy. I’m not sure whether there’s a guest singer on this track, but if not, long-time vocalist Carlos Escudero does an excellent job of emulating the timbre and cadences of Helloween’s Andi Deris.

Escudero’s snarling, gravelly delivery may prove too over the top for some, but I find his distinct approach an effective and charming fit for Vhäldemar, conveying lyrics about killing kings with all the veracity you’d expect from your libertarian uncle who visits every Christmas. The refrains he delivers largely hit home – the choruses of “Howling at the Moon” and “Eye for an Eye” explode with power metal pomp, while the title track’s refrain soars with glam rock grandiosity – but others fall just a bit flat (namely that of “The Last to Die”). Really, my musical complaints against AAK boil down to nitpicking, but the record’s sole pitfall lies in its production. This thing is fucking loud, and while the mastering gives Vhäldemar the “larger than life” sound they were probably hoping for, I’d love to hear a decently dynamic version of it. The guitar and drum tones are appropriately thunderous, though, but the bass tone is fairly wimpy and the keyboards are largely pushed to the background. I appreciate Vhäldemar’s guitar-first approach, but I found myself puzzled as to why they even keep a keyboardist in their employ when they’re relegating his audibility to the occasional lead or solo.

After many, many listens, I’m still uncertain as to why Against All Kings hooked me the way it did. It’s not inventive by any stretch, but Vhäldemar’s totally unpretentious blending of heavy and melodic varieties of power metal is so catchy and rockable that, even as I write this review, I find myself being sucked back in for more. It’s a shame the production couldn’t have seen a bit more dynamic breathing room, but as there’s a vinyl version releasing sometime in December, production snobs interested in the album may want to wait until then to pick this up. If you’re a fan of this style of power metal, pick it up either way.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Fighter Records
Websites: vhaldemar.bandcamp.com | vhaldemar.net |  facebook.com/vhaldemaroficial
Releases Worldwide: November 7th, 2017

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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    NO.

    • Spear

      YES

      • Jim Bob

        MAYBE?

        • Brutalist_Receptacle

          NO.

          • BaboonKing

            +1 for consistency.

    • Tofu muncher

      Vhäldemar rules

  • Innit Bartender

    That band photo is not power enough.

    • RuySan

      But the names “Carlos Escudero” and “Pedro Monge” surely are.

      • Innit Bartender

        Definitely!

      • defjam

        Pedro Monge aka Power Monger

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Photo updated because I fucked up the original post. How do you feel now?

      • Innit Bartender

        Man, that’s quite an… improvement! And they gained a band member as well!

  • welyyt

    I think you guys don’t review enough power metal.

    • We agree.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        How’s the new Serenity aging for you Steely? It hasn’t left my play list since it came out. Bloody catchy Lil devil it is.

        • I kinda jumped ship after War of Ages.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            That’s a great album too.
            Im pretty hooked in by them tbh. Maybe it’s the part of me that misses the more melodic and straight forward days of Sonata Arctica.
            Dude has a great voice and penchant for writing earworm melodies.

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      IT DOESNT MATTER WHAT YOU THINK NOW GET ME A SODA JABRONI

      • Eli Valcik

        hahaha, you Jabroned him

  • Fazy

    Where is the new Elvenking? Glaring omission here on PMG.

    • Jozo90

      Or Beast in Blacks debut album?

      • Eldritch Elitist

        I’m probably going to do that one as a TYMHM review. Elvenking is AMG’s joint, not sure if he’s had the time to write about it though.

  • RuySan

    They could just rename the record “Republican”

  • Digital Violence

    Based on the embedded track this is pretty good stuff, but then I do have a weakness for cheesy Power Metal and I have a shiny Hammerfall-approved “Brotherhood Of Metal” membership card.

    • Angelus

      My hero

  • André Snyde Lopes

    > hire John Cobbett
    > change name to Vhöldemar

    That’ll guarantee that I check it out.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      Cobbett’s on this?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        I wish.

    • Nukenado

      Hammers of Fortune could be a power metal band.

  • Not bad at all, but that DR 4…

  • We welcome in Swordborn and now look at us. Angry Muenster Guys, all.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Bring…..it…..on

      • That’s all them, I’m here for black metalz and silly band names.

        • Eli Valcik

          Once again the present has forsaken me and I have had to go back to the classics, I’ve been bingeing Sabbat for the last 24 hours straight and I’m on a personal mission to collect some of their discography (almost 194 vinyls!)

    • I searched google for “Muenster Metal” and I stumbled upon a great discovery for all mankind. BEHOLD!

      Münster Metal Massaker

      I could not believe my eyes, the metal gods have truly smiled upon us this day.

  • Is that cover from soulblade?

    • Eli Valcik

      hahaha, looks like it a lot.

    • Nukenado

      Cervantes is bullshit overpowered.

    • Nukenado

      (If you are talking about the fighting game)

  • Odin is olde…but the fire still burns.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      You dig?

  • Angelus

    This is my jam. *spreads mac and cheese all over his chest*

    • VikingSchism

      No, that’s not jam, that’s cheese

      • Flämmer

        I like your style, carry on.

      • Don’t forget the mac, good sir. Without the mac, this is not nearly as impressive of a feat.

  • sir_c

    It’s quite enjoyable indeed; the vocalist has a bit of that Symphony X guy’s sound.

    • That’s Russell Allen to you! And I don’t exactly hear it, but that’s okay. I think Russell Allen is a lot better, he’s a really damn good singer.

      Also, they must use two singers. “Howling at the Moon”, for example, has a Kiske wannabe.

      By the way, the more I listen to this and want to make fun of it, the more I like it. JESUS CHRIST I can’t afford to buy another album based on reading reviews and hearing samples off of this website!

      • sir_c

        Yes Russell. Not his style but the sound or timbre of his voice did make me remind of him. I lack the musical knowledge to describe the thing I am hearing. But maybe 25+ years of metal have damaged my hearing beyond repair

  • dumbidiot

    “Seriously Steve, take the goddam photo already. If this perm gets wet I’ll lose my shit”

  • Kmill

    This would have been a tough review for me to write. I have no idea where that little umlaut is on my keyboard.

    • sir_c

      I see dead keys

  • Lithophyte

    First track was so Dream Evil. Gets better from there, and has its moments but lots of cheese.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Ain’t nothin wrong with Dream Evil!

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    As I’m a fan of many of the bands name-dropped in this review, I was excited to check out this release. However, after giving it a spin, I’m baffled as to how this could be awarded a 3.5. A 1.0 would have been generous.