Angus McSix – Angus McSix and the Sword of Power Review

Hello, reader—can I call you reader? Let’s be honest with each other. You know exactly what to expect here. You know what kind of music this is; you know what this review is going to say; you do not need to skip to the end to know what score is coming. Even if you don’t know that the former vocalist for Gloryhammer Thomas Winkler has, since his dramatic departure from the group, started up anew with a Europe-spanning band called Angus McSix, even if you didn’t know that Gloryhammer and Winkler are well-known for their cheesy, over-the-top tales of fantasy, even if you haven’t glanced down and noticed that the preview song on Bandcamp for Angus McSix and the Sword of Power is called “Laser-Shooting Dinosaur,” you know. You know this is power metal of the cheesiest, wildest, zaniest variety, and you also know full well I love it. So now that we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s discuss exactly why all that is.

We may as well start with Winkler (Angus McSix, Starlord of the Sixtus Stellar System) himself—and if he was in the spotlight in Gloryhammer, he is the spotlight in Angus McSix. Opener and lead single “Master of the Universe” immediately establishes Winkler as the album’s focal point, bringer of hooks, and secondary keyboard. His upbeat, energetic vocal delivery sounds as strong as ever, and puts on an extremely varied performance. The gradual increase in pitch throughout the epic “Starlord of the Sixtus Stellar System” contributes to its sense of grandeur; meanwhile, his rapid delivery throughout “Laser-Shooting Dinosaur” contributes greatly to the charm of the song. Elsewhere altogether, songs like the gloriously catchy “Sixcalibur” rely on Winkler’s higher register, dialing the pitch and cheese both to 10 for maximum memorability. Winkler is joined by choral vocals and occasional backing narrations from guitarist/bassist Sebastian Levermann (Arch Demon Seebulon, The Origin of all Evil) (Orden Ogan), making the vocals on this album a labyrinth of their own, and an easy highlight from its first seconds.

But Angus McSix is not the Thomas Winkler solo project—as much as the vocals are front and center, the musicians beside him do a lot of heavy lifting themselves. The album as a whole comes across like a fusion between Sonata Arctica, Blind Guardian, and Gloryhammer. Levermann, along with Talia Bellazecca (Thalestris, Queen of the Lazer-Amazons of Caledonia) perform exceptionally well on guitars, contrasting Winkler’s cheesy singing—and cheesier keyboard playing—with heavy, memorable hooks. “Starlord of the Sixtus Stellar System” benefits greatly from their playing and, generally speaking, Angus McSix and the Sword of Power does not lack the heaviness demanded of a metal album. Drummer Manuel Lotter (Skaw! Buff Berserker from the North) rises to the tall task of maintaining the album’s energy and keeping up with his bandmates, from the album’s most energetic moments (“Master of the Universe”) to the mid-paced bangers (“In a Past Reality”). The songwriting on Angus McSix and the Sword of Power allows these musicians to work together remarkably well.

All cheesy power metal finds itself facing the problem of sounding way too much like itself, and here Angus McSix sidesteps the issue largely by experimenting through its (surprisingly brief) runtime (42 minutes). Often, this works well. “Ride to Hell” is easily one of the best tracks on the album, utilizing a traditional heavy metal feel and blending it seamlessly with Angus McSix’s charisma. On the other hand, “The Key to Eternity” falters by sounding too “modern”—heavy keyboard use and what sounds like slight use of autotune use makes it sound like some sort of symphonic metal collaboration between Kamelot and Amaranthe. It’s a fine song, but pales beside its contemporaries. A lot of these more mid-paced, experimental numbers appear in the second half of the album, making it feel front-loaded. Still, even if occasionally through sheer charisma, storytelling, and energy, Angus McSix makes it through without a bad song in the bunch.

The sense of fun, joy, and energy that permeates every second of Angus McSix and the Sword of Power is outstanding. This is easily some of the best power metal I’ve heard in a good while. Angus McSix have blasted their way onto the metal scene triumphantly with part one of an epic saga, and I am certain I’ll still be replaying their debut when it comes time for part two.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2023

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