Gloryhammer are a pretty popular band here at AMG HQ.1 Of course there was a fight over this review, and of course it was settled by fair roll of a D20. If you’re rolling your eyes at this point, Gloryhammer may not be the band for you. If you missed the tongue-bathing AMG gave their last album, Gloryhammer are one of the best active Rhapsody-style epic power metal bands, and also a loving, self-aware parody of same. They’re founded first on quality and second on overly-amped up tropes—D-tier speculative fiction plot, non-native English speaker lyrics, etc.—to the precise point where they become obviously funny. It’s not so overdone that it becomes tiresome, and it works because of the attention to detail2 and cohesiveness of the whole: take a couple of elements away and you might wonder whether they were actually serious all along.3
Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex is not going to surprise you if you’ve heard Gloryhammer‘s previous records. Much as the plot is a direct sequel to Space 1992, musically they pick up exactly where they left off. The Scots deploy quintessential power metal staples of hypermelodic leads, guitar gallops, synth riffs, and anthemic choruses with great abandon. Gloryhammer are an absolutely top-tier live act, and the songwriting on this album is increasingly driven by producing material that a live crowd can belt out. There’s the titular chants from “Gloryhammer” and “The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust).” There’s also the singalong choruses of “Legendary Enchanted Jetpack” and the impossibly catchy pop of “Masters of the Galaxy,” which I’ve had stuck in my head non-stop since I first heard it. The band clearly found their winning formula, though perhaps play it a little safe in deploying it.
It’s hard to blame them—I don’t exactly listen to Gloryhammer in search of raw innovation. But when this album has almost exactly the same structure as the previous, down to slotting dance track “Hootsforce” eighth (same position as “Universe on Fire”), I do start to wonder where the line between effective parody and repeating oneself lies. For all that Space 1992 was faithful to the epic power metal template, it felt fresh and every track was a standout. The same isn’t quite true here. Likewise, the lyrics aren’t quite as funny this time around. This isn’t to say they’re not funny; “Battle for Eternity,” for example, is non-stop gold with lyrics you owe it to yourself to listen to. But there’s also nothing on quite the level of arguably the most enduringly hilarious lyric penned by humanity: 1992‘s “It’s the rage / The cosmic rage / The cosmic rage of astral dwarves from Aberdeen!”
Speaking of the lyrics, none of this would work without enormously talented vocalist Thomas Winkler. He has a great delivery and range, not to mention an authentic German power metal accent. His ability to sing the most knowingly ridiculous lyrics with complete conviction is critical. This isn’t to detract from the other performances by any means—each of which is top-notch—but it’s uniquely hard to imagine Gloryhammer succeeding to the same extent with a lesser vocalist.
This is a very good record. It’s going to be a fantastic addition to their live set in a lot of ways, and I’m particularly looking forward to yelling “GLORY! HAMMER!” during what’s sure to be a live staple. Songs like “Masters of the Galaxy” and “Hootsforce” are as good as they’ve ever written. But as a whole, Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex hasn’t blown me away, and it’s not going to change anybody’s mind about the band. Instead, the specter of Gloryhammering the dead space unicorn a little too much looms somewhere on the event horizon.