I have been skulking around the dank halls of Angry Metal Guy World Headquarters long enough now that new albums are appearing from bands I’ve reviewed in the past. Sadly, they’re usually not good bands. Last month was another meh effort from Crippled Black Phoenix, and this month we get Hammer King1, a German power metal band whose 2016 album was, you guessed it, meh. King is Rising was marred by bad production, sketchy vocal moments, and uneven songwriting. Here on their third album, Poseidon Will Carry Us Home, the task is to find out whether the band took my critiques to heart2, and if the album is better for it.
Poseidon Will Carry Us Home is Hammer King’s first album without “King” in the title, but make no mistake, these fellows know which side of their bread to butter. Most of the songs are still about hammers and kings, and the Iron Maiden influence is stronger than ever. In fact, if they were related to Iron Maiden they could probably be their opening act on tour. Not only do their twin guitar leads and harmonies bow deeply before the Smith/Murray altar, “Warriors of Angelhill” opens with a backwards narrative just like “Still Life,” and go-to track “We Sail Cape Horn” mirrors the dynamics of pretty much every modern Maiden song. Some songs also have the jauntiness of Alestorm, and the band poke fun at themselves by not only repeating themselves, but also by being redundant, with song titles like “Battle of Wars” and “Glorious Night of Glory,” while also including a 37-second song where they just chant “Hammer King.”
Those are all examples of what I find charming about power metal: tongue-in-cheek humor and an unabashed worship of bands of yore. Being able to distill those elements into actual fun songs takes talent, though. Here on Poseidon Will Carry Us Home, Hammer King hit more often than they did on King is Rising, notably on the three “aquatic” songs – the title track, “At the Mercy of the Waves,” and “We Sail Cape Horn.” All three feature tight playing, great riffs, and stellar choruses. The arrangements and guitar solos on these songs stand up to anything out there. Ten such songs would result in the power metal album of the year.
Poseidon Will Carry Us Home does still suffer from some of the same ill effects as King is Rising, but to a slightly lesser extent. Titus Fox’s vocals remain the band’s weak point, but on this album his singing is much more restrained, only rarely reaching beyond notes he should try to hit, and his vocals are appropriately low in the mix. Not all the songs hit home, either. Despite this only being a 49-minute album, there is some chaff to be excised, most notably the final song, “Meatus Majestatis,” which is silly in a bad way. Penultimate track “We Sail Cape Horn” is a far greater song, and should have been the end. That being said, Powerwolf’s Charles Greywolf does a fine job producing this album, which is a step up from King is Rising.
Listen, all we can really ask for in life is that bands put out incrementally better albums each time, and that’s just what Hammer King have done here. While Poseidon Will Carry Us Home isn’t going to land on any Record o’ the Month lists3, the band has shored up the production, vocals, and songwriting to a degree that most of the tracks here are enjoyable – sure, some are ridiculously cheesy, but it’s okay to enjoy the fromage on occasion – which makes this a heartwarming and fun record to spin just before winter comes blowing in to take all our cheer away.