There’s grandiose storytelling, and then there’s Gloryhammer.
Wedged nicely between the traditional and the contemporary, Gloryhammer embodies all our favourite elements of power metal; fantasy, mythology, elaborate and often imposing characters and concepts. But supremely, it imbues camaraderie and hope.
New Album, New Vocalist, New Adventure
The band’s latest album sees us Return to the Kingdom of Fife, and it’s not the only return on the cards. BMA caught up with newly recruited vocalist, Sozos Michael, and stalwart guitarist Paul Templing to chat about imagination, momentum, and the band’s long-awaited return to Oz.
Now then; to Fife. For those playing at home, Fife is a region in Scotland, and the setting for the band’s debut album. It is the 10th century, and the evil wizard Zargothrax invades and conquers Dundee with an army of corrupted undead unicorns.
You still with me? Good.
So, this peanut, the evil wizard Zargothrax, kidnaps the princess Iona McDougall (gasp!). The prince of the Kingdom of Fife, Angus McFife, swears revenge and sets off on a quest to destroy the evil wizard and return Dundee to its former resplendence.
And that, in brief, covers the grounded part of the tale.
“Time travel is taking us back to the Kingdom of Fife; we pick up from where the first album left off,” Sozos exclaims of the new LP. “After his victory [that is, Angus McFife’s] over Zargothrax, he now has to face off against his clone. Who also has the added help of nuclear weaponry.
“So yeah… that’s the crux of it,” Sozos concludes.
“Nothing complicated at all,” Paul adds, with a chuckle.
Power Metal as a Vehicle for Emotion
Power metal as a genre so often stirs a familiar question asked of its progenitors: is it the storytelling, or the music that ultimately struck a chord? Longer in the game, Paul takes the lead:
“It’s going to be different for everyone,” he states. “But for me, I was originally in a different band—also a power metal outfit, also writing ridiculous conceptual fantasy stories—so I guess one thing fell into the other. I met Chris (Bowes – keyboardist for Gloryhammer, and lead vocalist and keytarist for Alestorm) and we formed Gloryhammer.
“Also, from a teenager I was a big fan of power metal,” Paul continues. “I loved now old school power metal bands like Rhapsody and Blind Guardian. So it’s a combination of these two things. Bands like Rhapsody, especially, who have storylines that are very confusing and sometimes completely nonsensical, is what we wanted to run with for Gloryhammer.”
I note Paul’s use of the term ‘old school’ when describing power metal. Being there is an undeniable argument to the distinctions between traditional and joined Gloryhammer because I think it’s what sets the band apart. There are many bands that do the whole ‘Ah, isn’t this silly?’ tone, but very few of them do it as sincerely as Gloryhammer. I’m able to channel real feelings within my performance; the anger, the triumph.
Sozos Approach to Vocals
“As for the technical aspect, I have always liked vocal harmonies,” Sozos continues, on a roll. “The difference between the vocals of the first three albums to the fourth is that there is much more going on. There is more harmony, more elaborate melodies, and a bit more agility in the sense of positioning.”
It seems safe to say Sozos enjoys a challenge.
“Yes,” he’s quick to respond. “I don’t think I’m even halfway through my musical evolution at the moment. I’m always trying to learn. And Gloryhammer is an environment where I can just explore what is possible. It is a challenging environment.”
With him, Sozos has brought a new outlook and methodology, as well as an energy, that has added further weight to Gloryhammer’s impact; something Paul recognises.
“It has helped me realise that I can expand a lot in the space provided,” Paul elaborates. “Sozos brings a lot more technicality to the vocals. He is probably the most academically inclined singer I’ve encountered. He sings as you would play an instrument. He is thinking of the notes, the intervals. Most singers don’t think on that level; they use more intuition than anything. Sozos really goes beyond that.”
The Creative Process
The majority of the Gloryhammer themes are created by Chris, who is described as having an uncanny ability to come up with ideas, almost at random, and completely off the cuff. He will also disappear, presumably into some remote, mountainous cavern, only to emerge two months later with a string of songs (and also with, presumably, a long wizened beard and a slightly mad look in the eye).
The boys went into more detail, stating that the construction of a song is not necessarily a carefully assembled process, but more of a plethora of ideas cast into the air, before clattering on the creative floor where, like a puzzle, the band piece them together.
Inspired by such concepts and stories, a dedicated bunch of Gloryhammer fans have expanded the scenario via their own fan-fiction which, in turn, have given the band a sense of clarity.
“In some ways that helps us!” Paul chuckles. “If they want to make sense of our nonsense, that’s great.”
Gloryhammer’s second ever tour was Australia, a massive feat, playing more shows here than anywhere else in the world, including their home country. That was close to ten years ago. Now, these mighty warriors of the galaxy finally return. So get in the mood, grab yourself a copy of Return to the Kingdom of Fife, and fill your soul with tales of old set to a soundtrack worthy of an epic.
Return to the Kingdom of Fife is out now through Napalm Records.