Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
Today a friend of mine came up with the idea of doing a music review podcast together with the other members of our recently formed band, CHUB, and it inspired me to start reviewing all sorts of things more generally and uploading them here. I am an avid consumer of movie, game, music, and literature reviews, and more broadly I like to consider myself a well-informed critic of everything I enjoy from beer to battle rap and anime to artwork, so I thought it would be good to try my hand at creating something new.
The first album we were tasked to review and talk about was ‘Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex’, by Gloryhammer. I sat down, lit an incense, and quieted my mind in preparation. I wanted to absorb the music without internal commentary and closely examine my first sensual impressions of it rather than over-prepare a long spiel later. Improvisation and close focus on spontaneous emotion is always the best approach in my opinion. So I sat silently and let the exuberance of these high-fantasy-esque power ballads wash over me.
The name, Gloryhammer, conjures an image in one’s mind almost automatically before ever listening to their music. This is intentional and fits perfectly with the rest of their persona. For me it was a vision of vast wastelands and battlefields either in some Mad Max technocalypse or an Arthurian world of knights and demonic horrors threatening kingdoms’ destructions and fair maidens’ hearts. In reality, the world of Gloryhammer is somewhere inbetween the two, with some Warhammer 40K and D&D thrown in for good measure. This is a band that exudes a character of pride and defiance in their aesthetic vision with every cheesy guitar solo, every belted high note, and in song titles such as ‘The Land of Unicorns’, ‘Power of the Laser Dragon Fire’, and ‘The Fires of Ancient Cosmic Destiny’. They are unabashed, unashamed, and I fucking love it.
Almost immediately upon starting this album my inner fourteen year old was resurrected from his comatose sleep of many long winters – and that is in no way meant to be insulting. Fourteen year old me had an unadulterated sense of wonder and epicness that my modern self can only blurrily recall through the ironic haze of my early twenties. Old heroes of mine like Dragonforce, Firewind, Yngvie Malmsteen, Savatage, Stratovarious and many more came flooding back to me, and over the following hour or so of listening I was forced to wonder why I ever stopped engaging with this sort of dramatic, fantastical, mythos-soaked metal that I love. I guess I just let it slip away, but it’s back now with a passion, and I want to dig up all those other bands and rediscover the lost feelings they invoked.
Side note: I just finished playing the Final Fantasy 7 remake, and the first half of the album kind of reminded me of a turbocharged, lyricised version of the soundtrack for that game. What do you think? Anyway, enough about me.
Each song on the disc is distinct enough that they stand out separately in my mind, but the album as a whole has the coherence of a very well thought through concept project that flows together seamlessly from one track to the next. I see a lot of influence from the sorts of bands I mentioned above, the symphonic, sometimes neo-classical structures and movements of Malmsteen or Stratovarious, the powerful vocals and quick-moving solos of Dragonforce and Firewind, the fantastical lyrical settings and themes that are common in the genre as a whole, but that is not to suggest at all that I would call them derivative. To the contrary, they have enough ingenuity and individuality to take these influences and craft them into something utterly unique and interesting, as I said revitalising my interest in the power ballad itself. Certain little aspects of the album stand out to me as great touches towards contemporising the style which to some may seem more at home in the 1980s despite it going strong from then to now, such as the folk-metally melodies in ‘Hootsforce’ or the digitised techno-voice which occasionally interjects throughout the album in chanty, rhythmic moments.
Gloryhammer are also able to strike a tone which beautifully embraces the obvious cheesiness inherent to the genre while encouraging the listener to disregard any ironic detachment to which they might be clinging, embrace the sheer energy, the joyous celebration of the music and let themselves go entirely. This comes across especially in the narration of the intro to the album and the final track, the choral one-winged-angel-esque singing about Scottish towns in ‘The Seige of Dunkeld’, and the tongue in cheek campiness of the music videos, my favourite of which was definitely for the namesake track, ‘Gloryhammer’. High fantasy setting and costumes, over the top performances, copious amounts of CGI action – it’s got it all. I won’t try to summarise the actual storyline to the album since I could certainly not do it justice. Suffice it to say, it’s amazing, and I would urge you to read it alongside listening to the album as for me it greatly enhanced my enjoyment. It is available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legends_from_Beyond_the_Galactic_Terrorvortex.
I suppose that’s about all I have to say. You might read this review and comment that I’m over-praising the album. Maybe that’s true, but I would counter by saying that it achieves exactly what it sets out to do and nothing more or less. A perfect example of the genre, it is confident and full of character, humour, and above all excellent musical talent, and any problems which one may have with the genre as a whole are unrelated. Or maybe I just like to keep things positive. Either way, it’s great, and you should give it a listen.
Thanks for reading, and I’m giving this album a contextual score of 8.5/10.
Written – May 2020
Published – May 2020
Photo by Moritz Mentges on Unsplash