Gloryhammer strikes gold with ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife’
I’d be lying if I said my listening habits weren’t at least partially influenced by badass album art. Just like Amon Amarth’s newest outing Deceiver of the Gods, Gloryhammer’s maiden voyage is predicated by resplendent imagery adorning its cover. And just like a circlejerk featuring David Duke, Don Black, and Spike Lee, Tales from the Kingdom of Fife is a fucking masterpiece.
The album debuts in fearless fashion with ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee,’ a legendary chant prefacing the evil wizard Zargothrax, his corruption of the unicorns, and the mythical embodiment of lead singer Thomas Winkler (Angus McFife) swearing to slay the troublemaking scum. The track is absolutely heroic with its chorus: “Fireballs and lighting are raining from the sky/chaos and bloodshed while all the people die/in this epic battle begins the final war/tragedy will strike this day, prepare thee for/the unicorn invasion of Dundee.” Grandiose riffs and histrionic vocals propel this introductory track to a stellar consummation.
The tale continues in ‘Angus McFife,’ the album’s third song. Serving as a declaration of preeminence, this track further acquaints listeners with our hero:
He is the prince of the land of Fife
noble and true with a heart of steel
now it is lost, vengeance shall be his
Angus McFife is his name
Across the wasteland, I ride upon swift steed
behind me lies the burning ruins of Dundee
no turning back now, my journey lies ahead
I won’t give up until the sorcerer is dead
The backing arrangement and sonic exposition is suitably bold; this anthem is a superb elucidation for the overarching narrative of the Tales from the Kingdom of Fife. Its followup ‘Quest for the Hammer of Glory’ is more or less self-explanatory. It tells of an ancient hammer “passed down by heroes/from centuries old” and its significance as the weapon which will destroy the enemies of fantastical city Dundee. It’s not the album’s best track by any means, but instead serves to bolster the chronicle of the tale.
‘Silent Tears of Frozen Princess’ departs from the immensity of its predecessors by empowering an amorous mythos about a lost princess and her fortuitous rescue:
Every night I feel you’re near
they dance within my reach
and still are so far from here
your angelic grace shall be ablaze
with lights again
my hammer may break the spell
before the last hope dies
It’s romantic both lyrically and melodically, and is most certainly an embarkation from the defining principles of the album as a whole. But that’s amiable considering its deeper meaning: Angus McFife is in love and perhaps needs to find this princess before his terrific showdown with Zargothrax.
Consequential tracks ‘Amulet of Justice’ and ‘Hail to Crail’ are both megaliths of power metal composition. Backed by extravagant and sensual guitar and keys arrangements, this pair of songs are potent reminders of the theme of Tales from the Kingdom of Fife. Taken together, they are definitively the best the album has to offer; and, likewise, both serve as bridges to the regal finale.
Standing at a long-winded 10:26, ‘The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder’ concludes the narrative in triumphant style. It details how Angus McFife, aided by his Hammer of Glory, riding his dragon, and backed by the warriors of Crail and a barbarian champion (sheathed in wolf’s armour) from Unst, assaults the tower fortress of Zargothrax:
…an epic war is fight
the knights of Crail make evil die
bring glory for the light
meanwhile inside the citadel
McFife has found the way
facing to face with Zargothrax
and single combat waged
The evil wizard falls to doom
and drowns in liquid ice
Despite -or perhaps because of- its length, this track strongarms the denouement to unparalleled excellence. With towering guitar work, thunderous drums, complimentary female vocals, and more than one tempo shift, ‘The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder’ is a gasconade of power metal supremacy. It’s the period at the end of the statement, and what a fucking statement it is.
In fact, Gloryhammer is the closest group I’ve heard which approaches Fairyland’s epic war metal transcendence…and that’s a valorous proclamation considering how peerless Fairyland really is. But without dubiety, Gloryhammer has orchestrated a sweeping, epic tale of warriors, wizards, and creativity which is a rare sight indeed. To be sure, it’s been attempted countless times in the power metal genre, but rarely have all elements coalesced into such a flawless confection. Tales from the Kingdom of Fife will not disappoint you, I can guarantee that. Unless you’re a complete twat, you’ll be overjoyed by this virgin output from Gloryhammer. I have high expectations for their future albums: they’ve set the bar indomitably high.
Conclusion: Damn, son. 5.0/5.0