The tracks that bookend this new album from Kaiserslautern’s Könige des Metalls, Hammer King, neatly sum up everything you need to know about this admirable band.
First up, the stately operatic metal of the title track. If it doesn’t make you immediately think of Manowar I’m afraid there’s no help for you. Secondly, the epic album closer We Sail Cape Horn. If it doesn’t immediately make you think of Iron Maiden I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.
But whilst Hammer King’s reference points are glaringly obvious to anyone with half an eye to see, that doesn’t stop Poseidon Will Carry Us Home from being an absolute rip-roarer of a heavy metal record. Every track drips with reminiscence of someone else, yes – but almost every track is also a killer.
A King is a Deadly Machine features a superb guitar solo right out of the Ross the Boss playbook, and comes equipped with that high-cruising speed drumming used so well during the days when Rhino was behind the Manokit. As an opening brace of tracks I haven’t heard better all year than the title track and this one, and they set a high level for the rest of the album to live up to.
It doesn’t quite manage to do so – although pretty much every track has something to offer it. Battle of Wars has a latter day, Celtic Maiden feel to it – throw in a bit of Grave Digger and you’ll get the idea – and the wannabe epic 7 Days and 7 Kings goes back to Manowar for it’s inspiration without quite harvesting the rewards that the bones of the song promise.
Warriors of Angelhill borrows the same demon that added it’s talents to Iron Maiden’s Still Life to kick things off but turns out to be a far better track than that; stomping, melodic, majestic – it’s everything HammerFall used to be twenty years ago but don’t seem to be able to be anymore. A modern day metal classic is born!
Where the Hammer Hangs carries on the epic feel of it’s predecessor, all dramatic backing vocals and edgy, brittle riffage, mixed up with superb lightning-quick harmony guitars and crowd pleasing who-ohs and a fist banging chorus that deserves to ring out all over Euro festival fields next summer.
Glorious Night of Glory isn’t quite as august, as it’s slightly clunky title might suggest, and the same might be said for the throwaway Locust Plague. Penultimate track At the Mercy of Waves benefits from a slight change in pace, dropping the tempo down a bit to give a bit of variety, and the chorus brings to mind the mighty Running Wild at the height of their powers. Which leaves the already-mentioned closer We Sail Cape Horn to bring the curtain down on proceedings. As noted, it’s a seven-minute long slice of unabashed Maiden worship. And it’s bloody brilliant!
Hammer King are at that level now, on the back of two very strong releases, where they really need to be getting bigger exposure than they currently receive. Tracks like Where the Hammer Hangs are every bit as good as anything coming out on a ‘major’ metal label at the moment, certainly as good as anything being released by established big name bands. It would be great to see this album bringing the band the recognition they deserve.
Poseidon Will Guide Us Home is out now.