Label: Napalm Records
Date: June 11th, 2021
A month or two of silence, and now it is about time to recollect memories of an old woman and her epic journey with Hammer King. God bless the modern technology, otherwise I would not remember. In the year of our Lord, 2016, my now former editor wrote to me: “I have some Germans for you, power metal…” Say no more! And a few reviews and interviews later, here we go again! But to be honest, I have never seen (heard) HK as a power metal band. Once I wrote, and I will be free to plagiarize myself, those guys are celebrating metal. Period. And to be completely honest, when this old lady who is now writing those wise words was growing up fed by metal, there was only metal. Sub genres came later.
So, as many of you were introduced to HK now when they are on their way to the stars, I knew them when they were kind of underground.
If you are not familiar with HK history, well, listen what his herald, Titan Fox, said in one of our interviews, as many others, because there is only one truth:
“The legend says that the band was founded in 1978 by the Hammer King himself, while we actually started working in 2014. Our debut “Kingdom Of The Hammer King” was released in 2015 and we started playing shows in 2015.”
Album by album, the band was moving forward, improving, growing and after three albums under the wings of Italian label Cruz Del Sur Music, the crown on their career is signing a record deal with Napalm Records. Critics either loved or hated them, no middle ground. They were accused as a bunch of jokers, guys who don’t take themselves seriously, writing ridiculous lyrics…
My biggest concern when it comes to HK was will it be the same band after co-founder K.K.Basement left the band. Replaced by Dolph Lundgren’s clone, I was wondering in which direction the band will go. Jokes aside…
What I always liked the most is the concept HK had. Each album had an individual concept which was followed by adequate costume change. One more thing I liked is that from the album cover you clearly know what expects you musically and lyrically. Videos I will not comment on. Simply, I do listen, not watch the music.
“Hammer King” is the 4th album in the band’s history. The first one, “Kingdom of the Hammer King”, was about the Kingdom; second, “King Is Rising”, discovered war stories of the Hammer King; “Poseidon Will Carry Us Home”, well… Isn’t it obvious? Let’s say that was the Cruz Del Sur Music trilogy, and now, in the Napalm Records era we have the fourth one “Hammer King”, about the Hammer King himself. New label, new chapter, new sound, and as they say:
“The Hammer King, the Chancellor and the band are ready for the great take-over.”
While I was waiting for the CD I was introduced with the singles from the album as they were released, so that will be the order I will start reviewing this album.
The first single “Hammerschlag” (March 31st), as I like to translate “hit by the hammer”, will really hit you. No matter if you prefer, let’s say, a clean version or the one featuring Gerre (Tankard), Isaac (Epica) and The Crusader (Warkings), damn “Hammerschlag” will chase you through your dreams (or nightmares?). However, it was a great, shall I say, commercial move from their side to attract more audience to their Kingdom?
The next single was “Atlantis (Epilogue)” released on May 5th. This is just an epic song, but somehow, as someone who follows HK from the beginning of time, I miss a bit of power and attitude in vocal performance, which I will definitely debate about later.
The third single, “Awaking the Thunder” (June 10th) is the great album opener, a real combat song with astonishing guitar solos and thunderous drumming. If you search for a combination of classical metal, power metal and even a bit of pop sound, with no doubt, this might be one of your favorites.
If “Baptized by the Hammer ” doesn’t buy you with galloping rhythm and backing vocals, nothing will. The song is mainly mid-tempo but the rhythm simply forces you to raise your fist in the air. Somehow I am starting to realize that drums have the main role on this album along with the choirs. This is the typical HK anthem. And those galloping rhythms can be compared to those from previous albums.
“Onward to Victory” will calm down a bit and the sing along chorus might be the highlight of the song.
“Onward to victory
With sword and sorcery
Unleash the blood
And the blood is the blood of the king
Onward to victory
With sword and sorcery
Unleash the blood
And the blood is the blood of the king.”
“We are the Kingdom” is another classical HK anthem with very catchy and memorable chorus:
“We are the Kingdom
Through fire and blood and into the war
We are the Kingdom
Intruders and conquistadors
We are the Kingdom.”
Besides the chorus, twin guitar solos and shall I say choruses (again) are the holders of the song.
Get ready for the power, melody, and fury. “Into the Storm” will shake you bones. The song is an anthem, infectious, pumped and obviously Iron Maiden influenced. You will recognize riffs from the “Killers” album, as well as the “woohoo” part in which I recognize nothing more but “Heaven Can Wait”.
“Ashes to Ashes” again delivers a great chorus which pushes me to take a look at the booklet, finally, and see besides HK who are those guys who spiced the album. Congrats and I kindly ask the King himself to keep you for the next releases.
If you are not ready:
“To live in the name of the Hammer
To die in the name of the King
To live in the name of the Hammer
To die in the name of the King”,
please leave the Kingdom right now!
“In the Name of the Hammer ” is another accelerating song, and now “ohohoho” choir parts, here I must say, fit better. If I should pick the best Gino’s solo, then it hides in this song. I must also notice Running Wild influences here.
The King speaks! “King of Kings” includes Tim Wells’ introduction, reminding me a bit of Firewind’s “Ode to Leonidas”. After the narration, the song begins with the chorus actually; “ahahaaa” choir parts will buy the die-hard metallers. The song is on the edge of ballad, and everything, just everything on this album is my cup of tea, but…
“I will hear you whisper
In the hall of the King
For my brothers and sisters
Forever they’ll sing…”
This part and Titan’s interpretation are too much for my ears. Sorry, but if Farinelli could resurrect and sing this or more possible Wiener Sängerknaben I would enjoy it. This way…
As this album is seen as a big take over in HK history, does the verse “guide me to my victory” mean we have the new possible leaders of the genre?
“Holy” is 45 seconds outro that owners of physical album copy might not even notice when “Hammerschlag” hits once again.
Although choirs were an important part on previous releases, somehow on “Hammer King” its role became more important as the holder of the dramatic. This album is bigger, better, but far from the best HK can deliver. Don’t get me wrong, with zero talent and music experience, I could not be the one who criticizes, I just can say what I like or not, and what I miss here on this album are more powerful vocals, maybe like those that were delivered on “King Is Rising”. More than any other album, “Hammer King ” delivers massive, powerful, compact sound, and I would like just to hear vocals going in the same direction. If everything was perfectly set on this or any other album, there will be no challenge to continue the journey right? From my perspective if they would keep “King is Rising” vocal delivery, “Hammer King” production and “Poseidon Will Carry Us Home” lyrical themes they would have an album of their life.
If the band was accused as Manowar clone by now (no idea why, except the fact Titan had been singing with Ross the Boss, but still see no logic at all), if someone claimed they are a bit Running Wild influenced band, now for sure you can say they are on the way of following the Hammer Fall’s path. Hammer of all hammers, Hammer King, are serious in the mission to take the throne from the best in the genre.
The legend of the HK says that all music and the lyrics are given by the Majesty of Hammer King, they are just the messengers, so if you do not like anything, kill the messenger.
Since we do not have album ratings in our magazine, as a Queen of my Abaddon Kingdom, I will be free to rate HK albums.
1. King Is Rising (for vocals)
2. Hammer King (for pumping energy and great(est) production)
3. Kingdom Of The Hammer King (for the foundation of an overall band concept)
4. Poseidon Will Carry Us Home (for nautical story dealt with the Cape Horn)
An epic review of an epic album must be closed this or no other way:
God bless the King, may the King bless you!