Hammer King, for the uninitiated, are a classic power metal outfit that hail from Germany. Now, for just a moment, hold that image in your head. The one that instantly formed when you read that opening sentence. Can you hear that band in your mind? German Classic Power Metal Band, Hammer King. That sound you’re imagining- you’re spot on. These brave warriors of metal wade fearlessly into some of the cheesiest, most recognisable sounds and classic motifs and clichés from power metal, and do it well to boot. From the Hammerfall-esque vocals of Titan Fox, to the chunky riffs straight out of early Avantasia or Manowar, to the drum beats that you could predict down to the hi hat strike, this band is not here to revolutionise the genre but revive it. The questions are then: how well do they pull it off? Does it scratch that itch for an old power metal fan? Who is the audience? To which I might answer, very, almost, and that’s debatable.
Bear with me. ‘Poiseidon Will Carry Us Home’ is the third album, and though I’d heard the name I admit Hammer King hasn’t really crossed my radar before. However, the name and genre ticked many boxes for me, and so I was keen to delve into a deep new cut in my cheesy power metal fandom. I’m not quite sure where I’ve ended up though. There is no doubt that Hammer King are a competent outfit. They’ve nailed the feeling so strongly that if I stop paying attention, I sometimes think I’m listening to classic tracks from other bands. Each member of the band, (including Charles Greywolf of Powerwolf as feature bassist) delivers exactly what I imagine they wanted to, but it rang so true to their influences that it invites direct comparison. For this reviewer, that was perhaps a drawback- I remember those other songs because they had a hook that surprised me, or a truly solid component that I couldn’t get out of my head and brought me back. I struggled to find many such moments in this album, but still I’m quite hesitant to say I didn’t enjoy it. All the music’s great, but it just wasn’t sticking… until track 7, Last Rites. When that came along, a 37 second track with little more than some basic chanting (I’ll give you a clue- it features a blunt force weapon and a regent) and maybe 4 lines of lyric, I realised what I had been missing. I had been listening to this as if it was a standard album, and maybe it is, but it’s more. It’s a taste of the live gigs.
Let me clarify. Obviously, many albums might suggest this. I wouldn’t even be sure this was the intention, but once I listened in this light, everything changed. I listened to the tracks, and thought about how it would make me feel to be at a festival, drink in hand and mosh churning, partying to Hammer King.
Now, I caught the wave. I stopped what I was doing, (working), went home and cracked open a few beers, and chucked this on the stereo. So, with blood flowing and party going, let me tell you about this album. It takes a bit to get going. The first few tracks are fun, bombastic, loud and mighty. They’re not tracks for quiet contemplation- to be honest, they’re almost better if you’re a tiny bit distracted. Perfect tracks for partying, much like some of the best Alestorm or Korpiklaani. If you’re a fan of Hammerfall, Gloryhammer or Bloodbound, there’s not much here that will surprise you, but quite a bit of fun to be had.
Around about the halfway mark, the aforementioned Last Rites signals a change, and in my opinion for the better. Glorious Night of Glory is exactly what it says on the tin, and Locust Plague is a little bit more creative, if not too much more unexpected. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by their ‘Nautical Trilogy’. Featuring the opening title track, At the Mercy of the Waves and We Sail Cape Horn, there is a lot to like, and it’s one of the few parts of the album where I heard what I was looking for. There’s a little more complexity, a bit more drive to the power metal, and hints of what drew me to acts like Gloryhammer or early Sonata Arctica, never a bad thing.
Having had a few goes around now, I’m not certain how many albums of Hammer King would make it onto my shelves. That said, the experience of even a 3 housemate private party to these tracks tells me that if I see this band on a lineup, I’ll be there.