Gloryhammer - Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards - (9/10)
Published on October 22, 2015
Over the course of the past nine or ten years Christopher Bowes has been making a name for himself as one of the more musically ambitious comedians in the metal world. It might be a bit premature to dub him metal’s answer to Weird Al Yankovic, but such a title would definitely fit his handiwork both with both his pirate themed flagship project Alestorm and more recent his multinational symphonic power metal project Gloryhammer, both taking jabs at the notion of subtlety while also showing a degree of musical proficiency that is high enough to stand toe to toe with the heavy hitters of the style. Not one to be tied down to themes of bygone days of heroic knights or plundering buccaneers, he’s back with a new offering from his newer band in Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards that brings his ambitious gags into the distant future of the late 20th century in a fit of sheer, grade A B-cinema science fiction glory that is campy enough in its premise to pass for an early 80s Roger Corman production, but loaded with enough symphonic pomp and largess to pass for something about as high-end in production as the largely panned yet visually extravagant spoof-flick “Your Highness” (the film that almost ruined Natalie Portman’s career).
In typical comedic fashion, the songs here are catchy and speedy to the point of being overblown, hinting that one of the principle targets of the joke is Rhapsody Of Fire and the army of similar sounding symphonic outfits to follow their lead in the realm of high fantasy conceptual albums. In contrast to what one might expect, the parody lays mostly in the lyrical content, album content and frequent voice-over narrations, all of them distorted and loaded up with effects to the point of sounding robotic, and the musical content here is actually quite serious and ambitious. Apart from having more spacey sounding synthesizer work on the fringes that gives it more of an intergalactic feel, the style at work here is extremely similar and faithful to the precedent set on Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife. The opening cruiser “Rise Of The Chaos Wizards” follows a similar galloping feel and set of melodic hooks as said preceding album’s opener “The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee”, whereas the folksy, mid-paced feel of “Goblin King Of The Dark Storm Galaxy” (surprisingly not the biggest mouthful of a title on here) is all but a rehash of “Angus McFife” but with some occasion techno quirks.
It is important to note that while bands like Rhapsody Of Fire and Fairyland were the principle source of inspiration of this album, there are a few things that keep this from being a perfect stylistic emulation of said bands. The guitar work is probably the chief area where this is noticeable, as Paul Templing uses a more restrained and methodical riff set that’s more indicative of latter day 80s Iron Maiden, whereas his guitar solo work has less Malmsteen quirks and comes off as more of a mainline shredder after a number of NWOBHM icons that were a bit less fancy but just as effective. Vocalist Thomas Winkler also has a less overtly operatic voice with more of a gritty edge to it than Fabio Lione, and perhaps most important of all, Bowes’ keyboard work, while fancy at times, is a bit more strictly structured and more geared towards memorability than overt impact. It’s still a highly ambitious affair musically from all members in congress, but the departure from the virtuosity of certain symphonic power metal outfits is noticeable, particularly in the cases of the more straightforward and almost power thrashing “The Hollywood Hootsman” and the synthesizer drenched and almost Anime inspired rocker “Universe On Fire”. Then again, much of the bulk of this album does listen pretty close to a typical Rhapsody Of Fire album, particularly the closing nine and a half minute epic “Apocalypse 1992”.
This is an overall improvement through incremental refinement, both in terms of music and lyrical subject, and the result will probably be a very welcome experience for anyone with a soft spot for the glory days of B-cinema in the 1980s as it tried to constantly repeat the general concept of “Star Wars” with a fraction of the budget. It’s sort of a contradiction in the sense that it seems to embrace the general premise behind the cinematic tradition originally pioneered by Ed Wood, while generally eschewing the low budget and often sloppy character that generally came along with the unabashed camp and humor. Had said film maker had the cheap technological conveniences of today in order to manufacture a full out epic homage to the main themes of “Star Trek” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” without the need to paying a full symphony orchestra, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see him come out with an opening film theme comparable to “Infernus Ad Astra”, complete with all the Latin choirs and marching production. But regardless to whether you see Christopher Bowes as an Ed Wood and a Weird Al Yankovic wrapped in one, he’s pulled off yet another fun ride into yet another alternative universe that all fans of melodic metal are sure to eat up.