New Viking Metal bands sprout almost all over the planet and Toledo, Ohio now has one to call its own as well: HAMMER HORDE. Comprising of (former?) members of FOREVER LOST and A GRUESOME FIND, their self-released debut is more than just the first steps of a young band, as it comes in a very nice DigiPak, is mastered by none other than Mika Jussila and is very ambitious overall, so this band is definitely serious about this. Now last time I checked the Vikings did not quite make it into the north of the American Midwest, but hey, let’s not hold it against them where they are from, right?
While only having been founded in 2007 it shows that these guys are no greenhorns, as the compositions are well crafted and arranged and they also do their best not to stay stuck in the ruts of your every day Viking Metal, but add a little bit more Death Metal to their sound and while the melodies still are catchy, the guitar leads often generating them are more intricate than your average band and that helps set HAMMER HORDE apart from more than just a few of their contemporaries. If you get past the epic keyboard intro “Storm Of Pagan Skies”, first real son “Pierced By Odin’s Spear” brings a jaunty rhythm and combines it with the already mentioned intricate, yet melodic leads, completely harsh vocals and some light choir, which does not sound groundbreaking or even slightly original, yet it is the mix that works out and it is always good to see a nice and well executed set of dynamics and that’s just the beginning.
The title track spins this even further, from mid-tempo to blastbeats, cold, gruff vocals, some heroic clear chants (which just lack a bit of power) and a nice epic slowdown, creating some seriously dynamic story that has the potential to grip you right then and there. And it seems as if the Americans needed a few songs to get into the swing of things, because with “In The Name Of Winter’s Wrath” the whole dual vocal attack harsh/clear works a whole lot better and the epic feel really creeps through the intricate yet catchy guitar leads, showing that these guys are serious. Following the Ohioans master the split between powerful riffing and epic atmosphere (with different emphasis) and to be honest, “Under The Mighty Oath” just keeps getting better with each repeated listen, a fairly remarkable feat for a debut that deliberately stays away from the usual beaten path, as mentioned before, by leaning more towards the Melodic Death Metal side than the usual Black Metal, and they also do their best to avoid the pitfalls of some of their compadres that tend to overuse unusual instruments and make them more of a gimmick than anything else, because the only non-Metal instrument to be found is the ocarina and it is only used on two tracks (“Farewell To The Fallen” and “Triumph Of Sword And Shield”) and lends some nice touch.
While the timing may seem a little “suspicious” for another band of this style to emerge, the quality of music, production and packaging alike are more than enough to convince any fan of this style that HAMMER HORDE are not just a trend-following bunch of young guys, but a band that is offering a serious piece of Viking Metal that might put them on the international map right away and should spawn a record deal fairly soon and I am definitely looking forward to future deeds, check these folks out and absolutely keep an eye out for them!
(Online September 30, 2009)