If you would have told me that one of my favourite albums of the year would be a power metal album by what’s essentially a joke band, I would have scoffed at you. As it stands, however, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards is just that: one of the best power metal albums of the year. And yes, I know I’m late to the party.
Power metal. For a subgenre which mostly concerns itself with warriors, dragons, swords and other assorted fantasy elements, it’s amazing how serious most bands take themselves and their lyrics. It would seem everyone and their mum wants to be the new heavy metal Tolkien. Not Gloryhammer. Gloryhammer knows how daft all of that stuff is and runs with it. Or rather, runs with it on top of a flaming unicorn, wielding a big holy astral sword of steel. After Alestorm sailed the metallic seas of cheese, Christopher Bowes found another way to poke fun at the world of heavy metal, and by Odin’s big, bushy beard, is it glorious.
“In the distant future of the year 1992, war has returned to the galaxy,” intones an ominous voice at the start of Infernus Ad Astra, letting you know immediately that you’re in for a fun ride. Over the course of the next nine songs, there will be various things riding on Wings of Doom, talk about magic crystals/portals/swords/relics/beings, Victorious Eagle Warfare, Unicorn Defenders and the Hollywood Hootman. The lyrics are purposefully over the top, and the band takes every power metal trope and adds an additional layer of cheese to them. They’re as stupid as they can get, and that’s what makes them fun. It also helps that they’re accompanied by some absolutely top notch music.
Gloryhammer basically takes the Rhapsody (with or without Fire) brand of epic melodic metal, and delivers nine songs (and an intro) of the best of that stuff you’ve probably heard since, well, the last Rhapsody album. The pacing is brilliant, and the band blast out track after track of high quality material. Listen to Rise of the Chaos Wizards or Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy and chances are you won’t be able to get the chorus out of your head after the first go. It’s testament to these guys’ songwriting skills that they are able to pull that off. You’ll find yourself inadvertently humming Legend of the Astral Hammer or Universe on Fire on the bus or tram in no time.
To top off those premium levels of cheese, there are the lyrics, which are at times laugh-out-loud funny. There’s some masterfully daft stuff on Rise of the Chaos Wizards, where the bands takes every single power metal cliché and weaves it into a big Python-esque tale of space battles and eagle warfare against the evil wizard Zargothrax. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? And then there’s the line Like tears of a unicorn lost in the rain from album closer Apocalypse 1992 which has me snigger ever single time. I can already see myself sing that along at live concerts, and shouting “hail to Hoots!” during The Hollywood Hootsman. It’s like a dream combination of power metal, fantasy, science fiction and Monty Python.
Is Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards the best power metal album of the year? Probably not. I’d say that honour arguably goes to Blind Guardian’s excellent Beyond the Red Mirror. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t the funniest album the genre brought forth in 2015, and that’s something to be proud of as well.
Label: Napalm Records
Release: Out now
Infernus Ad Astra (1:24)
Rise of the Chaos Wizards (3:57)
Legend of the Astral Hammer (5:13)
Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy (3:38)
The Hollywood Hootsman (3:54)
Victorious Eagle Warfare (4:59)
Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress! (5:22)
Universe on Fire (4:06)
Heroes (of Dundee) (5:49)
Apocalypse 1992 (9:38)
Thomas Winkler – vocals
Christopher Bowes – keyboards
Paul Templing – guitar
James Cartwright – bass
Ben Turk – drums
Review by Ralph Plug