Chuck Schuldiner Project

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hammer Horde Vinlander

Today's review is of the band Hammer Horde's new album Vinlanders. It is the act's long awaited sophomore release and this awesome mix of folk metal tracks does not fail to impress. It easily surpasses the band's storming debut album, Under the Mighty Oath. With readily apparent influences like Noman's Land and Ensiferum, Hammer Horde truly rocks the viking scene. One might even go so far as to call them the best non-Scandinavian viking act! Having already been featured in Decibel Magazine as well as in The History of Metal it seemed high time to discuss the band on Two Guys. For Hammer Horde the combination of roaring guitars, powerful bass lines, hectic drums and truly epic vocals allows for one of the greatest viking metal experiences of the year.

The guitar lines in this album prove to be a fascinating combination of viking melodies with hard hitting black metal riffs. One might compare the guitarists to those in Amon Amarth. Yet I feel that Derik Smith's lead lines are much more melodic and they truly capture the viking aura. Meanwhile it is Ryan Mininger who brings in a load of Emperor styled guitar riffs that keep the band blasting away. His galloping lines are pretty typical of the genre but help to bring forth a seafaring aura in the band's music. While these lines are typically well constructed, I think it would be nice to have a bit more variety to broaden out the band's general sound. But when these two guitarists play together one really does get the impression of riding a longboat as it crashes across the waves. One particularly excellent passage is at the beginning of “Oathkeeper” which nicely sets the mood for a classic folk metal track. The two guitars intertwine their parts to fabricate an excellent oceanic sound. In short, the melodies of Derek Smith are almost perfect, while the riffs of Mininger gallop the album away.

The bass work on this record is pretty impressive, with bassist Jason Reynold's rhythms helping to lead the charge. In particular the bass line of “Archaic Offerings” is wonderful. It provides an excellent base for the band to concentrate the music around and it helps to push the band ever forward to fill out the sound. “Archaic Offerings” makes me feel that if their was more emphasis on the bass the band could become a lot more brutal and be much more powerful, but as it stands Hammer Horde is already brutal enough. The drum work on this record is excellent, with drummer Jayson Cessna battering away for the length of the record. His aggressive drum parts are a big part of what keeps Hammer Horde going forward. Without him the band would quickly fall apart. While his 16ths on the bass drum might be called generic by some, I feel that they really add a lot to the atmosphere. Essentially, the rhythm parts of this band have a brutal beauty of their very own. They force the group forward and they ensure that Hammer Horde will never stagnate.

Finally, we have the brilliant vocals of Tom Sturniolo. His growls are deep and often very much in the vein of black metal bands like Gorgoroth. Yet occasionally the band features Derik Smith doing clean choruses and chants which are rather reminiscent of Ensiferum. This combination of growls and clean vocals allows for lots of different possible sounds. One example of this is in the track “Hero's Heart” where black metal styled growls in the verses make the song aggressive while the clean chorus adds an epic layer to the music. The lyrics on the record are quite good. One of my favorite lines is in the track Midgardian Revelry; “The chieftain stands and we raise our tankards high/In honor of our brothers, let's drink to hours absurd,/'Cause the mead of Valhalla awaits true warriors of this world!/Raise your pints to the hordes of Valhalla!" These lyrics give a good idea of the viking metal madness to be found throughout the album. In brief, Sturniolo is an amazing vocalist and takes Hammer Horde to a whole new level.

In conclusion, Vinlander is an excellent viking metal album showing an excellent band at their best. The lead guitar work is very melodic while the rhythms roar throughout. Then the bass helps to fill out the sound. The drum work is hectic and helps the band to advance. Last we have the vocals of Sturniolo which help cement Hammer Horde's place in Valhalla. So go listen to them, you will not regret it!

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