Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: 25 September 2015
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Thomas Winkler – Vocals
Paul Templing – Guitars
James Cartwright – Bass
Christopher Bowes – Keyboards
Ben Turk – Drums
1. Infernus Ad Astra
2. Rise of the Chaos Wizards
3. Legend of the Astral Hammer
4. Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy
5. The Hollywood Hootsman
6. Victorious Eagle Warfare
7. Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!
8. Universe on Fire
9. Heroes of Dundee
10. Apocalypse 1992
Christopher Bowes sure is a master of gimmicks. First, he formed pirate metal band Alestorm, who due to their unique sound and addictive sing along anthems have become very successful. Then in 2012 he started a new fantasy themed power metal band called Gloryhammer. Their 2013 debut album, Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, provided some very enjoyable epic power metal. It included some hilarious lyrics and narration as the band fully embraced the cheesier sides of both genres. With their second full length album, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards, the band has gone even further into the realms of silliness, adding a sci-fi twist to their already engaging concept. While musically the album goes further towards establishing their own sound. All of this has resulted in an album that stands above its predecessor, and is possibly the best album Christopher Bowes has been involved with to date.
Musically, Rise of the Chaos Wizards takes what worked on the debut, and goes much further with it. Where the debut was mostly straight-forward power metal, enhanced by the silly lyrics and occasional symphonic elements, on this album they have gone all in and become a full fledged symphonic power metal band. I was initially surprised by the title track, which opens with the orchestra and choirs leading the way. This carries on throughout a song that very much feels like a sillier, more fun version of Rhapsody. One difference though, is that while the guitars are mostly secondary to Christopher’s keyboards and the orchestra, they do come out in full force for the solo section. The track is definitely heavier than anything on Luca Turilli’s latest album.
The symphonic elements are quite prominent throughout the album. Giving the album an even more epic, more cinematic feel, especially during the aforementioned title track and the near 10 minute closing track “Apocalypse 1992”. But on the whole this is still very much a power metal album, with the guitars still very clear in the mix most of the time. Most tracks are as fast paced as you’d expect. Obviously there’s a ton of insanely addictive choruses and excellent vocal melodies as any power metal fan would expect. I find the keyboards to be very memorable on this album as well, as they at times have a very cheesy sound to them. Such as on the ultra catchy and very 80’s rock sounding “Universe on Fire” which is by far the lightest track on the album, as well as one of my favorites, due to that insane chorus and Thomas Winkler’s vocals. Other important elements of the album is of course the concept. I generally don’t care for the concepts on Rhapsody albums, and I often find their narrations to be excessive. On this album Gloryhammer has done a great job of inserting in some humorous narrations that explain the plot well. The narrations never become a major distraction. There certainly aren’t any throwaway tracks where the narration takes over.
One thing required for a successful symphonic power metal album is good vocals. Thankfully, this is another area where Gloryhammer excels. I was impressed by Thomas Winkler on their debut, and this time around he sounds even more impressive. He has a very dramatic delivery which fits in great with the music. It often sounds like he’s deliberately trying to sound as cheesy as possible while still singing well. He pulls this off wonderfully. His pop sounding vocals on “Universe on Fire” are especially brilliant. While on more epic songs like the title track and “Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy”, he sounds much more powerful.
The songwriting quality on Rise of the Chaos Wizard is extremely consistent. Every song is fantastic, and there’s enough variety that it never starts to blend together. Some of my favorite tracks include the title track, with its amazing use of orchestras and choirs. “Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy” with it’s incredible chorus is extremely addictive. “The Hollywood Hootsman”, where Thomas uses some pretty epic wails towards the end is speedier and is a more straight-forward power metal track. “Universe on Fire”, is ultra cheesy and melodic which would probably feel out of place on some metal albums. But it fits in great with Christopher Bowes and his crazy sense of humor. The closing track “Apocalypse 1992”, which starts out fairly upbeat, before an ominous voiceover comes in. From there the song takes a dark turn, becomes much more intense, and never lets up. Oddly enough, for someone who specializes in silly gimmicks and sing along choruses, I find that Christopher Bowes always delivers big when he attempts more bigger, more challenging compositions, and this is probably his best yet. The combination of the heavy guitars, cinematic sounding orchestras, narrations and incredibly vocals, all add up into one amazing track.
Being a longtime fan of Alestorm and Tales From the Kingdom of Fife , I was expecting great things from Rise of the Chaos Wizards. If anything Gloryhammer have outdone themselves this time. They have produced one of my favorite albums of 2015, as well as already one of my most played albums of the year. Simply put, this is symphonic power metal done right, and is highly recommended for any fans of the genre, as well as obviously for existing fans of the band and Christopher Bowes.
Written by: Travis Green