Hammer King – Kingdemonium (Album Review)

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The masked king ushers in the apocalypse.

It is stipulated that when a band puts forth a recurring hammer-wielding mascot that bears an uncanny resemblance to that of 2nd wave power metal prime-movers Hammerfall on their album art, that the sonic contents that lay within will carry a corresponding level of similarity. But to this Teutonic quartet’s credit, Hammer King has always been one to take the heavy/power metal hybrid style in a direction closer to that of one of its pioneering figures Manowar, resulting in a sound that’s a bit heavier, grittier and less chivalrous/regal than that of their Swedish counterparts; a somewhat counterintuitive eventuality given the king part in their name. It all makes sense when considering lead vocalist and guitarist Patrick “Titan Fox V” Fuchs’ past association with Ross The Boss’ solo project, which no doubt fuels the band’s comparatively aggressive character to much of the European power metal scene, and the latest in a prolific succession of studio LPs since this outfit’s 2015 inception in “Kingdemonium” pulls no punches in that regard.

This go around these Rhineland-born warriors have taken their steel-clad craft into the realm of the apocalyptic, with their masked king character overseeing the charge of the four horsemen upon the hapless nations of the earth. With such a lofty visual, the resulting musical expression takes on a tone that is loaded to the brim with pomp and circumstance that parallels the ambitious and occasionally quasi-symphonic character of the latter-day output of Manowar’s golden period in “Kings Of Metal” and “The Triumph Of Steel” respectively. In this context, Fuchs’ somewhat gritty yet generally soaring vocals shine with the best of them, while the pummeling bombardment of riffs and drum work straddle the divide between the biting speed metal character of Grave Digger and the smoother melodic swagger of Hammerfall and Saxon. A newcomer to the fold, bassist Gunt von Schratenau does well to distinguish himself with a fat, glassy and frequently distorted bass tone that, while maybe not as flashy as Joey Demaio’s signature work, reflects a similar level of attitude and power.

“Kingdemonium” Album Artwork

To be clear, Hammer King has by no means forgotten the value of a catchy, straight up banger to balance out the increasingly epic character of their template, and this album has a fair share of anthems that could easily fit into a terrestrial radio station’s rotation. The opening foray and utterly unforgettable “Invisible King” kicks things off on a highly accessible note, often resembling a mid-paced Stratovarius offering, albeit with a much heavier tone and a thrilling dual guitar assault right out of the Iron Maiden playbook. Similar stories are told with other compact rockers such as “Pariah Is My Name”, which has more of a driving speed metal character and sees Fuchs’ forceful vocal display accompanied by some dense gang chorus additives, while towering riff machines like “Live Long, Die Nasty” and “Guardians Of The Realm” inch even closer into thrashing territory while also playing into the denser, atmospheric side of things with the strategic employment of keyboards and backing choirs. But the song that truly brings the mixture of rugged fury with a sweet melodic edge to its logical conclusion is the colossal title anthem “Kingdemonium”, which will likely be obligatory playlist fodder for any self-respecting power metal fan.

But when the hammer meets the metal, what truly sells this album is the longer and more involved material, and a number of new classics can be counted among this album’s contents. Riding in on a dreary acoustic intro with vocals fully exposed yet no less forbidding, “The 7th Of The 7 Kings” lands with an earth-shaking, down-tempo stomp, further bolstered by a generally simple yet thick and glassy bass assault, but carried to the finish line by a brilliant rendering of the early 80s heavy metal epic loaded with layered vocals and harmonized guitar themes. This slower metal march approach is reprised minus the acoustic intro and plus an even more infectious harmonized guitar display on “Other Kingdoms Fall”, often conjuring up memories of how Manowar first codified this approach to the power metal epic with “Battle Hymn” back in 1982. The coup de grace, however, is saved for the end with the quasi-folksy and more animated seven and a half minute mythic journey that is “Age Of Urizen”, which is where every instrumentalist truly brings their A game, most notably Gino Wilde when considering the majestic guitar solo work that peppers this mighty closer.

Though Hammer King is only about 7 years and now 5 albums deep into their tenure with the metal scene, there is a case to be made that they are fast becoming the standard-bearers of the grittier side of the German power metal movement. Naturally this should not be meant to discount the stellar work that has been put forth by the old guard in Grave Digger and Running Wild, nor that of their not quite as aged successors in Rebellion and Stormwarrior, but the fire of youth that has always burned in this outfit’s belly since their 2015 debut “Kingdom Of The Hammer King” is fast becoming accompanied by a level of veteran-like precision and quality that is highly comparable to said bands. Originality is perhaps the lone weak spot that one might point to when considering this latest installment, or really any album put out under the Hammer King name, but they’ve definitely carved out a niche within this established style that will keep them distinct from the rest of the pack, and “Kingdemonium” is definitely not an album to be missed.

Order the “Kingdemonium” album HERE,

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: August 19th, 2022
Genre: Power Metal

“Kingdemonium” Track-listing:

1. Invisible King
2. Pariah Is my Name
3. We Shall Rise
4. Live Long, Die Nasty
5. The 7th of the 7 Kings
6. Kingdemonium
7. Other Kingdoms Fall
8. The Four Horsemen
9. Guardians of the Realm
10. Age of Urizen

Bonus Tracks:

11. Mark of the Beast
12. Ashes of My Oath
13. Holy Is The Hammer
14. Hammerschlag (Gerre version)

“Kingdemonium” is available in the following formats:

  • Wooden Deluxe Box (incl. 1 CD Digisleeve, 3 Track Bonus CD (Andreas Marschall Artwork), Signed Certificate of Authenticity, Leather Wristband, Hammer King Map) – strictly limited to 300
  • 1LP Gatefold Vinyl Marbled Blue/Black (incl. Signed postcard, Bonus Track “Ashes of My Oath” Download Card) – strictly limited to 300
  • 1LP Gatefold Vinyl Black (incl. Bonus Track “Ashes of My Oath” Download Card)
  • 1CD Digisleeve (6 Panels)
  • Music Cassette – strictly limited to 100
  • Digital Album

HAMMER KING are:

  • Titan Fox V / Vocals, guitar
  • Gino Wilde / Guitar
  • Günt von Schratenau / Bass
  • Dolph Aidan Macallan / Drums
 
 
 

8.6 Excellent

Germany’s gritty power metal trustees with an old school twist Hammer King unleash a storm of pummeling riffs and infectious hooks to rival the coattails of the genre forerunners

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5
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