Hammer Horde
Under the Mighty Oath

I remember seeing a couple of full page ads for this release in Metal Maniacs, and thinking there’s no way this can be any good- Viking metal from Ohio? But boy was I wrong. Sharing a lot of elements with Oakhelm, Hammer Horde are not only a Viking metal band from the least Viking place on earth, share members from a non Viking metal act (A Gruesome Find) – they also happen to be awesome.

You can hear of influence from their expected European brethren especially King of the Distant Forest era Mithotyn, early Forefather and Ensiferum in their shrieking but melodic blackened power metal tones, plenty of clean “Wiking” choral moments and some power metal wails. But with a few ethnic folky/flutey injections and added sweeping synths, this will also appeal to fans of Equilibrium and such, especially with the band’s epic scope and lengthy songs. Also, (and maybe it’s something to do with my own heritage), the material seems to be more ‘Saxon’, than Viking-it’s hard to explain, but the Forefather comparison should help.

Either way, the 10 songs that comprise the albums hour run time are all excellently produced and played, and like the Oakhlem you’d be hard pressed to fathom this as a release from a group of American based black/death metallers as they have a perfect grasp on the slightly blackened, Viking/Pagan visage that’s rousing, majestic, and thoroughly enjoyable. With the exception of the ballad “Farewell to the Fallen”, the tracks are generally high octane, solo filled, full throttle numbers with a few stern battle marches thrown in such as such as the busily melodic “Pierced by Odin’s Spear”,¬† “In the Name of Winter’s Wrath” and standouts¬†“Howl of Himinbjorg” and “Triumph of Sword and Shield” . All rely more on melodic, tremolo picked blast beats than accordion based, bouncy humpa beats. And of note, for a self released effort, the gorgeous digipack and artwork is top notch (they have some cool shirts also).

If there’s a small set back its that some of the tracks are a tad overdrawn and the album runs a bit long for the style and by the time the lengthy closing trio of “Through Celestial Seascapes” (7:47), “Of Legends an Lore” (6:18) and almost 9 minute “Seafarer” march into view, you might think you’ve heard everything the album has to offer and be ready to move on. Which is a shame as both “Through Celestial Seascapes” and “Seafarer” have some of the most melodic guitar work on the album, but might get passed by.

Folk/Viking metal looks to be off to strong start in 2009 with killer releases from Crimfall, Thyrfing, Finsterforst and this surprisingly excellent US release already making break out my chain mail well before the Summer Solstice.

I really hope someone from Napalm Records or Iron Age Records is reading this…..

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 6th, 2009


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