Hammer Horde
Vinlander

So back in 2009, Ohio’s Hammer Horde released their debut album, Under the Mighty Oath, which was a mighty slab of blackened epic pagan/viking/folk metal that belied its American origins and sounded like a very authentic European act akin to Ensiferum, Turisas, Finsterforst, Forefather, early Mithotyn, Equilibrium and such. An impressive feat considering not too many US  acts were plying that sound very well back then. Oakhelm was the only other act that come to mind at the time.

However, the US (and certainly Canada for that matter) has started to see an increase in such acts, with the likes of Blackguard, Crimson Shadows, Nordheim and Vesperia — each having delivered rather solid releases, showing that this continent is perfectly capable of delivering the Viking/folk goods.

Hammer Horde are certainly the cream of the thin American crop though. Their delivery and grasp of the genre is as authentic and rousing as anything from Scandinavia and retains the influences mentioned in the opening  paragraph. And with Vinlander the band has added just a little bit of control and pacing amid the blustery melodic blasts. They have also shortened and focused the songs just a tiny bit (the album is 54 minutes long versus the full hour of the debut) so the impact and dynamics don’t overstay their welcome as they did a little bit on Mighty Oath.

As a result, Vinlander is a perfect example of the genre. Though still, a fairly full throttle affair of power metal meets melodic black metal with Viking/folk tinges, some controlled choruses, clean vocals amid the hawkish rasps and a few slower moments give the album a truly epic feel.  And while 54 minutes is still a bit long for this kind of album, every note and riff bounces and blazes with energy and rousing anthemic aplomb.  The clean vocals, as with the debut heavily imbue Forefather, which is a pretty strong reference point.

But the focus of the album  is the high octane blackened melodic moments that fill a majority of the tracks such as blistering openers “Infinite War Thirst” and “Vinlander” and super frenetic “Archaic Offerings” . Third track “Hero’s Heart”,  while still a full on number, adds a little more somber mood to the riffage before “Oathkeeper” slows things down proper (for the most part) with a really heavily Forefather influenced jaunt. “Hymn of the Fjords” is a mid-album instrumental break before “Riders of Annihilation” delivers one of  the album’s standout track with patient, epic canters bleeding seamlessly into several truly rousing moments. “Led by the Ancient Light” is the album’s other ‘moodier’ (relatively speaking) track, injecting some nice folky acoustics to the mix. The there is the requisite party, beers’n’mead number in “Midgardian Revelry”, though it never fully steps into Korpiklaani-ish frivolity. The album closes with another instrumental (“Hoddmimir’s Holt”) and “The Curse of Andvari” a pretty standard Hammer Horde number, which admittedly at the 50 minute mark is starting to repeat itself.

Despite the length, the album is damn fun.  The production is crisp , with some nice crunchy guitars and the keyboards are subtle rather than beating you over the head with folky symphonics is more common place with their European brethren. And the end result is a fine  effort showing Hammer Horde is more than competent at competing with their European counterparts and adds a confident American tinge to an otherwise dry year for Viking/folk metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
June 1st, 2012

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