with Darkest Era, Dendera & Death Valley Knights
@ The Garage, London
1st October 2013
Review by Rowena Lamb
Photography by Inty Malcom
On the penultimate night of their eight date UK tour, the wonder that is Gloryhammer hits London town. Coming from the mind that brought you Alestorm let’s face it this was never going to be a serious sounding band; it’s too much fun for that. With a debut album based around the story of the invasion of Dundee by an evil wizard (Christopher Bowes) with his army of undead unicorns, Angus McFife must find three objects to help him defeat the evil that is Zargothrax.
As the gig clashed with a home Arsenal match the area around The Garage was pretty busy, but alas this could not be said for the venue. Maybe it was because it was a Tuesday? Maybe it’s because they’re a new band? But it was still early doors and with three bands to play first, things were sure to pick up.
Those that were there were mostly gathered around the stage when the first band Death Valley Knights came on. Having seen them play in Islington only a few weeks prior at a much smaller venue, I was more than very happy to watch their set again. They have a good energy and I was surprised and pleased to see a distinct increase in this from the bass and second guitar players. At the last gig they had seemed subdued and none engaging with the crowd, leaving the focus on the lead singer and drummer. However, tonight was a whole different story indeed.
Music wise this is good old fashioned metal; there’s steady drums, chugging guitars and screechy solos. They have a confident stage presence and given the volume level of the cheers they were certainly appreciated by the audience. It was also good to see members of the band later go towards the front of the stage to support the next bands when they began.
Up next was Dendera and it was clear from the start that they had fans in the house. The size of the audience seemed to swell immediately and they were greeted by loud cheers when they came on stage. The singer has a good loud voice and can certainly belt out those screams, with the drummer throwwing out some booming fills – which is always appreciated. Throughout their set the audience kept up the cheering showing their appreciation, which was returned by their singer’s engagement with the audience. If you like Iron Maiden, then you could very well like this band as their style is very much in the same vein.
However, this for me was the problem…their music sounds too much like Iron Maiden. In fact it was predictably similar. I can understand influences coming out but for me and others in the audience, when you can predict how the songs are going to go with guitars and drums, etc when you’ve never heard them before, this was just too close for liking. As I said a large percentage of the audience seemed to love them, but for me personally it sounded too much like they were trying to emulate Maiden and well, they’re just not Maiden.
The penultimate band of the evening was Darkest Era who brought an undefinable brightness to the stage, even when the lighting was dark. Having formed their band at an early age you could see the experience for some members of being together for so long. They have a confidence that is clear in the way they interact and perform. They clearly love what they do.
What I enjoyed about this band is that because they were almost constantly moving about the stage, if you looked away for a moment the visuals had changed which kept the eye focused on the band. There was some great guitar work going on as well as several episodes of jungle sounding drums, which brought an interesting and welcome mix. One of their earlier songs also threw in some jazz influences with a disjointed, conflicted sound. There were again elements of Iron Maiden later in the set, which went down well with the crowd.
Previously the cheers hadn’t sound as loud for Darkest Era as they had for Dendera but with this audible Maiden influence they increased. If you haven’t yet seen Darkest Era play then I suggest that you do. They’re confident, engaging and entertaining.
By now there looked to be around 150-200 people in the venue with an increasing number of inflatable hammers, swords and maces. There’s a decent break to set up for Gloryhammer and as usual background music is played to keep things going. Though you’re not normally treated to a Dundee radio show complete with commentary from the presenters and tracks such as Hammertime and Alestorm’s cover of In The Navy. The thought behind this and the detail was just inspired – top work!
Coming onto the stage to huge cheers and applause, the crowd at once feels united under the banner of Gloryhammer shouting back the lyrics throughout. The set list follows the tracks on the album ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife’ completely, telling the story of the quest to defeat Zargothrax and save the people of Dundee. As each character is linked to a song you are introduced to the band individually throughout the set. ‘Angus McFife’ kicks this off as their singer, Thomas Winkler introduces himself. There is no way that anyone could listen or watch the audience and not see or hear how much the crowd loved both this song and the band. Singing and shouting along with the words, this was one army of followers who were behind Angus McFife every step of the way.
Thomas Winkler keeps the crowd engaged brilliantly between songs, introducing the story and characters along the way. Each member of the band offers you more to watch, including how to play a keyboard while drinking beer – a useful skill indeed.
Crowd participation is always welcome, from dividing the crowd up to shout ‘Ride’, ‘Fight’ and ‘Quest’ for the ‘Quest for the Hammer of Glory’, to explaining how stereo works by running across the stage as the crowd cheers along, this was not a gig you should just stand silently and watch…and why would you want to!
The costumes were great and bizarrely given that you were watching a wizard, knight, hermit and troll, etc doesn’t look out of place at all. Every detail fitted well with the story behind the band and album, even completed by a not so frozen looking princess.
A very short break before the encore afforded Zargothrax the opportunity to threaten us ‘pathetic mortals’ in the audience, informing us that his army of undead unicorns were heading their way to invade London. But fear not as Angus McFife took to the stage to literally knock Zargothrax to the ground (and thanks to an inflatable hammer from the crowd the Hermit ensures he stays there – well, at least until it’s time for the last song).
The feeling of pure entertainment and focus from the crowd continued to the end of the last song and there was just too much going on to write it all down for you, but let’s just say….if you weren’t there you missed one of the funniest, well played, engaging and sheer damn entertaining gigs of this year.
1. Anstruther’s Dark Prophecy (Intro)
2. The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee
3. Angus McFife
4. Quest for the Hammer of Glory
5. Magic Dragon
6. Silent Tears of Frozen Princess
7. Amulet of Justice
8. Hail to Crail
9. Beneath Cowdenbeath
10. The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder
11. Wizards! (Encore)