Released: 2009, Storm Surge Records
Reviewer: Robert Williams
UNDER THE MIGHTY OATH the debut full length release from Toledo, Ohio's Epic Viking Metal five-piece Hammer Horde arrived in my mailbox packaged in a really slick looking digi-pack. The album graphics and artwork on par with anything released by major labels like Century Media or Nuclear Blast, with an eight panel glossy booklet with band photo's and album credits. UNDER THE MIGHTY OATH is released through Storm Surge Records whose founder just so happens to be Hammer Horde guitarist and keyboardist Ryan Mininger so the detail oriented aspects of a quality product can certainly be appreciated here.
What would an epic viking metal cd be without a minute and a half long keyboard intro? Well for starters it wouldn't be this five piece as the aforementioned "Storm Of Pagan Skies" instrumental builds anticipation up to the beginning of "Pierced By Odin's Spear" a very eclectic mix of melodic guitar leads, blast beats, keys and screeching, folkish clean vocals and even the occasional falsetto wail. The title track for UNDER THE MIGHTY OATH double kicks and blasts it's way into an epic chorus before hitting double-time. Drummer Jayson Cessna is as talented as you are likely to find in this genre, his blasts, fills and cymbal accenting is all dead on and well placed in the mix.
"Howl of Himinbjorg" opens with a howling wind before vocalist Tom Sturniolo offers up a more metal howl amidst tremolo picked guitars. There are some neat melodic guitar leads accompanied by clean vocals midway through this one. "Farewell To The Fallen" is introduced to the listener with folky acoustic guitars, clean vocals and what I will guess is a synthesizer's take on a pan flute. This makes for a pretty cinematic build before introducing the electric guitars and thunderous drums.
Other standout tracks on this disc would be the barbaric ferocious hacking of "Through Celestial Seascapes" and melodic album closer "Seafarer" which brings the hour long disc to a close. I have to say I am very impressed with Hammer Horde. This is pretty much the total package, great songs, great sound quality, and great packaging. I will be very interested to see where the band develops from here on out.