Latest release: Tales from the Kingdom of Fife (Napalm)

Anyone who dips more than a toe into the musical ocean that is power metal probably realises quite quickly that a great deal of it is, as Primus would likely say, a sea of cheese. While many bands sail this sea with a po-faced posturing and barely a trace of irony, others embrace the over-dramatics and bombast for the over-the-top fun it often is. One of those bands is Scotland’s Gloryhammer, currently in the midst of a two-week Australian tour.

“The whole point of the band is to be the most ridiculous, cheesy but amazing power metal band ever,” declares keyboard player Christopher Bowes, aka Zargothrax: Dark Sorcerer of Auchtermuchty. “If you can think of any power metal cliché, we do it. The obscene solos, the curious but pointless harpsichords, the wizards, the goblins, it’s all there. It’s a complete, ridiculous package of awesomeness. That’s what Gloryhammer’s all about.”

Those looking for proof of Bowes’ claim need look no further than the cover of their album, Tales From the Kingdom of Fife that features at least one dragon and a huge horn-helmed warrior gripping a ridiculously over-sized warhammer. Then there are the song titles, ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’ and ‘Quest for the Hammer of Glory’ among them. And for anyone who may have thought DragonForce already had the pizza-with-too-much-cheese power metal market sewn up, Bowes has a counter-argument.

“They have these aspirations to be this mainstream power metal band and they try not to use the goblin/wizard/unicorn angle too much,” he says. “We’re like, ‘Who cares? Let’s just go crazy/ Put on stupid costumes and sing about battles 1000 years ago!’ DragonForce has their place, but we take it to a new level.”

If the name Christopher Bowes sounds familiar, he is best known to Australian audiences as the keytar-wielding frontman with beer-swilling pirate metal band Alestorm, a group with a similar outlook to Gloryhammer if not necessarily a similar musical style.

“There’s a lot less pirates [in Gloryhammer],” Bowes says. “There’s also a punk edge to [Alestorm] because in Alestorm we’re all terrible musicians and we hack our way through the songs while screaming about pirates and drinking. Whereas Gloryhammer’s a lot more la-di-da and polished and orchestral. We’re all talented and conscientious musicians – apart from me. I just stand by the keyboards and look like a wizard. It’s a lot more lush and symphonic. There’s definitely a place in the world for both these bands to exist. I don’t feel there’s that much of an overlap these days.”

He’s obviously of the belief that there’s more than enough room for at least two Alestorms as well. Gloryhammer is touring here with Brisbane lads Lagerstein, who are essentially the local version of Bowes’ other band.

“We got to know those guys a few years back,” Bowes explains. “I got to know their bass player Phil when he used to be in this band called Aeternitas. We played with them in Brisbane on our first tour. We got on all right, and then they started this band and said, ‘Yep, Lagerstein is pretty much an Alestorm rip off!’ So, I’m cool with that, and I liked them so I said, ‘You want to tour, and stuff?’”

Christopher Bowes has something of an affinity with Aussie metal bands, having also struck up a solid friendship with Perth’s Claim the Throne on previous visits. The two groups later toured together through the UK. There are a few reasons for his enthusiasm for our local metal product, the least of which is that we all speak the same language.

“A lot of time, in our scene, the kind of bands you’re expected to tour with are inevitably from Germany or Sweden and there’s a language or cultural barrier that can make things a little difficult,” he says. “But when you get Australian bands, we have the same alcoholic outlook on life and the same sense of humour, so it can work very well.”

Bowes also recognises what a lot of us here are also very well aware of – Australian bands are pretty damn good.

“There’s some really good bands in Australia. Because of where you are in the world, you don’t really get known and it’s difficult to break out of the country, so we thought it would be great to get some of them on the world stage. And there’s so much good stuff going on down there, so we thought, ‘Let’s bring these guys out on the road’. There’s this band from Sydney or Wollongong called Troldhaugen. We’re going to do something with them down the road. Watch this space, as they say.”

The UK metal scene, on the other hand, seemed trapped in the doldrums for many years. This writer once spoke to former Skyclad singer Martin Walkyier about the Bloodstock festival when it was first getting off the ground and he suggested that part of the promoter’s motivation was to re-energise metal in Britain. Bowes agrees that the early part of the last decade were a bad time for the scene there.

“The UK scene then was pretty dreadful,” he says. “It was mostly, I guess you would call it groove metal, post-hardcore sludgy nonsense. It’s got a lot better since. It’s still not mindblowing. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s getting there. The UK’s doing a lot better these days. For a while there it was only DragonForce that was the only thing of note coming out of England. But now, particularly in the extreme, black metal and black-folk metal is really coming out a lot. We need more power metal bands!”

In the meantime, Gloryhammer is now ripping through some areas of Australia that British metal bands probably haven’t toured since Iron Maiden’s first visit here in 1983 saw them playing regional bowlos. Christopher Bowes is sure to be having a blast, checking out the local brews and the tourist hot spots.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” he promises, “because all the previous times with Alestorm we’ve just hit the big centres and we were flying all the time. But this time we’re doing it differently. We’re getting in the van and we’re driving the whole time. 16 days in a van across Australia. I’m looking forward to getting out there and having a whole new experience. We’re going to see the big things. The Big Banana and the Big Pineapple and the Big Prawn.”

Don’t forget the Big Merino, Chris.

Gloryhammer is currently to tour with Lagerstein:
19/4: Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne VIC (+ Hybrid Nightmares + Aquilus)
20/4: The Cavern, Adelaide SA (+ Dyssiddia + Laced in Lust)
21/4: Barwon Club Hotel, Geelong VIC (+ Knightmare + Stormtide)
23/4: The Basement, Canberra ACT (+ Troldhaugen + Beast Impalor)
24/4: Amaroo Hotel, Dubbo NSW (+ Trollgasm + Saralisse)
25/4: Bald Faced Stag Hotel, Sydney NSW (+ Troldhaugen + Trollgasm)
26/4: Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW (+ Saralisse + Enviktas)
27/4: Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay NSW (Free) (+ In-Cyde + F.U.C.)
30/4: Hotel Norville, Toowoomba QLD (+ Malakyte + Chronolyth)
1/5: Surfers Paradise Beer Garden, Gold Coast QLD (+ Halcyon Prophecy + F.U.C.)
2/5: Sands Tavern, Sunshine Coast QLD (+ Halcyon Prophecy + Gorefield)
3/5: Tempo Hotel, Brisbane QLD (+ Halcyon Prophecy + Chronolyth)