Under The Mighty Oath
posted on 4/2009 By:
I'd say we have enough Viking-themed heavy metal acts at this point to actually band together and take over a country. We just need to settle on a place and finally put all these medieval arms replicas bought off the internet to good use. Personally, I'd recommend a sneak attack against Canada so we can settle in the fjord-like mountains of Alberta. Plus, I'm hoping the element of surprise might catch the opposition off guard enough that they'd show up in classic Mountie regalia. Berzerker axes clashing against red-suited dudes mounted ahorse with fixed "WTF?!?" expressions on their faces? -- I like them odds.
Anyway, my point is that I realize there's not exactly a shortage of bands of this ilk already flooding our genre, and I'd imagine there are a good share of metal fans out there who think we need yet another Viking-themed band about as much as Erik the Red needs a back-up beard. Hammer Horde ain't intended for those folks. But, if you're the type of person who healthily romances about extracting viscera from the end of a blade while your raven greedily gobbles the eyeballs of those you've just fallen...well, I think you've just found your next essential purchase.
Along with some requisite nods to the stalwarts of Viking-themed metal, imagine a violent collision between Skeletonwitch, Wintersun and Oakhelm and you've got a general idea of what's in store with Under the Mighty Oath. Equal parts breakneck, epic, sweeping, melodic and punishing: these tunes unravel yarns of legendary battles, warriors, winter, seafaring and ode's to those fallen with an expertise much more befitting of a veteran troupe of the genre. And not only is this the band's inaugural voyage, it's apparently self-released, which blows my mind a little more each time I listen to it. The amount of work it must have taken to bring Under the Mighty Oath to light must have been staggering, but it was certainly worth it from a listener's standpoint.
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin in regards to specifics, as every tune presented amasses the elements I highlighted above in spades. I will say that as good as the opener "Pierced By Odin's Spear" is, things really start cooking once the self-titled track hits. This is the point where the melodic, sweeping aspects really begin to take center stage, and the album only seems to get stronger and stronger as each song further unfolds. The violence is offset nicely by loads of bright, layered guitar leads and very light usage of airy keyboard atmospherics. And again, the seamless flow of the album as a whole, and between players, is indicative of a group that's been honing their chops for many years.
Vocals pretty much cover the gamut: blackened barking (like Enthroned filtered through Skeletonwitch), warrior bellows, gang-shouted "HEY!"'s, and heaps of cleanly sung measures as well. They essentially map whatever mood the music happens to be laying down at the moment, and there's no point where one throws the other off-balance. I will say, however, that when I close my eyes and listen to the album's most doleful tune, "Farewell To the Fallen", I can't help but picture South Park's Matt Stone lamenting fallen brothers in a spoof Viking funeral rite. Hopefully that doesn't come across as too crude an insult, just something I found to be rather humorous. And honestly, I believe a healthy level of jest is necessary when playing and listening to music that lends itself to grown men and women wearing fur and boiled leather.
Under the Mighty Oath is an entirely triumphant debut record, and it's testament to the fact that you can still find gleaming gems in a sub-genre that's thoroughly flooded with competition. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see this work wriggle its way into some top ten lists at year end, it's just that solid. So, if you're a fan of all that's Viking themed, I say get off your ass and throw these dudes your immediate attention.
Hail Hammer Horde! And watch out, Canada...
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