Hammer Horde - Vinlander 4/5

Reviewed: 5-1-12


1. Infinite warthirst
2. Vinlander
3. Hero's heart
4. Oathkeeper
5. Hymn of the fjords
6. Riders of annihilation
7. Archaic offerings
8. Led by the ancient light
9. Midgårdian revelry
10. Hoddmímir's Hol
11. The curse of Andvari

Ohioan vikings-in exile Hammer Horde made a stunning impact with their thunderous debut, ‘Under the mighty oath’ back in 2009, a Scandinavian-fuelled melodic death metal assault that served even then as a wake-up call to a stagnating folk metal scene.

Still, I was beginning to worry that the exquisite self-released product they had put together had scunnered them financially and was getting a little anxious about there being a follow-up, so it is with great relief that ‘Vinlander’ now arrives almost exactly 3 years later and can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with its forebear.

‘Vindlander’ is very much a natural-sounding successor to ‘Under the mighty oath’, but while the overall set-up of chaotic riffing, stirring melodies and earth-shaking drumming is very similar to the first CD, there is a bit more room for expansiveness this time around that shows a bit of added maturity and maybe gives this CD the slightest of edges over the first one.

If I had a complaint about ‘Under the might oath’ it was that the hyper-intense drumming was sometimes a bit too much and caused the lines between the songs to blur slightly. Jayson Cessna has lost none of his thunder, and still spends much of his time joyously blasting for Odin, but displays a little more restraint on ‘Vinlander’ and gives passages on most of the songs a bit more room to breathe by relaxing the bass pedals a little.

It is during these parts that the increase in swooping lead guitar comes to the fore, Derik Smith and Ryan Mininger leaving notes hanging beautifully in midair and providing a counterpoint to the ferocity that makes up much of the rest of the music. The songs as result stand apart from one another with a little more ease, and there are more transitions from rage to sorrow, elation to hatred and back again.

The 2-pronged vocal approach Hammer Horde take also continues to reap benefits, with frontman Tom Sturniolo’s furious shrieks and growls complimented by Smith’s despairing wails. Having 2 distinct voices adds extra depth to the music, and the melodic singing is carefully staggered so as to empower the songs and not become tacky and predictable. The opening “Infinite warthirst” features the best of both worlds, with the first half of the song a bloodthirsty salvo before Smith takes the reins towards the conclusion with a stunningly heroic display.

The songs remain complex and densely-stuffed with a great deal going on in almost every one of them, but ‘Vinlander’ remains an eminently listenable and enjoyable CD that gallops through its running time like no tomorrow. In turns brutally heavy and powerfully uplifting, it runs between the 2 extremes without ever sounding contrived or comical, and is one of the best CD released yet in 2012.




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