“Royalty in the band’s universe is a bit more interesting than the real-life version” – Interview with Gloryhammer’s Michael Barber

Author Hernan Osuna - 26.5.2023

UK power metal warriors Gloryhammer are ready to storm the charts with their upcoming new album “Return to the Kingdom of Fife“, set to be released on June 2 via Napalm Records.

Evoking epic battles, heroic deeds, tales of kingdoms, diabolical wizards, and cosmic sorcery, the band’s new LP raises the bar and finds them in a great place in the present. For the new album, Gloryhammer has added vocalist Sozos Michael, a knight worthy of any inter-dimensional power metal battle.

The English five-piece outfit is currently in the midst of a new US tour, followed by a European trek. From the road, guitarist Michael Barber spoke to Chaoszine about the new album, the North American tour, the current state of power metal, and how they experienced the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla as English citizens.

You are currently touring across the USA with Alestorm and Luthharo. How’s everything going so far?
It’s amazing! The crowds are great, everyone gets along super well, and we’re getting to hit some cities we’ve not been to before. I put on a bit of weight though, it’s hard to eat sensibly here.

You were there for the first time in 2018, before the pandemic. What was it like to be back with the American audience after all these years?
We actually played in 2019 too! This tour was originally planned to happen much sooner, so we’re really glad we finally made it happen. American audiences are super friendly and welcoming, it seems the ‘European’ metal scene is really strong here right now too which is great.

Well, let’s talk about your brand new album, “Return to the Kingdom of Fife”. Angus McFife is a brave prince and there is an evil wizard called Zargothrax. Although it is a classic story, the hero and the villain, I think it represents every human being.  Each of us has a good side and a hidden dark side. I think that we, as musicians, (I’m a drummer!) have something to cling to, in good times and bad times. And that helps to keep our dark side from emerging. Do you see it that way?
Definitely. I struggled with some depression when I was a kid and focusing on an instrument was a lifeline during that time. Even nowadays I still try to use practice as a form of meditation, not so much metal but for example classical music to present a new challenge.

Return To The Kingdom Of Fife” marks the debut of Sozos Michael as lead vocalist. How was the experience of working with him in the studio? He is amazing.
He is just a dream to work with. Any time we felt a take could be done differently, he just welcomed the challenge, never got frustrated, and ended up finishing the songs so quickly that we even had a whole day off to go sightseeing around Bosnia & Herzegovina, which we were grateful for!

Except for “Maleficus Geminus” and “Sword Lord of the Goblin Horde“, all the songs are not longer than five minutes. I think that’s a good thing because sometimes heavy metal tunes tend to be too long and maybe the hook is lost. What can you say about that?
I completely agree. Of course, long songs suit certain bands, I can’t imagine Moonsorrow playing 3-minute tracks (although maybe they’d be great!) but for this kind of power metal, I think generally keeping things focused works better. The challenge then becomes structuring the songs so they aren’t boring or formulaic, which I think is something we’ve gotten pretty good at now.

Gloryhammer songs are about princes and kings, among other things. England lost Queen Elizabeth and now Charles III is the new King of England with Queen Camilla. How did you as UK citizens live the coronation?
Well, actually we just spent it on the plane flying to the USA! I think the royalty in the Gloryhammer universe is a bit more interesting than the real-life version, especially when you’ve had to see them on the news every day for your entire life.

In terms of heavy metal, England has recently spawned some acts such as Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, and Royal Blood. On the other hand, in terms of power metal, groups like Gloryhammer or Dragonforce are still going stronger. Do you think it’s a good moment for power metal worldwide? I mean… Do you feel it’s making a comeback?
There are some great bands emerging. Beast in Black are an obvious choice, the UK has a few new young hopefuls like Fellowship and Battle Born. My only concern is that venues are taking more and more money from the bands’ source of income, and if it gets worse it won’t be viable for a new band to break through to the point they can sustain a career long enough to grow as live musicians and songwriters.

I’ve had a symphonic power metal band and, as a drummer, I know how difficult it is to play a genre like yours. My question is: how many times a week do you rehearse before a tour, and how many hours a day do each of you usually practice?
We tend to only meet once before a tour to go over things. I can’t speak for the others but I tend to practice between 2 to 4 hours a day splitting my time between piano and guitar.

What do you think will be the classic anthem from this album that will never be missing in Gloryhammer’s live shows?
Probably “Wasteland Warrior Hoots Patrol“. I think it’s a very fresh take on our sound and has elements of everything that I love – 80s metal, crazy solos, huge hooks, and amazing vocal harmonies. Can’t wait to play it live!