Vhäldemar – Straight to Hell (Fighter Records)Wednesday, 21st October 2020
Returning for their sixth studio album Straight to Hell are the power metal crusaders from Spain, Vhäldemar. Sticking to a tried and true formula filled with epic battle-laden, wizard/majestic themes and old school traditional/epic riffing from a decidedly Teutonic-leaning platform, you’ll get nine more anthems designated for strident singalongs and cultural-laden harmony appeal. Much like the masters Blind Guardian, Grave Digger, Helloween, and Hammerfall though – it’s questionable whether album to album you are getting some new twist to the mix, or if the servings and portions are fairly familiar fodder, just dressed up in a different way.
There’s something to be said for the keyboard/ guitar volleys that circle about from guitarists Carlos Escudero and Pedro J. Monge who along with keyboardist Jonkoi Tera serve up some tasty treats during the speedier “Afterlife” and closer “Damnation’s Here”. The band also deliver solid mid-tempo offerings with diverse appeal, as the cultural marching aspects of “Death to the Wizard” as well as the straightforward Accept meets Firewind-like “Hell Is On Fire” illustrate, weaving in shred-like arpeggio heroics against mostly conventional traditional riffs. Midway through we get the sixth installment of the “Old King’s Visions” saga (VI), featuring a mead-hall like chorus and a bevy of double kick tricks, heroic licks and entertaining instrumental runs that feature tapping and neoclassical strains. Once again, the struggle for full appeal lies in the less than stellar vocal range of Carlos Escudero – the gritty warble in spots of songs like “Fear” or the ballad “When It’s All Over” gives off a Grave Digger vibe, when many would hope for a clearer or stronger singing performance to match the music put forth.
On the surface, Vhäledmar have the proper skill sets, knowledge, and abilities to entertain most metalheads who are looking for more anthems to take them away from their daily toil, down a few beverages, and hoist the hammer high so to speak. Ardent followers of Teutonic power/speed metal from the 90’s and 2000’s though expect a little more in the vocal department to truly elevate their long-term appeal. Straight to Hell in a marginal way only boosts itself slightly from the already delivered discography from the band.