I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Lions of the Sea by Grimgotts
- Style: Fantasy-Themed Symphonic Power Metal
- Country: United Kingdom
- Label: Stormspell Records
- Release: 2017
With all due respect to the members of Grimgotts and the fine folks at their label, Stormspell Records, I had a feeling that Lions of the Sea was not really going to be my "thang" as soon as I received the promotional e-mail. The hype sheet which accompanied the album compared this quintet to DragonForce, and said that Grimgotts' music was "witchcrafted in Hogwarts' deepest dungeons." So…does that mean we're talking about symphonic Harry Potter power metal? Yikes. Those were two big red flags for me before I even pressed "play," because I can't stand DragonForce and I've never read a word of the Potter saga, nor have I ever seen any of the films.
According to what little knowledge I've gathered from friends who are Potter fans, my complete lack of interest in J.K. Rowling's franchise means I'm a "muggle," and the hype sheet even goes on to say that Lions of the Sea is intended "…for people able to embrace their inner child…muggles should steer clear."
In other words, they might as well have just come right out and told me, "Dude, you are not the target audience for this disc," haha!
However, Stormspell has been a longtime supporter of this column and they were nice enough to send me this album gratis, so I'm going to do my best to review it as objectively and fairly as I can. Fans of this style of pompous fantasy-themed power metal can feel free to tell me what a closed-minded a**hole I am in the comment section if they don't like the end result. Straight to it then!
So Who the Heck Is Grimgotts Anyway?
Italy used to have the market cornered on symphonic/cinematic fantasy power metal like this, but Grimgotts hails from the U.K. The quintet has been around since 2015 and in that time they've released a handful of EPs and digital singles. Lions of the Sea is their first full album-length recording.
A wave of relief washed over me as the first track, "Lions of the Sea," began playing, because it didn't sound much like DragonForce after all. Instead of the high-speed, soulless, billion-miles-an-hour wankery I was dreading, Grimgotts was pleasantly mid-paced, with lots of guitar/keyboard interplay that more closely resembled Italy's Rhapsody (aka Rhapsody of Fire).
I will admit that Andy Barton's reedy, somewhat nasal voice was a bit of an acquired taste at first; he sounds kinda like Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) if Hansi had a head cold. By the second track, "Golden Shores," I was already thinking that Grimgotts was better than I'd expected. Barton even briefly affects a bit of a death growl in this track, which was unexpectedly weird, but kinda cool.
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"Morning Blues" has a cartoony Medieval bounce to it, causing visions of dwarves dancing around tiny Stonehenges."Find Your Way" is a legitimate Helloween/Rhapsody style melodic speed metal burner, and my favorite track on the album by far.
A brief acoustic piece, "The Gallows," leads into "Jonah" (I assume the title refers to the Biblical guy who was swallowed by a whale, not the comic book gunfighter Hex) and then the epic "Calm Before the Storm," which sounds like the end-credit theme to a big-budget fantasy film.
"The Sad King" begins with some mournful acoustics before slowly building into a full-on medieval jiggety-jig, and the album closes with "The Bright Lights," which brings us back to the land of big power chords, majestic keyboard runs, and soaring, operatic vocals.
Summing It Up
In the end, Lions of the Sea wasn't the hellish listening experience I'd been dreading. In fact, I actually kinda liked a good chunk of it, even if I did find myself wishing more than once that Grimgotts would heavy things up a little—these tunes could definitely use some crunchier guitars and less tripping-through-the-daisies acoustic noodling, but I suppose that sort of thing comes with the folky-sympho-power-metal territory.
I may never become a huge fan of this particular style of metal, but I will say that Grimgotts does what they do quite well, and therefore fans of Rhapsody, Labyrinth, Blind Guardian, Domine, and the like can add Lions of the Sea to their collections with confidence. So, am I still a muggle? (Shrugs.)
- Here Be Dragonlords (EP)—Stormspell, 2016
- Extenditus Playus (EP)—Stormspell, 2016
- Part Man, Part Beast, Part Dragon (EP)—Digital, 2017
- Lions of the Sea—Stormspell, 2017
© 2017 Keith Abt
Ara Vahanian from LOS ANGELES on December 19, 2017:
Keith: first of all congratulations for this article being on a Hubpages network site! I have never heard of this band but so far I have decided to check them out and it sounds pretty good! I'm just like you that I love to write reviews about albums. I think music is a great coping mechanism in addition to providing us with a source of entertainment. Thanks for being a valuable member of the Hubpages writing community. keep up the good work.