Vhäldemar – Shadows Of Combat (Reissue) Review

Do you like Grave Digger and Helloween?

I like Grave Digger and Helloween.

Do you know who else likes Grave Digger and Helloween?

Vhäldemar likes Grave Digger and Helloween.

Release date: June 12, 2018. Label: Fighter.
This fourth album from these Teutonic-toned Basques is seeing the reissue treatment on Fighter five years after its initial independent release in 2013. Way back in 2011, I covered Vhäldemar’s third album, Metal To The World, and I noted then that, despite coming from the northern edge of Spain, Vhäldemar sounds as German as a giant stein of maibock with a bratwurst on the side. Their melodic power-trad metal falls somewhere in the middle ground between Grave Digger and Helloween (of course) with a dash of Kreator-esque thrashiness, particularly in Carlos Escaduro’s rough-and-raw Petrozza-esque vocals.

Of course, geography is largely irrelevant to metal — what really matters is riffs… and also power, and aggression, and fun… And Vhäldemar has all four, in pretty equal measure. From the opening drive of “Rock City” through the eminently catchy “The Old Man” to “Power Of The Night” (which is not the Savatage song, although it also name-checks “fighting for the rock”) and the rollicking “Metal & Roll,” Shadows Of Combat is a straight-forward, riff-heavy singalong good time, built on the standard framework of simple-but-solid trad metal riffs and soaring choruses.

Yes, this type of thing has been done before, more than once, but Vhäldemar has a strong enough sense of songwriting to transcend any second-hand nature and at least fit snugly in the middle of the pack, below the masters, but good enough to swim in the same stream. Sure, there are some silly moments — the brief spoken word intro to the “Old King’s Visions – Part IV” is some gleefully cheesy fun — but that’s part of the fun. And all is not unicorn farts and rainbows: Like that of Chris Boltendahl, Escaduro’s raw-throated snarl adds an edge that balances against the slick production and giant hooks, and when he stretches out (as on “Metal & Roll), he achieves an almost Nils Patrik Johansson level of leathery power metal rasp.

At the end of the day, how much you enjoy Shadows Of Combat depends entirely on how much you’re looking for another Grave Digger album, but now by a band that isn’t Grave Digger. Me, I dig Grave Digger, and Shadows Of Combat‘s helping of rough-edged power-trad is a fun little stopover while we wait on the German masters to offer up another course. Shadows Of Combat isn’t going to blow your mind, but it should get your blood pumping, and that’ll do.

Recommended if you like: Grave Digger and Helloween.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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