Review by Rick Ossian
On first listen to Hammerfall‘s latest, I must confess I have trodden this ground before. However, I’ve not heard the like of this type of Power Metal for quite some time. Guess I need to get out more! Hammerfall hail from Göteborg in Sweden, and are comprised of Joacim Cans (lead vocals), Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren (lead and rhythm guitars both), Fredrik Larsson (bass guitar) and Anders Johansson (drums). They first formed in 1993, and according to their bio, early line-ups included members of In Flames and Dark Tranquility.
The opening number, Hector’s Hymn, is a real stomper, and by far the longest track of the batch at just shy of 6 minutes. This is real Viking warrior stuff , including the choral background vocals, chugging metal riffs, busy-as-hell rhythm section and lyrics including ‘follow the warrior‘, ‘hammer high‘, ‘legacy reborn‘, etc. No real surprises here, just plenty of speed, volume and colour by way of melody. Most of the stuff on offer here is just shorter versions of this song – but that’s not a bad thing!
The title track is a good slab of melodic metal. At 4:25 it is probably within radio time-limit range, but only just (luckily for listeners to The Wyrd Ways Rock Show, I laugh in the face of time limits! – Ed). Bushido is obviously warrior battle metal at it’s finest – the lyrics speak of our hero ‘screaming and twisting/pounding his sword to the ground’ and ‘live(ing) by the code‘. He also dies by the sword, which is one of Bushido’s main tenets. There is a vocal breakdown and a bit of shred towards the end.
Live Life Loud has an overall good guitar tone/sound. Dig the ethereal opening, then a nice chugging riff. Again, this is almost FM fodder. Programmers, listen up! The disc jockeys are already listening. Ex Inferis is about a demon from hell. This is another one of those numbers that is bright/dark at the same time. “The price to cleanse thy soul” is entered herein as lyrical legend. Okay, so maybe these waters have been tread before. We shall just tread a bit more lightly, that’s all!
We Won’t Back Down is a heavier, more uptempo number with a very cool riff. Again, we are dealing with potential FM fodder here. Lyrics include more warrior stuff such as “standing with our mighty swords drawn”. Winter is Coming features a menacing intro with busy guitar and drums. There is a guitar solo at about the 2:30 mark. This particular track should be a much longer song in my opinion. It is almost a slow dirge, and those are normally twice this length!
Origins, at just under 5 minutes, includes a nice, heavy chugging riff with a twist. This is true warrior/battle metal, with a nice guitar solo at 3:35 with lots of shred. Feedback closes this one out, which is a welcome element in this writer’s opinion. Tainted Metal is one of those titles that one wonders if it’s too good to be true, you know? The boys do not disappoint; this features a sweet guitar intro, a very cool main riff, and plenty of hero lyrics: “born out of wedlock/the future came fast/iconoclast”. There is yet another guitar solo at 2:15, and an extra one at the 4-minute mark in case you missed the first one! I found myself wondering yet again if this was a possible contender for radio running; maybe on Eddie Trunk‘s New York radio channel…?
Evil Incarnate is just like it says in the title. Plenty of malevolent bombast both musically and lyrically. Must be about the Dark Lord (not Voldemort, guys! This one is clearly about Satan, right? Just checking!) I noticed a couple of lyrical moments that clearly stood out for me, including “a thousand souls will fall from grace” and “The son of man/lost to the Great Deceiver/ Evil incarnate/I failed the plan/the new inception reigns”.
The closing tune, Wildfire, is probably among the better tracks here. It features a very cool guitar intro, and is heavy and fast again. There is some almost blazing shred work going on here, even with the rhythm riffs! At 2:20 there is a guitar breakdown, followed in short order (2:40) by a really tasty lead guitar, then twin leads. A very energetic closing, also, by the way; vocally, just pure excellence. This must be heard to be believed!
****/5 (Some points lost for repetitive nature of vocals and some instrumental passages…)