hammerfall-2016

HAMMERFALL – Built To Last

hammerfall-built-to-last-metal-templeI must admit that it’s hard to write a review of a band that I’m not a fan of – or a band I really dislike. Now, I do not dislike Swedish heavy / power metal icons Hammerfall, but I have never been that much of a fan either. To be honest, when Hammerfall first started to making it big with their four first albums, I couldn’t stand them – to me, they were nothing more than a poor man’s Iron Maiden or something like that. I started to come around some around 2005 when I first heard “Bloodbound”, a song I dug from go, and when I checked out the album in question, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t all that bad. Since then, I have checked out every Hammerfall and once in a while, the band comes up with some really good stuff. I don’t know if it was their new producer James Michael (Sixx A.M.) that got me somewhat hooked on the band with their – very underrated – album Infected (2011), but it was something with that album that made them sound less… dorky. See, I really have issues with power metal in general and on Infected, Hammerfall were still metal, but had lost enough of the power metal vibes for me to appreciate it more. James Michael might sound like an odd choice for a band like Hammerfall to produce them – and it really is – but it sure have worked as far as I’m concerned. The follow-up (r)Evolution (2014) took them somewhat back to their older sound, but since Michaels’ production sounded heavier and fatter – I always thought Hammerfall sounded so thin and dry back in the day – their new-found power metal vibes didn’t matter all that much, the album did contain some really good songs. That was two years ago which means that it was time to get to work again for the band and after three (pretty) good albums, even little old me had some expectations on the band.

Hammerfall goes in for the kill immediately with “Bring It!”, a fast paced metal rocker that kicks and bites – metal it is! I can actually hear a Deep Purple / Rainbow vibe as the backbone of the song which is really cool. But where the verses promises a lot, the chorus doesn’t. It’s not bad but when the song is closing down, it leaves me wanting more from the chorus. It’s an ok song, but not much more. They go classic Hammerfall with “Hammer High” and luckily for yours truly, the song comes more in the terms of heavy metal than power dito. Also, I get a strong Manowar feel from it much because of the big choir-like vocals in the chorus. It’s very catchy and memorable and powerful – very much to my liking. “The Sacred Vow” begins with some classical guitar but it soon blasts into metal, although in a more mid-tempo pace. The groove is addictive and the chorus strikes hard and nails it without any pardon. There’s also a soft middle break that brings some breathing room – a great tune! “Dethrone And Defy” brings up the speed and this is classic heavy metal all the way. The tune lands somewhere between Twisted Sister, when they bring out their toughest metal and Manowar. Add an Accept-like guitar solo and you get the picture. But even though I would love to love this mix, the song is only decent and doesn’t cut it all the way through. It’s ballad time when “Twilight Princess” comes around to keep us company and it is a big and bombastic one – and also somewhat melancholic. We get both flute and synthesizer (maybe it’s a flute on synthesizer), but it doesn’t make it less a metal ballad. A strong melody and an amazing chorus makes the tune a real winner!

“Stormbreaker”, however, is a standard metal tune, model A one, the kind you have heard a billion times before. I have lost interest in the song half way through. Skip button alert! The title track is much better. It’s a classic Hammerfall metal stomper full of thunder and lightning and a big chorus that contains a big “metal” choir – good stuff! “The Star Of Home” is a more galloping metal groover and it’s very distinct but even though it has a refrain that is quite catchy, it is kind of forgettable at the same time. It’s the kind you can sing along to after just one listen, but you won’t remember it when the song fades. Not a bad song, but not exactly a hit either. The same with “New Breed”. It’s a straight forward metal song that, I guess, is supposed to hit right between the eyes, but it’s actually nothing special and goes in one ear and out the other. The album closes with “Second To None”, an atmospheric metal ballad with a keyboard arrangement that actually makes me think of King Diamond. The twin guitar harmonies when the song speeds up and gets heavier, has a big New Wave Of British Heavy Metal vibe – really good stuff.

I must say that I dig this record. I mean, sure it has its downs and a few fillers too many, but there really are no really bad tracks here at all. But what they do have are some really strong songs and sound-wise, this album is a winner. Sure, Hammerfall are Hammerfall and the non-fans won’t change their mind because of this album, but I get the feeling that now when the band is more heavy metal than power dito, the potential fans in the middle, the ones that may not be fans, but doesn’t loathe them either just might this album quite appealing. James Michael as a producer is also a winning choice because the guy has really made the band sound really good, in my book he’s exactly what they need. Maybe the old fans who grew up with the band will beg to differ, but for me who didn’t, I believe that Hammerfall has been getting better and better with each album. I give my thumbs up for this album, much because it proves that Hammerfall are still relevant and I have a feeling the band has even more to offer in the future.

6/10

Other Hammerfall reviews:

Infected
(r)Evolution

Tracklist:

1. Bring It!
2. Hammer High
3. The Sacred Vow
4. Dethrone And Defy
5. Twilight Princess
6. Stormbreaker
7. Built To Last
8. The Star Of Home
9. New Breed
10. Second To None

Photo by Tallee Savage
Photo editing by Mattias Savage Wilmenius