HAMMERFALL hails from Goteborg, Sweden. As a result it is quite the challenge to review a more embedded Nordic sounding band’s album. I am a huge fan of Scandinavian metal like NIGHTWISH, ENFORCER, SISTER SIN and CRUCIFIED BARBARA. However, HAMMERFALL reminds me more of a traditional battle-themed band like SABATON. Built to Last (November 4, Napalm Records) is the band’s tenth studio album. I was introduced to them by my Sobrina, Nahikari. Needless to say, they take a little getting used to when you live in the States. They are not typically what you hear on the airwaves here.
They have some top notch musicians and are a force to be reckoned with around the globe. Let’s begin this story with “Bring It”. Pounding your forehead with hard driving in your face, guitar, the band challenges the world to rumble with them. “Built to Last” has many cool moments especially when the drums and guitar are perfectly in sync, and although Joacim Cans is great on these lyrics they are a bit subdued. I wish he was really attacking them. Stronger vocals would make a huge difference for me. Still good tunes, however..
“Dethrone and Defy” contains heavy guitars, clean vocals and harmony and a vivid historical sword battle intertwined with hard pounding Swedish metal. A definite favorite, but a bit predictable. “Hammer High tells the story of Hector, the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. Very good, clean solo work on this effort. “New Breed” begins with hard pounding flanger-enhanced power chords. I think the message here is that it doesn’t matter what kind of \m/etal you love, we all have it “running through our veins”. There is a part in this tune where you only hear what I think is the high hat keeping the beat in one channel and playing along with one guitar in the other channel for about one minute. It’s just a very cool and mesmerizing part of the song. I loved this one, my favorite.
“Second to None” slows down the pace and describes the hero of the song emerging from the darkness and into a reawakening to honest inner strength. The Warrior reawakens his determination and casts aside false Gods and thoughts. Our soldier explodes in battle with the metal attack, drums and guitars in sync. The song is very deep and detailed. I listened to it many times, trying to absorb it all. Really a good story condensed into five and a half minutes.
“Stormbreaker” is fast-paced, great solos, with a pounding drum attack, excellent speed metal and skin double kicks. Typical HAMMERFALL with variations of slower and lighting fast beats intermixed. This one really gets to cranking it in high gear. “The Sacred Vow”, has a nice easy beginning and ishard driving; slows to harmony. The lyrics have a very typical Nordic battle feel. I want to grab a shield and sword and go kick some ass. Joacim gets to such high screaming pitches in this song that it is mixed in with an angelic choir. Really cool moments.
“The Star of Home” gets your heart pounding with heavy guitar riffs and double kicks. To make it more realistic, the guitars begin to play a galloping rhythm simulation as if riding into battle. “Twilight Princess” begins with flute (or keyboard) and a responding mellow rift; balad. Picture a soldier resting on a rock waiting for his love and he longs for her. The best vocals on the album. Not a heavy song at all, but very tasteful with nice lyrics. The more I listened to the LP, the better I liked it every time. They are excellent storytellers. My only disappointment is that the album seems a bit narrow and stuck in battle mode all the time and needed a diversion. HAMMERFALL will be touring with DELAIN in 2017 and I plan on being there in Dallas. Salude’
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Bring it”, “Dethrone and Defy”, “New Breed”, “The Sacred Vow”, “The Star of Home”
-MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH