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HammerFall
Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
April 2005
Released: 2005, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: EvilG

No surprises are in store with the new HammerFall masterpiece, their fifth studio album, CHAPTER V: UNBENT, UNBOWED, UNBROKEN. If you are a fan of HammerFall, then this is more of the same. Most fans wouldn’t want the band to wander too far from what they do best - playing traditional metal/power metal and they haven’t on the new album...although they have pretty much cut one key ingredient – speed!



The album opens with a speedy track called “Secrets”. This one also has the best lead guitars on the album with a great solo section. If you’re looking for fast songs on here like this, you’re best off going back HammerFall’s first, and best, album GLORY TO THE BRAVE that has better and faster songs. The next song is what really sets the pace for the rest of the album. This is also the first single from the album called “Blood Bound”. Consider this the “Hearts on Fire” from the new album…although it’s not quite as simplistic and is a superior track. This one is a mid-paced headbanger of a track that is easy to follow, especially the chorus. The remainder of the album is played at the mid-tempo speed, which is disappointing since it’s the faster songs that get me energized. “Fury of the Wild” starts with some cool riffing sounding much like classic Saxon. The vocals on this one feature a unique melody with Cans doing some wailing that is higher then his usual high voice. The places in the song where everything stops for the section where the group chant vocals say “unbent…unbowed…unbroken” was weird to hear the first few times since it interrupts the flow of the song. Despite that, it’s one of my favorites on here. I’ve never been a fan of HammerFall ballads since they are always overly sappy. This album’s “I Believe” moment is called “Never, Ever”…yawn! “Born to Rule”, despite being played at the same mid-tempo, is one of the better tracks on here. The track “The Templar Flame” has a lot in common with the RENEGADE cut “Templars of Steel” down to some of the riffing being very similar. The clean guitar track “Imperial” is OK but it is no “Dee” (R.I.P. Randy Roads) and goes on for too long. The closing song on here is the one I had the highest hopes for because it features Venom vocalist Conrad "Cronos" Lant. All my visions of Cronos and Joacim belting out some speedy lines back and forth, taking turns doing verses, etc, were shattered when I actually heard the song. Cronos is relegated to providing mere window-dressing to the song with silly evil bowel movement grunts at the beginning of the track followed by a couple of spoken lines. It’s only the 2 words “the prophecy” that they actually sing together. Most of Cronos’ parts are during the pointless intro that lasts for about 2:40!! What’s up with that? Finally, at close to 3mins in, the song starts. Cronos is hardly to be heard from again in the song…talk about a major missed opportunity!!?! The little we do get is but a tease as to what could have potentially occurred with this track!



Overall, the album harkens back a bit to a cross between GLORY TO THE BRAVE (without the speed) and CRIMSON THUNDER due to the overuse of the mid-tempo songs. Some detractors will no doubt call this album “Chapter V: Uninspired, Unoriginal, Uninteresting” but for fans, myself included, it will be lapped up despite its flaws because HammerFall on a bad day is still better than all of the over-popularized core shit that has been saturating the North American metal scene.
Track Listing

1. Secrets
2. Blood Bound
3. Fury of the Wild
4. Hammer of Justice
5. Never, Ever
6. Born to Rule
7. The Templar Flame
8. Imperial (instrumental)
9. Take the Black
10. Knights of the 21st Century

Lineup

Joacim Cans – vocals
Oscar Dronjak – guitar
Stefan Elmgren - lead guitar,
Magnus Rosén – bass
Anders Johansson - drums


Next review: » HammerFall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
Previous review: » HammerFall - (r)Evolution

HammerFall
Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
June 2005
Released: 2005, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Evil Rocker

This is the fifth full-length album by HammerFall since 1997's GLORY TO THE BRAVE (which I still point to as the single biggest factor leading to the resurgence of metal in the late 1990's), of whom I am a fan. I have strong respect for Oscar and all he has done, especially the regard he gives the metal roots of the 1980's.



But I must admit that ever since LEGACY OF KINGS the band continues to disappoint. Not to say that they are putting out garbage because they are not! HammerFall is a solid traditional metal band that has sadly been negatively affected by over-production that leaves much flatness in many tracks. The end-result is that on every album since RENEGADE (2000) I find some nice tracks, a few bad tracks, and A LOT of material that does not stand out beyond anything beyond average. They have become a band that seems to crave commercial success. I do not call them sell-outs because they still play metal and they play a true form. Yet it is now often a soft and flaccid form. Oddly, their ballads seem to be the best of what they do these days. Here the track "Never Ever" is good.



Their hit "Blood Bound" is also a good track with a neat video (despite what detractors say), "Born to Rule" is also a nice song. Using Cronos from Venom on "Knights of the 21st Century" might have seemed like a good idea in concept but hearing him and Cans do a duet is more than somewhat nauseating. The rest is well, average.



If I had some advice for HammerFall, it would be to scrap the over production, go into a small unsophisticated studio, and play some raw metal. The material is already there, the spirit is already there, but the end product after all the production & mastering has dulled down the metal to just tolerable levels.
Track Listing

1. Secrets
2. Blood Bound
3. Fury of the Wild
4. Hammer of Justice
5. Never, Ever
6. Born to Rule
7. The Templar Flame
8. Imperial
9. Take the Black
10. Knights of the 21st Century

Lineup

Joacim Cans - Vocals
Oscar Dronjak - Guitar
Stephen Elmgren - Guitar
Magnus Rosen - Bass
Anders Johansson - Drums


Next review: » HammerFall - Crimson Thunder
Previous review: » HammerFall - (r)Evolution





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