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Built To Last
November 2016
Released: 2016, Napalm Records
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: UK Team

HammerFall, the Swedish godfathers of power metal are back! The band is largely credited with bringing “true” metal back in to the spotlight in the late 90s, a time when grunge and nu metal were dominating the scene. Built To Last combines all elements familiar to fans of the band and the genre, offering catchy choruses, soaring vocals, magical melodies and a good dose of the standard cheesy power metal lyrics.

The name of the album itself seems to serve as a statement on the current condition of the band: they have been going strong for over 20 years, don’t seem to be slowing down, and their (already good) formula has not seen any radical changes over the years. This is also the case with the new album, easily identifiable as classic HammerFall from the very first riff, and so one could say that HammerFall might truly be built to last. Could it be that the band is reiterating what they said nineteen years ago - “HammerFall - we will prevail”?

“Bring It!” kicks off the album in a familiar manner, and there is no doubt that this is the same band that wrote killer opening songs like “The Dragon Lies Bleeding” and “Heeding The Call”. Joacim Cans sounds great on this song, and continues to do so throughout the album. The intro to “Hammer High” had me wondering if my iPod was mistakenly playing Nightwish’s “Over The Hills and Far Away”, before the chanting begins. This song and “The Sacred Vow” are classic HammerFall tunes, with the latter paying homage to many of their previous works through lyrical references. Having been a top provider of quality power metal without much trace of innovation for years, HammerFall’s formula can be seen as having been largely successful. With BUILT TO LAST though, one cannot help but think that maybe a little stylistic expansion wouldn’t be so bad?

HammerFall’s sound carries the weight of the ambitious goal the band set out to achieve 23 years ago; bringing metal back to its true roots, defying the modern influences that were prominent among popular bands at the time of their formation. They carried the torch as true warriors of metal for years, and arguably one could say they succeeded in their quest, if one is to judge by recent success of newer power metal acts. Now, 20 years later, is this simple, basic approach to power metal still relevant? In a genre where bands like Twilight Force and Gloryhammer are making great success simply by exaggerating and almost mocking the stereotypes of the genre, one could wonder whether innovation is really needed in power metal or not.

In HammerFall’s case though, there is a dire need for some fresh elements. This album redeems itself in good songs like “Dethrone and Defy”, “Stormbreaker”, and “The Sacred Vow”, but I would disagree that HammerFall is built to last unless some branching out takes place. Even the most robust construction requires maintenance and revision at one point. The pacing of the BUILT TO LAST is good, and it’s the rather large quantity of forgettable filler tracks that drags this release down. In fact, the entire second half of the album (minus “Stormbreaker”) is rather weak, and it is here that my conclusion of the effectiveness of HammerFall’s formula being on the decline stems from. This album has lots of good songs – just not any exceptional ones.

Despite the lack of innovation – HammerFall still deserves praise for actually being able to write good, catchy songs when one would think that they’ve written them all already. “Stormbreaker” shows that simple can still be good – The open power chords accompanied by thunderous double bass drum beats during the chorus is extremely effective. “Dethrone and Defy”, makes good use of the very familiar all-male chant session that is a staple of HammerFall’s music, and also includes some of the more delicate lead guitar parts on the album.

In conclusion, BUILT TO LAST sets out to prove that classic power metal, the sort that a bunch of Swedes sought to conquer the world with 20 years ago is still compatible with today’s scene. Have they prevailed? For now, yes. But the question of whether they can keep it up without renewing themselves soon remains.

Review by Torbjørn 'Toby' Jørstad
Track Listing

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


Joacim Cans – lead vocals
Oscar Dronjak – guitars
Fredrik Larsson – bass
Pontus Norgren – guitars
David Wallin – drums

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