Reviewed: October 2002
Released: 2002, Nuclear Blast Records
The mighty Swedish Templars of heavy metal have returned with their fourth full-length album since 1997’s glorious debut GLORY TO THE BRAVE.
The bottom line with this album is that is you’ve liked all of HammerFall’s previous material, you will automatically like this one. There are some changes, but they are not drastic. Basically, this is a musical continuation from the last album. One of the things that have changed is that there are fewer fast double kicking songs. That’s a tiny let down for a listener like me who loves the speed element, but the songs are well-written, played, and produced and are 100% heavy metal – so I can’t complain too much. A lot of the songs have the tempo of the song “Renegade” from the previous album, but then there are the faster songs like “Hero’s Return”, “On the Edge of Honor” and to a lesser degree “Trailblazers.” There is also a little less of the “chanting choir” sing along backup vocal parts…you know the “whooo ohhh ohhhhh….” etc. Of course it’s still in there including the “is my CD player skipping” chanting intro to “Crimson Thunder”, but not as prominent as before. HammerFall are known for writing some awfully sappy ballads. It’s the one thing I will freely admit I don’t like about them. Out of all the ballads they’ve done, I sort of like maybe one. On this album there is another ballad that I’ll be skipping over when playing this CD to death in the next several months…and that song is called “Dreams Come True.” One comment I have to make about the artwork is that it looks like some kind of cartoon comic book or something from a medieval “transformers” cartoon. It’s ok, but oddly enough the EP single “Hearts On Fire” has a much cooler looking cooler. Aw well, not a big deal I guess. The song was a good pick for a single due to it’s simple yet catchy shorus!
All the elements that first attracted me to HammerFall in 1997 are still in here in some form or another: the high pitched vocals of Joacim Cans, the catchy riffing of Oscar Dronjak and lead guitar wizardry of Stefan Elmgren, the bass playing of Magnus Rosén still takes a bit of a back seat (anyone who is a bass fan that has seen his demo playing on The First Crusade home video is just waiting for him to let loose like that on a HammerFall song), and lastly drummer Anders Johansson’s playing is top notch and is much better sounding on this album then on the last (in my opinion of course).
While this album won’t win over any new fans, I think it will be yet another successful album for Sweden’s second heavy metal band EVER that has debuted at #1 on the Swedish charts (the band Europe was the first back in the 80’s). Some “fans” slammed their previous album RENEGADE for some reason or another. I never understood why and loved it as much as their other albums. So for those who had a problem with RENEGADE, all I can say is give this album a chance. When listening to HammerFall I am always reminded of the bands from the 80’s like Accept, Priest, Saxon, etc etc…they single handedly have been a huge part of why “power” metal gained in popularity beginning in 1997. While some bands have copied them to the point of making it a crime, they still push onwards and stand above many of the others. This in my eyes makes them one of my favorite “new” bands.
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