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Album Review: Hammerfall – ‘Built to last’.


Album Review: Hammerfall – ‘Built to last’.

Remember that day when you first heard metal and you knew that was you for life? Maybe it was Saxon, or early Priest, or you might have been a later bloomer and got into Maiden with the bloke after DiAnno. Remember that feeling? The sheer exhilaration of walking around the room just pointing at things without looking at them and powerstancing your way through a standard day. Sure, you met someone and you went to ‘those’ gigs to keep the relationship healthy, but you snuck off and indulged in a bit of Blizzard of Ozz to top up your metal batteries. Metal gave you a feeling that you are part of a clan and a kindred spirit.

Hammerfall wake up feeling like that. Infact they probably wake up in a castle protected by dragons and have a two-way guitar solo exchange before they have breakfast. Often derided as Euro-metal by the very kindred metal family that should be supporting them but being critical of Hammerfall is un-metal behaviour. These guys won the MAXIMUM METAL award so back off unbelievers.

With that out of my system, it’s my pleasure to introduce the metal posse to the tenth Hammerfall studio album, ‘Built to Last’. Castles, dragons, battle scars, the clash of swords and the never ending war of good versus evil are all back again to underpin the swirling maelstrom that is a Hammerfall album. This is music to invade small countries to and the direct source of the success of a number of bands now trading on the power of Euro-rock. Hammerfall are always original without changing the mix to a significant degree, but it’s never dull. Yes, the lyrics are very guessable, but the twists and turns of the music is as interesting and as dynamic as back in 1997 when they whacked out the glorious Ravenlord cover.

Now with Nuclear Blast records, Hammerfall just keep on giving. Oscar and Pontus trade six-string blows like prize fighters while the vocal of Joacim Cans is as strong as ever. This album pounds along and only has the single ballad, something that Hammerfall have indulged in too often in my opinion. Yes, I only want the power chords, guessable lyrics and then the aural mugging of a solo that jumps in and out of the range of human hearing. On this album that would be, ‘Dethrone and Defy’, which starts as a sprint, swaggers into a gallop before hitting light speed around the three minute mark. What more do you want from Hammerfall? You want speed?? Ok, that would be, ‘Stormbreaker’, which splits a solo with a drum break that is wrapped in a riff-sandwich. Hats off to David Wallin, the ‘new’ bloke on drums, as this performance is machine-gun-perfect.

But, it’s not Hammerfall until we get the, ‘what the’ song. Last track, ‘Second to None’ is a mini-opera that starts with a harpsichord and finishes with a fade out that feels like it’s going to dovetail into an EP, or bonus track, or perhaps even the next album. It’s a satisfying way to complete an album though. Those searching for the ‘original’ Hammerfall should dip the digital needle into track three, ‘Sacred Universe’. …’We are flying high, in the sky, a mighty fireball’. After this album I believe that this is how Hammerfall go on tour.

I am a fan of Hammerfall and Helloween for the same reason. It’s success by doing what you do best and doing it your way. I’ve never left a gig from either of these two monsters without a smile on my face. It’s a hark back to the simplicity of the music that metal was, where the camaraderie was everything and the vibe was everywhere. Do not think that this is naivety as the musical ability of Hammerfall is on full display here and the riffs are as dangerous as the solos are sharp. If you are a Hammerfall fan then you probably own this album now. If you wrote them off all those years ago (shame on you) then you are missing out on a great album.

Hammerfall, ‘Built to Last’, is not just an album title, it’s a fact. Get amongst it people.

Review: Craig ‘Night Dragon’ Grant

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