Swedish Power metal pioneers Hammerfall have been waving the flag for melodic heavy metal for more than 20 years, as incredible as that might sound, releasing classic heavy metal anthems since their debut Glory To The Brave. This is a band that started when the music scene, at least here in the U.S., had all but given up on their once hallowed metal heroes, as bands like Dio, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, who only a decade earlier were filling arenas, were forced into playing smaller halls and even clubs. Once bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam became household names, metal was forced once again into the underground and the only resemblance to this once mighty metal was the weak and watered down new offshoot genre known as Nu-metal, featuring bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Still, heavy metal thrived in Europe, as Hammerfall gained a dedicated and rabid following. The band recently released their 10th studio album titled Built to Last on new label Napalm Records. To say this album would be a “return to form” would be understating the albums that preceded it, as Hammerfall have been consistent throughout their career (yes even the much maligned Infected in 2011).
Built to Last is an album title that describes Hammerfall perfectly. Never a band to bow to trends or experimentation, the band relies on strong melodies, heavy guitars and drums, and the powerful vocals of lead singer Joacim Cans. The album begins with the fast and furious headbanger Bring It! The song is trademark Hammerfall with melody, crunch, and a chorus that was made to be played live. Hammer High is a mid-tempo heavy metal anthem that has plenty of hooks and another strong chorus to sing-a-long to.
The subject matter hasn’t changed over the years, songs about glory, fire, steel, and of course hammers held high! Sometimes you need a little cheese in your diet and in this respect Hammerfall deliver with the gooey cheddar of Twilight Princess. A keyboard laden power ballad meant to get concert goers lighters in the air (or in this day and age, cellphone flashlights). The lyrics are typically ridiculous and over the top, but one wouldn’t expect anything less from a band like Hammerfall, they always make it work for them.
Aside from the requisite power ballad, the rest of the album is chock full of the balls out heavy metal thunder and speed with songs like Dethrone and Defy and The Star of Home, the Manowar-esque title track, and the power and majesty of Stormbreaker. New Breed has an old school metal vibe that would make Judas Priest and Accept proud. The albums closing song Second to None ends things on a positive note with a melodic and epic sound which builds in intensity to a mighty and satisfying conclusion. After seeing the band perform on 70,000 tons of Metal earlier this year I am eager to see them in the U.S. spring of 2017 on their co-headlining tour with Delain.
This review may be a bit shorter than some of my reviews, but like Hammerfall’s music, it is concise, no frills, and to the point. Hammerfall is one of the most reliable bands in heavy metal today. They never try to reinvent the wheel but if great sounding traditional heavy metal is what you crave, then Built to Last will not disappoint.