Hammerfall are a strange band to define. If we go by their name alone, not to mention their often over the top album covers, it’d be safe to assume that they’re a power metal or an epic metal band, of the likes of Helloween or Rhapsody of Fire. And although it is true that on a thematic level, particularly the constant references to the Templar Knights and the occasional dragon, some parallels can be drawn, when it comes to sound, particularly their latest releases, it is hard to simply categorize Hammerfall as belonging to any of those subgenres.
As the name implies, (r)evolution represents a new step for Hammerfall, particularly if we are to compare them with the kids who released Glory to the Brave all those years ago. Although this might not please some of the fans who wanted Hammerfall to return to their more “epic” roots (which they seemed to have more or less decidedly abandoned with the more straightforward Infected in 2011) here the band seemed to be interested in striking a balance between the bombastic and epic feel of their early days, with the more traditional sound that they’ve been developing for the last decade or so.
One of the complaints that fans, for some reason, had against Infected was the absence of Hector, the band’s mascot, from the cover. Well, this time Hammerfall decided to play it safe, and not only did they include the little fella in the cover, but also opened the album with the aptly titled “Hector’s Hymn”. As epic tracks go, this one should be a crowd pleaser, with plenty of mentions of hammers and steel, as well as an overwhelmingly epic vibe to it, while still maintaining a rather traditional heavy metal sound.
As it seems to be the trademark for Hammerfall, the album isn’t devoid of clichés and some cheesy references. With plenty of mentions of Samurais (“Bushido”), Templars (“Hector Hymn”, “Origins”), wizards and demons (“Tainted Metal”), sometimes the lyrics will make you want to fly to Sweden and steal these guys’ lunch money, but if this is the kind of stuff that’s up your alley (and, in my case, it is) then it should just be a fleeting thought. Plus, the quality of the songwriting will definitely make up for it, in case you really dislike the lyrics.
Despite being masterfully produced, and incredibly well performed, however, the album does fail to convince in terms of its remarkability; even though I’ve listened to it several times, sometimes I am still unable to differentiate the songs from one another. It’s not that the songs sound the same, but rather that they seem to blend in with each other when they’re listened to back-to-back. And although there are some great standalone tracks (“We Won’t Back Down”, for example, is a great tune showcasing Cans’ versatility as a singer) this does seem to be the album’s greatest problem.
(r)evolution isn’t for everyone. If you find “power metal” too cheesy, with its nerdy thematic references, then this album will be a true ordeal for you to go through; if you are able to look past that, or if you
never had a girlfriend simply love that kind of material, then this album will definitely please you. And, hell, if you strip it down to basics, and forget about the clichés thrown in, the album is still a pretty solid heavy metal release, and should be appreciated as such.
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