by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Senior Columnist —
Don’t be fooled by the title of the ninth endeavor of the Swedish Power Metal giants! Even though the title of Hammerfall’s newly released album suggest there’s been some kind of (r)evolution going on, the truth is that it has the band going full circle in many ways rather than exploring new territories. The names associated with the album are well-known from the group’s past, from Fredrik Nordström (who handled the producer’s tasks with Glory To The Brave and Legacy Of Kings) to the band’s aulic graphic designer Andreas Marschall (again responsible for the cover artwork). Also music-wise (r)Evolution is nothing the longtime Hammerfall fan could feel particularly shocked about. “We are the keepers and for us this is real, not a game”, as their singer Joacim Cans notices in his trademark high-pitched voice and it’s certain the band remained the “keepers” faithful to their power metal aesthetics also on their new release. And yes, it’s not your eyes deceiving you – it’s Hector back on the album cover again!
The only ‘problem’ with Power Metal these days is that it’s more about clichés than anything else – and also Hammerfall’s (r)Evolution, as befits a worthy representative of the genre, is studded with trademark guitar-fueled gallops, Accept-esque group chants and pompous vignettes about the struggle of restless warriors. “Hammer high to the sky”, sings Cans in the first track, “Hector’s Hymn” – a clear proof that after 2011’s Infected the band goes back to their chivalrous roots both music- and lyric-wise. Love it or loathe it, it’s modern-day Power Metal at its best.
Next is the title track which proves that Hammerfall remain the faithful disciples of Teutonic Metal traditions – even though the focus is again on melody rather than the aspect of sound’s overall heaviness, differently from the lumbering, monumental “Bushido.” Additionally, “bushido” is the Japanese equivalent for “the way of the warrior” – we’ve already spoken about clichés and drawing from the past endeavors before, haven’t we…?
The massive chorus of “Live Life Loud” certainly has the unique power to make you, as the bands themselves put it, “raise your fist and yell” against the wall of heavy guitar riffs that blasts through your speakers. “Ex Inferis” starts out with a mysterious, gloomy intro that develops into a raw, heavy mid-tempo driven by a Sabbath-esque riff, while its follow-up, the feisty and uplifting “We Won’t Back Down” is certainly not intended to mark any slowdown.
This slowdown comes, however, with the only ballad on the album that is “Winter Is Coming,” led by a grandiose, wistful guitar lick. “Origins” and “Tainted Metal” both have the band returning to their trademark furious gallops against melodic choruses, all backed with the hurtling rhythm section. In “Evil Incarnate,” some echoes of Sabbath and Accept classic sounds are to be heard again – even though the track itself sounds surprisingly modern, remaining perhaps the heaviest on the album. “Wildfire” marks the album’s finish; it’s a furiously fast, speed metal-infused song enriched with further changes of tempo, a fine finish to the fine album of its category.
Hammerfall’s (r)Evolution is neither a revolution, nor an evolution to the band – if there was any, it was signaled here and there with their previous album Infected but is certainly not to be continued here. The predecessor being at times surprisingly dark, their 2014 release brings back the sound that’s made the first-league band out of Hammerfall – the band that is perhaps ridiculed by those tired of epic metal tales on warriors and dragons, but nevertheless cherished by many. If you’re one of those restless metal knights who’d just exchanged their armor of their glorious ancestors for Hammerfall t-shirts – (r)Evolution is an album you’ll put on your CD shelf next to your all-time favorites. If not, you may only hope the Swedes will be going for some real musical (r)evolution on the next album of theirs – who knows…?
Genre: Power Metal
Joacim Cans – lead vocals
Oscar Dronjak – lead and rhythm guitars
Pontus Norgren – lead and rhythm guitars
Fredrik Larsson – bass guitar
Anders Johansson – drums
1. Hector’s Hymn
4. Live Life Loud
5. Ex Inferis
6. We Won’t Back Down
7. Winter Is Coming
9. Tainted Metal
10. Evil Incarnate
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10