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HammerFall’s “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken“ is an album with many ups and downs. While the middle part includes several forgettable songs, the album also includes some of the band’s greatest efforts, a few controversial tunes and a hidden pearl.
Let’s start with the most amazing efforts. The album kicks off with “Secrets” which is maybe the best HammerFall opener ever. Right from the start, the band builds up an epic and majestic atmosphere before a ferocious up-tempo anthem kicks off with gripping guitar and keyboard melodies, a ferocious rhythm section and powerful vocals. The chorus is not only very catchy and features great melodies but is also quite meaningful. The highlight of this perfect track is the instrumental middle part featuring three extremely well executed guitar solos where Stefan Elmgren and Oscar Dronjak show off their hidden talent and prove that they can be on par with the greatest heavy metal guitarists of all times. I’m seriously asking myself why these obviously brilliant musicians seem to restrain themselves most of the times by playing rather tame, repetitive and ordinary solos in most of their songs. Now, this is an amazing way to start a record but it also sets the bar pretty high for the rest to come. The single “Blood Bound” fulfils the elevated expectations. It has no impressive solo passages but the track has other strengths. The song is to the point and doesn’t include one unnecessary second. It’s a powerful anthem with gripping vocals and harmonious guitar melodies leading to one of the strongest choruses in the band’s career which makes this track the best single the band has released in its career. This unbeatable opening duo seems to announce the band’s very best record but the following songs can’t keep the high quality and are only good average mid-tempo tracks somewhere between traditional heavy and power metal.
A promising exception may be the ballad “Never, Ever”. Some people may find the controversial track too cheesy, too soft and too weepy and when I’m listening to the strained vocals, the kitschy acoustic guitar and keyboard melodies and the melancholic guitar melodies in the chorus and bridge as well as the heavily emotionally charged vocals I can understand that point of view. On the other side, this song is truly moving me as I can somewhat relate to the lyrics about a sad end to a love relationship and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. That’s why the concept works perfectly for me and I really prefer this track over similar efforts in the past. Another controversial tracks that works at least partially for me is the album closer “Knights of the 21st Century” which clocks in at almost twelve and a half minutes as the longest HammerFall song ever. The truth is that the actual song already ends after about ten minutes and that the rest consist of two minutes of silence and a short humorous hidden part. This song combines Joacim Cans’ melodic vocals with Cronos’ guttural black metal growls of Venom fame. His exaggerated and theatrical performance sounds mildly amusing but I get the impression that this was the desired effect. Maybe the band wanted to build a diverting and slightly humorous contrast instead of truly adding an evil atmosphere to the tune. To my positive surprise, the two quite different vocalists complement each other and the entertaining vocal performances carry a track that is otherwise a little bit overlong and unspectacular from an instrumental point of view. In the end, this quite unusual song is a welcome change of style even though it’s only an average tune after all.
The hidden pearl of this album which includes a few too many fillers is “The Templar Flame”, a short yet epic heavy metal anthem almost on par with “Blood Bound”. The song is a little bit slower and the chorus is a little bit less euphoric which might be the reasons why this track is often overlooked. Still, the guitar melodies and vocals remind me of a mixture of HammerFall’s later single “Any Means Necessary” and Mike Oldfield’s “Moonlight Shadows” with a healthy dose of heavy metal of the eighties in the key of Iron Maiden with a fun sing-along part in the middle section. I really hope this song is on the set list when I’m going to see HammerFall live because this kind of tune is meant to be played in concert. I can only warmly recommend to rediscover this hidden gem again as it’s one of HammerFall’s catchiest and most entertaining tracks on here.
As you can see, this record is somehow a double-edged sword. It includes two undeniable band classics with the ferocious opener “Secrets” and the catchy single “Blood Bound”, an amazing heavy metal song meant to be played live with “The Templar Flame” as well as one of the band’s very best ballads with “Never, Ever” and one of their most experimental tracks with the unstable epic “Knights of the 21st Century”. These five tunes would have made an excellent EP. Sadly, the rest of this full length release is really unspectacular and sounds like random background music that can be skipped without any regrets. If a company ever decided to choose some metal tunes as elevator music, then they could find five candidates right here. My final verdict is that faithful fans of the band should purchase this release while occasional listeners may find the very best songs on here on the “Steel Meets Steel – Ten Years of Glory” compilation or the live outputs “Rebels with a Cause – Unruly, Unrestrained, Uninhibited” and “Gates of Dalhalla”.
From the beginning until the very end, this studio album has to offer so many excellent songs. What band members did here is just pure perfect classic heavy/power metal release, without any kinds of commercial approach, or to make things easier-to-listen-to for people who are not metalheads. This is one in a row of excellent HammerFall's studio albums. It's not what people say, they didn't change their style nor sound with this studio album, they just made more slower songs. This is another regular studio album, and it has excellent balance of bombastic, head-crushing, mind-blowing, heavy and fast songs, and killer, heavy, powerful songs as well. This insane balance of fast, and slower songs including powerful ballads and amazing acoustic song Imperial is what makes this amazing piece of heavy art. Band members gave their maximum here.
Oscar in collaboration with Stefan made blazing, classic riffs which give special 80's vibe, just with touch of modern and perfect production. Pure example are the songs: Fury Of The Wild and Take The Black. Riffs from other songs don't have the same 80's feel, but just listen to bombastic opener Secrets, a bit slower Blood Bound, Hammer Of Justice, power ballad Never, Ever, extremely heavy Born To Rule, The Templar Flame and the only progressive, and very complex song Knights Of The 21st Century. But without strong and melodic lead guitar work these songs would not be complete. Each song is filled with addicting melodic leads, which made songs so perfect. So, the only riff-less song is Imperial, which is short acoustic instrumental. It will take you to back to the middle ages, and give you a tavern-like feel because of its composition. It feels like a bard is playing, and entertaining the drunk people. This time it goes vice-versa: Stefan in collaboration with Oscar made so many orgasmic, creative, tasty, unique and technical guitar solos.
You have really fast and very technical in Secrets where both of them show amazing skills, orgasmic and sexy solo in Blood Bound, shredding with passionate parts in Fury Of The Wild, one of the best composed solos ever in Hammer Of Justice. Just listen to that tapping, that creativity, that talent. Never, Ever has powerful, calm and very passionate solo, which fits in really well, and expresses feeling of that song even more. Born To Rule solo is in the same level as Hammer Of Justice. I mean come on, this is just raping of other bands who attempt to do something great. It is truly one of the best guitar solos ever. Stefan is really overlooked and underrated guitarist. He deserves much, much more credit. The Templar Flame has memorable and elegant solo, not technical nor fast at all, but that doesn't make it sound bad. It's just different than other solos from this studio album. Take The Black has insane, tasty and memorable solo, to melt your face before those blazing riffs and after them. Knights Of The 21st Century has excellent guitar solo too, mix of slower melodic, with killer fast licks.
Knights Of The 21st Century is the longest song HammerFall ever did. However that doesn't mean that this band has commercial approach. Songs they make are excellent, length doesn't matter here. Cronos from the band Venom was the guest vocalist here. He did intro shouts, and had some spoken parts in the song. I don't understand why after 10 minutes of this song comes silence winch lasts 2 minutes, and at the end Cronos starts to shout again, but much shorter than he did in the beginning. That was not cool. This is one of the most underrated and overlooked HammerFall's songs, maybe just like the entire album. What I really like about this song is that slow tempo done with amazing Joacim's vocals, cool lyrics, powerful and heavy riffs, and guitar harmonies. In the middle of the song comes the break, and everything becomes faster and mind-blowing. I wish they had more songs like this one.
Not just Oscar and Stefan did excellent job here. Ok, Oscar is the mastermind, without him nothing would be the same, and Stefan is very dominant band member, but without Joacim and Anders things could have been much different. Joacim gave these songs a special flavor, and each song is even better because of his clean, high and manly vocals. Anders beat the fuck out of his drums, and gave special and pleasant feel in these songs. The only band member who dwells in the shades of these amazing band members is their bass guitar player Magnus.
Good sides of this release:
This album is full of heavy, blazing, creative and unique riffs, followed by orgasmic and incredible lead guitar work. Each song has perfect tempo and ambient, perfect guitar solos and vocals fit in well in every song. Lyrics are not about dragons and knights like the hate-boys like to say. Lyrics are mainly about band's attitude, like Secrets, Blood Bound, Hammer Of Justice and Born To Rule. Also strong emotional lyrics can be found in the song Never, Ever. The rest of them are not that serious, but they were written to fit well while singing them out loud. Once again HammerFall proved that they are masters of heavy metal music, and their direction which is classic heavy/power metal. This release is a must-have for every metalhead.
Bad sides of this release:
HammerFall, to me, is one of the most intriguing metal bands. They aim to bring back the glory days of heavy metal by creating simple, catchy songs. Many will tell you they have succeeded, but for some reason, there are also a lot of people out there who cannot get into HammerFall. Maybe metal is being taken just a bit too seriously - after all, listening to Manowar is the only tr00 thing to do – but HammerFall just wants you to sit back and enjoy the tunes, without thinking too hard about them.
Chapter V does this far better than any other HammerFall album. While the first few albums featured HammerFall’s fastest material, they began to make an obvious shift to their trademark mid-tempo songs that have been the focus of Crimson Thunder and onwards. That isn’t to say that all of the speed is gone however, as things kick off with “Secrets”, a track that could have easily been on any of HammerFall’s early albums. Lyrically, it is a cool song, and quite fun to sing along to, but it is the guitar work that really shines on this song. Though the main riff is quite simple, it still makes for an interesting song, and allows the great guitar work to shine later on.
This isn’t going to be a track-by-track review, but it is necessary that the next song is reviewed. “Blood Bound”, is HammerFall’s attempt at making “Hearts on Fire, part II”. It is simply a catchy song that will likely be a HammerFall live staple for years. “Blood Bound” is a fantastic track, and it is definitely a sign of what is to come on this album. Many of the songs feature simple riffs that are followed by a nice melodic line. It may not be what HammerFall did best when they started, but they are certainly good at it on this album.
As mentioned earlier, the positive side of having simple songs is that it allows guitarist Stefan Elmgren to shred away. Elmgren’s style has not changed much, but it is still enjoyable. He uses a lot of sweep picking, and most of his solos are quite memorable. In addition, HammerFall’s other guitarist, Oscar Dronjak, is still doing his signature melodic solos. He has never been one to impress with his speed, but his solos are just another interesting dimension of HammerFall. Of course, the most interesting part of HammerFall would be the vocals of Joacim Cans. A lot of people seem to dislike his vocals, but I couldn’t imagine HammerFall with anyone else singing. Perhaps the biggest recurring theme in HammerFall is that everything is a catchy sing-along. Cans really does this better than anyone, because huge choruses are where he is at his best. This album features plenty of them, most notably “Blood Bound” and “The Templar Flame”. Furthermore, these are combined with the fun back-up vocals that HammerFall always features. “Hammer of Justice” and “Born to Rule” are the greatest examples. If you listen to this album and don’t want to start singing “Born to Rule”, HammerFall is not for you. The instrumentation of this album is not all great, however. Unfortunately, the bassist, Magnus Rosen, has never impressed anyone. This album is no exception. His bass can sometimes be heard plodding in the background, but at least he isn’t a detriment to the album. Drummer Anders Johansson has adopted the basic rock beat for the majority of this album. Although his fills are quite simple, they are often effective. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some more interesting drum work, however.
The only major downside to this album would have to be the track “Knights of the 21st Century”. It’s not that it’s a bad song, but it takes too long to really get going. Cronos’ appearance was interesting, but unnecessary. If this song were shortened to about 5 or 6 minutes, it would probably be a whole lot better. This track isn’t a skip though, as it features some interesting riffs and epic vocal lines. The only other disappointment might be for an older fan hoping that HammerFall still sounds like they did on Glory to the Brave.
Ultimately, this is HammerFall in its most basic form. Though, it appears as if HammerFall will not be adopting their old style in the future, this is still great music. In fact, this form of HammerFall is just as compelling as the older stuff. There are too many people trying to take the fun out of metal, and that is exactly what is so refreshing about HammerFall. They are not a Rhapsody clone, like a lot of power metal. Nor are they as serious as most other forms of heavy metal. HammerFall is about writing great songs that anyone can enjoy. This album is by far their most consistent mid-tempo album, and is a great way to experience HammerFall.
Hammerfall is, by law, the most predictable band in the power metal scene. If you’ve heard one of their albums, you can rest assure that the next one will be similar enough that research is unnecessary. Although the album art is the best I’ve seen yet and suggests the same fantastic spirit present on previous efforts, there are some flaws. This album actually ranks a bit lower in quality not because it either innovates or refuses to do so, but because the attention paid to memorable riffs and choruses didn’t quite come through as strongly as it did in previous efforts. It compares a little bit to “Renegade”, though it has fewer fast songs and the production is even slicker still.
The primary weak point on this album is the lack of really amazing guitar solos. You’ve got a few really memorable ones on “Hammer of Justice” and “Take the Black”, but other tracks just seem to come and go without really leaving a great impact. Some of the rhythm riffs on “Blood Bound” and “Born to Rule” also seem to lack the necessary hooks to fully stick to the mind and tend to run together with previous Hammerfall songs. However, one plus on here in the instrumental department is the bass work on “Knights of the 21st century”, which was a very pleasant surprise as Hammerfall has an accomplished bassist that usually pounds out 3 and 4 not drones in the vain of Ian Hill.
Among the more powerful songs on here, a greater sense of continuity between the riffs and the sectional hooks are present. “Fury of the Wild” and “Hammer of Justice” are both solid songs from start to finish, the former being a consistent up tempo rocker with a great vocal performance, the latter being a melodic yet heavy anthem with a powerful chorus. “The Templar Flame” has a great opening theme and flows smoothly, reminding heavily of the better mid-tempo songs off the “Renegade” release. “Never, Ever” is a typical Hammerfall ballad containing a simple acoustic line, a memorable chorus, and sorrowful lyrics pulled off with a charming clean vocal performance.
One thing that helps this album quite a bit is that it’s two highlight tracks are the opener and the closer, giving a good first and ending impression. “Secrets” is a solid fast track that reminds me of “Heeding the Call”, while also utilizing some great lead guitar riffs similar to those found on “Way of the Warrior” and some nice synthesizer and harpsichord parts like those found on the “Crimson Thunder” LP. “Knights of the 21st Century” is the longest running song out of Hammerfall to date, and although it has 2 minutes of over-the-top narrations that sound like they should be on World Wrestling Entertainment it works quite well. It’s got a little bit of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Iron Maiden and “The Kingdom” by Edguy in it, both of which were solid epic tracks by two exceptional bands.
This is obviously not Hammerfall’s greatest album, but it delivers the goods in the usual Judas Priest worship fashion, and it’s a clear improvement from the lackluster “Crimson Thunder”. It comes recommended to fans of NWOBHM who are willing to give a younger band in the metal movement a chance, as well as fans of Power Metal who can tolerate a less progressive/symphonic sound. Although I recommend the debut, “Legacy of Kings” and “Renegade” more strongly, this one is worth picking up.
A goodly proportion of metalheads seem to have this 'thing' about Hammerfall; a 'thing' which revolves mostly around total derision and scorn. There'll be no arguments with the chief criticisms from me: Hammerfall are right at the cutting edge of cheese (something like weapons-grade gorgonzola), are po-faced and ridiculous in their lyrics and attitude, are so overblown they make Pink Floyd's seminal 'The Wall' tour look like a crustcore gig in a kid's basement, and have absolutely no interest in 'progressing' the form of heavy metal in any way. Despite (or indeed, because of) all of this, I like them, because when it comes down to it they have a knack for writing solid, punchy songs that are simple and hooky enough to worm their way into the mind, and heavy enough to provide the much needed 'metal rush'. Whilst this album is clearly not going to be winning any major music awards, it is a solid piece of work nonetheless.
You know who Hammerfall really remind of, more than any other band? That's right! It's the 80's Saxon, of course. Much like the NWOBHM stalwarts, Hammerfall do not approach heavy metal as an intellectual exercise, nor do they make any great statements about anything more authoratitive than hammers or men in improbably large suits of armour. Hammerfall are here, simply enough, to ROCK! They play their riffs the old way - no prolonged widdling around up in the double-figure ends of the fretboard, just big, chunky powerchords and driving rhythm - Joacim Cans' voice has a clear similarty to Biff Byford's, and the structures are kept simple, hooky and direct. The emphasis is clearly on brute power, clean melody, devilish catchiness and great dollops of hot, cheesy showmanship, and in an age where such attributes are not just downright unfashionable but indeed positively ridiculed - even amongst much of the metal fraternity - I find Hammerfall a refreshing change.
Highlights? Most of the album really, as this is pretty rock solid. Opener 'Secrets' is decent and fun, though it pales in comparison to the next few tracks. 'Blood Bound' is a big, smashing, mid-paced anthem, full of warriorly goodness. 'Fury of the Wild' is thunderously fast and ripping, with the total 'Wheels of Steel' riff tearing at the listeners face like a pack of rabid dogs, whilst 'Hammer of Justice' is just immense, and classic in the way it turns around from the chorus into its triumphant opening theme. The other two tracks well worth the time of day are the whipping 'Take the Black' (when Hammerfall get into a fast, charging rhythm, they really know how to punish) and the marching crunch of 'The Templar Flame'. The rest of the tracks are nice and solid; even the stupid bits where guest vocalist Cronos rants and raves about nothing whatsoever on 'Knights of the 21st Century' are good for a laugh, and though most people don't like 'Imperial', I think it is a well-done, atmospheric and tasteful classical guitar interlude.
People are constantly saying that Hammerfall are generic, total power metal cliche, but I just don't hear it. There are far more old-school 80's metal elements to this than there are on any Gamma Ray or Freedom Call record I could care to mention, and indeed most of Hammerfall's later efforts are stylistically closer to stuff like 'British Steel' than anything in the modern era. On 'Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken' the lads from Sweden display a seemingly natural affinity for rousing, glorious melodies and catchy performance, and as long as they keep on doing the same thing I'll keep on lapping it up. Hammerfall aren't going to be reinventing the wheel any time soon, but they are still a band with a sound of their own and the potential to provide a good dose of thoroughly old-school pleasure.
Hammerfall's fifth. I was not looking forward to another release by them, but honestly, it surprised me, if only a little.
Just when I thought Hammerfall would pump out another formulaic, uninspired serving of generic power metal, they go ahead and show some innovation. Where? The very first track. "Secrets" kicks my ass. It may just be the best Hammerfall song ever written, with "Stone Cold" the only other song qualified to compete for that honor. "Secrets" features phenomenal guitar work. The riffing is powerful and captivating. The vocals are incredibly well executed. The lyrics are sweet and the lead work is sweeter. Plus the drums sound heavy as hell. The best part? It has an incredibly rare energy to it, that most of Hammerfall's songs are noticibly devoid of. The song sounds like thought was put into it, and that has a lot of standing here. Awesome way to start the album.
And then....Hammerfall reminds the listener that they are indeed listening to a Hammerfall album. Track two is "Blood Bound" and from that point on, it's clear that the band hasn't given up their old tricks. The production is a lot nicer than the sterile Crimson Thunder, but the songs still give off that same uninspired vibe that 90% of Hammerfall songs give off. There aren't any annoying ass songs like "Hearts on Fire," but most of the songs on the album have the same feel, which really sucks. Rather than spread out their newfound "innovation" and make every song on the album generally good, they decide to pack it all into the first song. Makes for a hell of an opener, but I'd rather have a solid album than a crappy one with a killer first track. The only song that doesn't have the same feel is the shorter acoustic instrumental "Imperial." Sounds okay, but manages to be boring even at two minutes in length. "Never Ever" is technically the power ballad, but it doesn't come off as shitty as their ballads usually do, probably because it has the same feel as all the other songs here.
The final song is the epic "Knights of the 21st. Century," better known as "The Prophecy", since it seems like that's pretty much the only fucking line in the song sometimes. Guest vocals by Cronos are a nice counterpoint to Hammerfall's typically clean, melodic vocals, but the song is just too drawn out. It would have been awesome as a 6-7 minute song, but it's too slow to capture interest for the whole ten minutes.
So what we have here is a rare example of Hammerfall 'trying.' They haven't really done that since Renegade, and then only a little bit. If you like Hammerfall, you'll buy into this one just like all their others. If you don't, this won't change your opinion. Although "Secrets" is awesome, I wouldn't purchase the album on its merit alone.
Conclusion: Better than Crimson Thunder. Basically on par with most of the band's other releases.
Over the course of the career of this prominent power metal ensemble, the band has shown an affinity for crafting some of the most majestic sounding metal around.
Hammerfall’s overall sound is deeply rooted in the European stylizations from which the genre originated and on their latest effort, the band shows little signs of slowing down, as they have created another solid album of driving music which is, well, powerful. But Hammerfall at times seem as if they are holding back a little bit from their true potential in order to make for a smoother production. No doubt, these tracks will go over very well in a festival setting, with memorable, arena style sing-along choruses that are atypical of this style of music in songs like “Secrets” and “Fury Of The Wild”. But occasionally, Hammerfall sound a bit dated.
Their riffing, however listenable is reminiscent of eighties bands and for whatever reason, they stick to this format throughout the record, never branching out or expanding the boundaries of the art form. The production on this record is slick and tight, aiming for a compact, classic metal feel and succeeding in the attempt. The riff which kicks off “Fury Of The Wild” sounds eerily like Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye”, and those that favor that type of song crafting will no doubt find something to enjoy here.
The album is full of great solos, without too much overplaying, and these skilled leads do much to emphasize the tracks overall forcefulness. Nostalgic and tuneful, “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” is a good album, simply not a great one.
If you are looking for familiar metal sounds executed in a capable manner, you might find this to be an enjoyable listen. In the end, Hammerfall are a group that has found its niche and are sticking to it, which is more than admirable, but you will find the group breaking no new ground with this release.
After HammerFall had made two very successful albums I was a little bit worried that they would maybe turn into somewhat too radio-friendly music. And believe me, I really like HammerFall’s earlier albums a lot, but I don’t really get the same grip of this albums as the earlier ones. This may mainly be because the songs on this album seem so tiresome and boring in a way, especially the melodies is not as good as before. But there are some good things with the album though:
First and foremost, this album has the best HammerFall production/sound ever. Especially the drums has a huge lift up. It’s generally heavier than the old ones. And that’s good. A weaker thing with HammerFall though is the simple drumming. It’s a problem I’ve had for years now with these guys. They have one of the best metal (and not just only metal) drummers but do they use his talent ? No way ! To this album they’ve (or Oscar Dronjak) have let Anders Johansson play a little bit more technical, but just on some parts of course. (Like the cymbal-part after the solo on “Secrets”). I’m still hoping that he will be allowed to use his full talent in this band someday. Anyway, the artwork is also pretty cool with Hector standing on a hill frozen in ice, cool. But it looks a little bit too much computerized in my opinion. To the songs than, shall we ?
The album opens with the previous mentioned “Secrets” which starts with a cool choir-stuff intro with some keyboards. Then the band begins to play. A typical HF songs. Nice guitar riffs, cool bridge and a pretty catchy chorus and the solo is also nice. "Secrets" is easily the best song of the album. 2nd up is the single, “Blood Bound”. The mid-paced songs with a really catchy chorus. And I just love the part at 2:08-2:22. So goddamn awesome. And a nice solo on this one too. It follows by a little bit faster song, “Fury Of The Wild”. Joacim Cans sings very unusual in the verses on this one, I’ve never heard him sing such high tones before. Really cool song except it’s chorus which is just too poppy and catchy, work really cool on live-gigs though. This song does also have one of the albums best solos. Next is “Hammer Of Justice” a mid-paced one with a typical “tralala” sound on the guitar. Not really a favourite from the album. But it has a cool solo. After that is the ballad, “Never-Ever” not their worst ballad, and not their best. The chorus sets itself on your mind pretty fast. It follows by the most true heavy metal song off the album, “Born To Rule” (with Stefan Elmgren as a co-writer). It has cool intro riff & chorus, a killer solo but the verses is very boring. A middle track. 7th song up is “The Templar Flame” a mid-paced song with pretty nice verses and chorus. But gets really boring after a few listens. And the 8th song, the instrumental “Imperial” is the biggest joke ever. A really boring acoustic one which is a really unnecessary song. Shouldn’t have been put on the album. (sorry Oscar). After that one is “Take The Black” which is a nice song except the poppy chorus. When I first heard this song I thought I was listening to the “Legacy Of Kings” album since the intro riff sounds like it could’ve been placed on that album. And the album ends with the long-song, “Knights Of The 21st Century” a pretty successful creation in my opinion. Except the fairly boring parts with Cronos. A mid-paced heavy (for being HF) song with killer verses and an OK chorus. And man, the riff that begins at 6:55 mark is just mind-blowing, really good riff there guys.
A thing you maybe have noticed is that I like the solos in most of the songs, that’s true. HF has the ability to make good solos on most of the songs on their albums. They’re really good on solos in other words. Thumbs up for that, huh ? =) Anyway, this album is far away from being their best, to the next album I hope for the same production but with heavier songs, some bone-breaking riffs and such. And of course that Anders will be allowed to use the talent..what a killer album it would be. But the album is absolutely not bad, so it’s worth checking up if you’re looking for some heavy/power metal, but I recommend you to buy their studio albums between 1997-2002 first.
3 best songs: Secrets, Fury Of The Wild, Knights Of The 21st Century
So, after their last album was certainly lacking in the fields of inspiration and songwriting and quite painfully overproduced and sterile, HammerFall come back much improved with an album that is quite solid, competent and fresh and once again manages to edge out their debut. The claims of Oscar Dronjak made prior to the release were not wrong or exaggerated - this IS their heaviest album so far. The production is unfortunately still somewhat similar to the previous one - clear and strong but also a bit overpolished and at times sterile - most modern Euro Metal bands may be fit for that, but HammerFall with their much more traditional True Metal approach, in my opinion are not. The tracks range from pretty slow (The Templar Flame, Born to Rule, Never,Ever, Imperial, most of Knights of the 21st Century) over mid-tempo (Blood Bound, Hammer of Justice) to pretty fast, (Fury of the Wild, most of Secrets, Take the Black, a part close to the end of Knights), but do not nearly keep up the tempo on the first three albums - real speeders are mostly missing. The emphasis is still largely on guitar-riffs, with drums and bass being kept rather simple and below the standards of the corresponding musicians. While that worked well on the previous albums, it's getting a bit old by now, and they really need to improve on that soon, else it'll become a very serious weakness.
Cans mostly delivers the same performance as usual, maybe slightly lower-pitched on average, with less frequent but more outstanding jumps into high-pitched screams, as in Fury of the Wild. It's still not very complex and deep stuff and mostly easy to sing along (if you've ever been to their gigs, you know what that's good for). If you liked the vocals before you'll still like em, if you despised them, you'll still hope HammerFall would go instrumental.
So, the songs - first off, the really great ones The best would easily be Take the Black, probably the fastest track on the album, kicks off with a killer riff, bridge and chorus fit perfectly and the solo is mind-blowing. Also grand are Fury of the Wild, another riff-monster and also scoring high in the field of chorus quality. The ballad Never,Ever takes a good place as well - finally, after 7 (!) years, they return to making heavy power ballads instead of acoustic softness.
Now to the good but short of great songs. Mid-paced Hammer of Justice and Blood Bound feature the typical qualities - genius riffing and catchy chorusses - but are somewhat behind the aforementioned. The Templar Flame is slow and gets going slow, but is an enjoyable and very heavy track nontheless. I don't bloody get the lyrics in any way though - what the hell is ups with the "visions in infrared" or whatever?.Anyhow, I like the song quite well. Imperial is not metal at all, but a very nice acoustic guitar piece nontheless, something different and simply likeable - oh and well-played.
Now the less grand tracks. Secrets is one of those songs where inconsistencies are obvious - the intro is overdrawn, though the riffs in the beginning are bloody great. The verses are very powerful mid-paced metal and full of heavy riffs - oh yeah and "Symphony of Steel(e)" is simply a great phrase, no matter how obviously it is ripped off from Virgin Steele. The bridge is short but atmospheric. The chorus is borderline speed metal with great drums but poor and uninspiring vocal lines. The middle section with keyboard right before the solo is unfitting. The guitar solo itself is probably the best on the album - but those keyboards after it are pure pain. Sorry but fact is, HammerFall are a classic metal band and should NOT resort to keys. Especially not fucking annoying clavinets.
The low point of the album is definitely Born to Rule. It kicks in with a great heavy riff, but after that, it goes nowhere really, especially in the chorus. Some decent riffs are thrown in between, but in overall structure, this seems to be exactly the kind of slow, dull song Manowar would write on a bad day, lyrics-wise (well except there'd be at least half a dozen "Manowar"s thrown in, but you get the point) as well as in the lackluster, inconsistent music.
Knights - this is the most difficult case of all. The first all-out attempt of HF at making a true epic that is very experimental and also different from their typical style, it at times goes totally too far and at times lacks in the field of epicness. Going too far would be the intro - over a minute till ANY music starts, and then it still takes another minute and a half until the actual song comes along - the vocal harmonies between Cronos and Joacim ("The Prooophecyyyyyyy"), however, are excellent. Speaking of which, the whole thing of getting Cronos into this song is also going WAAAAYYYY too far, especially his spoken passages: Experimental for sure - but overdone, he sure sounds like he's in some serious fucking pain along the lines of acute diarrhea. Back to the song: After the LOOONG intro, drums and soon thereafter heavy, slow riffing take their part, but the song is going on this slow course for far too long - proper epics mustn't be dragged and repetitive, I tell you. The chorus is decent, but ain't winning no prize. The song then almost dies for a minute, with a slow dull middle passage. Then kicks in the best part - a killer riff followed by a genius fast passage and a speeder solo. The end is done properly - resumes back to the slow passage to go gently into the end, at roughly ten minutes. Oh and there's a little gag afterwards, if you wonder what the rest of the 12 minutes of this song is all about.
So what do we have overall? Well, the band are back and this time not just with fresh riffs but also fresh ideas musically, with much better songwriting than on the last album and indeed their heaviest and also most experimental work so far - but inconsistencies in songs and the lack of many truly great killer tracks keep this album from being as good as their second or third one. Oh one more thing - the whole Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken theme of "We rule no matter how many people hate us and bitch about us" is surely more than a bit overpushed. If that doesn't bug you too much, check this album out fore sure.
Clearly Sweden’s Hammerfall are ripe for the taking here folks. In naming an album ‘Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken’, the lads have left themselves wide open for childish retorts. So let’s get them out of the road right now – how about these?
Unfuckable (yeah, I made that one up!)
Unco (my favourite!)
Yeah, yeah, it’s not that smart, it may be even quite dumb - but fucking hell, let’s strike this review with a sense of fucking humour folks. If you didn’t find any of the above description of the new Hammerfall just a tad comical, then wait to you fucking hear it. Hell, these guys have had a ‘Sense of Humour By-pass’.
I am a huge power metal fan, but most of the bands that play the shit know how to incorporate some sense of Rock n Roll idiocy within their music. Most of it is done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Listen to classic Accept - awesome band at their peak but fuck were they were hilarious at the same time. Hell, half of the Judas Priest back catalogue is just as riotous. Every moment of the first four Manowar disc is side-splitting. Current day bands like Edguy, Helloween, Lost Horizon and Wolf play the same game. As for Hammerfall – my god, these guys take themselves way too seriously.
As you can probably tell, I’ve never actually been a big wrap for Hammerfall. They started well mind you – the debut album ‘Glory to the Brave’, whilst bringing a smile to my face (they were capable of doing such a thing back then), almost resurrected the Trad/Power Metal genre at a time when Black Metal was at its height. Of course, they never actually did anything remotely original, but in spite of this they spawned a million imitators. Ever since then, for me at least, Hammerfall have seemed to view themselves as some sort of saviour of metal. Sadly, each and every record since has become a stale imitation of the first, more and more self absorbed and devoid of any FUN that this style was supposed to invoke.
The bottom line with this new Hammerfall album is that if you have always liked what they do, then you’ll be sprinkling ‘UUU’ on your cornflakes for the next six months. I’m not too fond of corn flakes covered with ‘cheese’ so I’ll pass thank you very much. Seriously though, ‘UUU’ has all of the trademark Hammerfall elements that has their fan base in raptures. The pounding 80’s Trad metal production (which for me is the best thing about it), the soaring epic like vocals of Joachim Cans, the metal anthems (‘Born to Rule’ and ‘Take the Black’ are about as close to classic Accept as it gets!) and the obligatory soggy as a wet blanket power ballad ‘Never, Ever’. Never, Ever AGAIN I say! Yet, aside from a rather different, but slightly awkward Metal epic of sorts - the 12 minute final track ‘Knights of the 21st Century’ - the rest is barely passable as far as I am concerned.
Hammerfall are neither here nor there for me. Other than the amusing debut, I’ve never been totally enamoured with anything else they have done. The sense of Déjà vu is plainly obvious with ‘UUU’ and I can’t stomach too much of their way-too-serious, no-fun metal attitude. For a band that has been around for near on a decade, this is way too pedestrian. They need to lighten up a bit and open up the throttle. Let rip. For me, ‘UUU’ is the case of a band that may have just about run out of ideas.
*And please, Nuclear Blast stop it with those incessant mid-track voice overs that tell me what I’m listening too. The Download pirates WILL find a way around that trick also!
written for www.pyromusic.net and www.wallsoffire.de