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Heavy Metal Unchained (Where It All Began...) - 98%

WishmasterTheDark, October 24th, 2011

90's - the decade when heavy metal music suffered a lot. After alternative's sub-genre grunge achieved commercial success, it affected music genres which were not their next of kin - heavy metal and rock. That was music which anyone could listen to. Music for masses, not for individuals. Heavy metal music is for individuals only, otherwise it is not heavy metal. That was a real disaster. Then came bands like Sacred Reich and Exhorder. They were the first bands from that mallcore music style called "groove". Then came Pantera who made it big. Horrible down-tuned guitars, growl-shout vocals, terribly written lyrics, mediocre riffs, slower tempo songs, wannabe aggression and brutality combined... Everything in contrast of heavy metal music. Other bands instead of fighting against these posers, they joined them. But then... came HammerFall.

Everyone was against them since the very beginning, telling them that they will never succeed, that they will never make it big, that they will quit very soon. But they proved them wrong. This band actually brought heavy metal music from the dead. This album represents heavy metal resurrection. It is magnificent example of staying true to the roots, and to themselves and their beliefs. No-one can kill heavy metal, many have tried, but heavy metal will live on. After their breakthrough, HammerFall became hated by all mallcore posers. So what is so special about this album that brought back heavy metal to its course, and made posers sound ridiculous? Everything indeed. From the very first song, to the last one. Even though there are many bands which influenced this band like: Manowar, Riot, Warlord, Helloween, Accept and Judas Priest, HammerFall managed to make their own signature sound. This album was just the beginning.

Combination of fast, raw, blazing, heavy riffs, followed with fast drum work, orgasmic guitar melodies, and harmonies, fast guitar solos, soaring vocals and incredible musicianship. The Dragon Lies Bleeding, The Metal Age, HammerFall, Steel Meets Steel and Unchained are examples of these incredible fast songs. Yes, most songs from this album are fast. In fact this is one of the fastest HammerFall's studio albums, so fans of fast heavy metal, this one is for you. Joacim 's voice really fits in these power metal anthems. He delivered insane amount of melodies, and gave an epic feel with his incredible soaring vocal style. Drums give huge amount of energy and power to each of these songs. Riffs are very creative, catchy, powerful, and most important - creative and original. Maybe the influences are obvious, but still it's HammerFall's original signature sound.

Besides these fast songs, there's ballad song I Believe. The slowest song from this album. It is done with lots of acoustic guitars, some power-chords, guitar solo with distortion, but vocals are key part here. It is not excellent. I think it is the weakest song from this album, but it is very good anyway. It lacks energy and passion. Lyrics could have been improved too. That's not a big deal, 'cause you have incredible ballad Glory To The Brave. It is a proof that they are capable of making excellent ballads, not fast songs only. In their later work they made so many killer ballads, and this one was just the beginning. Other slower song is Stone Cold. It is full of catchy riffs, excellent tempo and it has amazing guitar solo.

Riffs are heavy, mostly fast, blazing, catchy and original. Guitar solos are mostly fast, technically demanding, tasty and incredibly done. Drums are mostly fast, powerful, very creative, they give excellent tempo and ambient in the songs. Vocals are incredible, melodic and yet so strong. Lyrics are not just about dragons, like the first track. Stone Cold is about anarchy or something post-apocalyptic like. HammerFall is about band's attitude, keeping the flame of heavy metal burning. Some kind of tribute to heavy metal. Glory To The Brave is about loss of a dear person. Unchained represents heavy metal resurrection (I have already explained what happened in 90's) in a metaphoric way. It has deeper meaning like: fighting (keeping heavy metal alive), warriors (metalheads), although hate-boys can't wait to say: HammerFall is a Dungeons And Dragons band. Steel Meets Steel is about historic Crusade Wars. The Metal Age proclaims the upcoming heavy metal years. And that's what they did. They ensured future for many bands which were formed later. Fantasy lyrics? Only in the song The Dragon Lies Bleeding. Enough to call their lyrical theme - fantasy? No fucking way!

Child Of The Damned is Warlord's unsung classic. HammerFall as a great fans covered it. They took kick-ass song, and made it kick-ass even more. It sounds like their own. Vocals done on the original version fit more this dark song, but Joacim did excellent job here.

Good sides of this release:
To be a metalhead, but not to like HammerFall? I just can't imagine that. It is like an apple pie without an apple. If you find this release somewhere, go forth, and get it. You can't regret. It is worth its price.

Bad sides of this release:
There's only one very good song - I Believe. The rest of the songs are excellent.

Highlights:
The Dragon Lies Bleeding, The Metal Age, HammerFall, Child Of The Damned (Warlord cover), Steel Meets Steel, Stone Cold, Unchained and Glory To The Brave.

Glory to Hammerfall - 87%

PKendall317, July 11th, 2011

Hammerfall is the band that introduced me to real power metal, not what fans of Dragonforce try to pass off as power metal. I look at Glory to the Brave and Hammerfall and see everything that I want to see in power metal: Excellent vocals on the part of the lead singer, fast paced harmonic guitar work, fast paced precise drumming, and a sense of epicness that one gets while watching Lord of the Rings, however, that last part is optional.

Glory to the Brave is an excellent start to Hammerfall's career, and starts off with "The Dragon Lies Bleeding," giving listeners their first taste of Joacim Can's beautiful singing voice and the fast paced harmonic guitarwork of Oscar Dronjak and Glenn Ljunstrom, combined with the bass and drumming of Fredrik Larsson and session member Patrik Rafling.

But Hammerfall shows that they are perfectly capable of playing equally good slow songs like "I Believe" and the title track "Glory to the Brave." On "I Believe," the band composes a beautiful melodic song that like everything else on the album, showcases their talent. My one problem with the album is the same problem I have with every Hammerfall album, and almost every power metal album, and that is the lyrics. They are virtually the same J.R. Tolkien/medeival legend influenced lyrics that neaarly every power metal band uses. While fun, and well written, they get repetitive very quickly.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Glory to the Brave and think that anybody else who listens to it will too.

A glorious debut! - 96%

evermetal, November 17th, 2009

…The hammer reached the top height and then fell with tremendous force upon the anvil. Out of this first and defining hit, in 1997, a revelation for power metal was created. Its name was Hammerfall and its result was deadly. With their very first attempt, these boys from Sweden managed to do what others have been trying in a whole career. They made an album that spits fire from its nostrils and travels you to mythical time dimensions. It feels like a sharp blade made from pure steel, a worthy successor to the tradition of the great bands of the genre. Without any doubt, when this album gets faster, the galloping of a whole brigade is weak compared to it.

Glory to The Brave doesn’t hesitate to speed, leaving behind only smoke and ashes. It is full of passion, strength, feelings and tension. The storming rhythms, epic choruses and melodic parts are a guarantee for genuine, traditional and hot power metal. Of course the band doesn’t play something new but what they do they do it perfectly. They have combined the best elements of American power metal bands like Warlord and Heir Apparent with those of European origin (Maiden, Helloween, Gamma Ray) in a unique way. A plus for the album is the crystal clear production that allows the band, which by the way sounds particularly bonded, to express their love for heavy metal.

As soon as the opening song begins, the fast and melodic The Dragon Lies Bleeding, Joacim Cans’ wonderful vocals excite you with their top quality. Every word he sings is comprehendible and given with incredible strength and passion. The pounding drumming adds more power to the track and to me it is the best moment of the album by far, simply superb. On The Metal Age the guitars make an exhibition of exquisite, skillful sharp riffing while the song that follows and bares the name of the band is doomed to become a classic with its pompous refrain and the amazing breath taking double solos.

The song I Believe is a beautiful, both heavy and melodic, power ballad where Cans makes you believe in the abilities of Hammerfall. There are only a few ones like this out there. The next song is Hammerfall’s tribute to one of their top influences, the divine Warlord. The cover of Child of The Damned remains true to the authentic performance although the drummer, Patrik Rafling is by no means Mark Zonder!

But there’s more to it! Do you feel the need for hot speed/power metal? Then listen to Steel Meets Steel, do you want heavy riffs, fast solos and a devastating rhythm section, then try Stone Cold. The self-titled track which closes the album is simply majestic. You close your eyes and let the music take over you. It’s food for the soul! And when the song ends, your hand goes back to the PLAY button.

Glory to The Brave is an album made for endless headbanging, that’s for sure. But most important, it proved that back in 1997 the womb of power metal was still fertile and strong enough to glorify the brave!

The beginning of the rebirth. - 95%

hells_unicorn, October 23rd, 2006

In 1997 there was a turning point in the world of music, as a collection of younger metal faithful began to abandon the underground death metal scene in favor of a new alternative to the bankrupt thrash scene, which fortunately was finally starting to die off. Hammerfall is one of the earliest examples, along with their more technically proficient fellow Swedish counterparts Nocturnal Rites, of what I would call the 2nd tier of the power metal rebirth of the late 90s. The very depiction of a lone warrior standing tall amidst a forest of withering trees and decrepit soil is a very good visual representation of the contrast between bands like this and what was going on in the realm of music around them.

In comparison to the bands of the 80s, the only way that Hammerfall really differs is that Joacim Cans has a very clean voice, which is a strong contrast to the dirtier style of the NWOBHM as highlighted by Motorhead, Grim Reaper, early Maiden, and Judas Priest. Other than that, this band is mostly a throwback to that older style with the advantage of incredible leaps made in recording technology to bring that sound to a young generation. To expect innovation out of these guys is in direct contradiction with what the band stands for, which is a no compromising worship of the original brand of metal that graced the stage in the early 80s.

The guitar work on this release is solid, though it is not the shred fest that some fans of Yngwie and others seem to have been hoping for. Although former Rising Force drummer Anders Johannsen does appear on later releases by this band, they’re sound has not really attempted to mimic that approach to guitar playing. The best way I can sum up the playing style of Oscar Dronjak is that of a less virtuoso version of early Judas Priest, which was not based upon technical flair the way the “Ram it Down” and “Painkiller” were, but instead focuses on creating something melodic and moderately developed.

The songs on here are all straight-forward power metal, lacking the progressive keyboard elements of bands such as Labyrinth and Stratovarius, the odd song structures of Dream Theater and the large arrangements of symphonic bands like Rhapsody. Songs such as “Steel meets Steel” and “The Dragon Lies Bleeding” are your quintessential high tempo power metal fests, loaded with idiomatic riffs and spearheaded by highly memorable choruses that are constructed for sing along value in the live venue. Ballads such as the title track and “I Believe” are epic in their approach, but quite simple in terms of arrangement, thus the power lay primarily in the vocal performance of Cans.

Although there isn’t really any bad songs on here, the absolute highlight of the album is the band’s self-titled cooker “Hammerfall”, which reminds me of the speed and glory of the early Metallica tracks that Hetfield penned with his previous band Leather Charm. Sure, it’s a song that screams self-promotion, but any band that releases an album is essentially self-promoting to some extent. The format is a clear, formulaic set of Judas Priest inspired riffs with one of those unforgettable choruses that Manowar would use to pump up a crowd during an encore.

Though not quite as well produced as later releases, this is definitely top of the line Power Metal. It’s not showy, it doesn’t rely on large instrumentations, and it doesn’t rely on guitar effects in order to disguise uninspired ideas. It’s obviously far removed from what would please members of the shred and progressive scenes. If you like your power metal straight up out of the bag, this is definitely the band for you.

Hammerfall: A Reappraisal - 82%

DawnoftheShred, October 23rd, 2006

Hammerfall is a band that I’ve reviewed rather harshly in the past. There were one of the first bands to turn me on to power metal and certainly the first to turn me off to it as I discovered how unimaginative they’d prove to be. But even in my opinionated youth I enjoyed some of their songs, and it was only a matter of time before I decided to go back and give them another chance. And be it historical perspective, a greater experience in analysis, or just a better developed musical palette, I’ve found myself rather pleased that the band has at least one album that I consider quite enjoyable.

Hammerfall is sort of celebrated as power metal’s champion over the “flower-metal” sound that most European bands of the 90’s were going for. Theirs is a strong, riff-oriented boot to the face of the keyboard-driven bands, striking with a strong guitar and bass sound, relentless drumming (that while double-bass heavy, is not reliant on it) and a nice balance between the vocals and instruments. You’ll find yourself singing along with fair-voiced Joacim Cans often enough, but you’ll be quick to marvel at the solid instrumental performance as well, especially the harmonized guitar attack. In a previous incarnation of this review, a chided the band for playing weak solos, but they’re actually punctual and complement the songs well (note the intro to “Stone Cold”). Chalk it up to listening to too much Malmsteen back in the day, I guess.

But most people are at least dimly aware of what the band sound like: the key in discussing this band’s albums is the songwriting and presentation. As one who’s heard most of this band’s future albums, I can say with utmost conviction that this is the pinnacle of the band in terms of songwriting and this fact is one of the album’s key selling points. Cans’ vocal melodies are at their most unique while the songs are generally concise and occasionally break out of the expected structural template. Repetition is a problem (they’re fond of the extended last chorus, key change included) but it doesn’t arise often enough to hamper the overall listen and most of the songs have character, whether it’s the speedy opener “Where the Dragon Lies Bleeding,” the dramatic “Hammerfall,” the slower, potent highlight “Stone Cold” or the solemn title track. Indeed, at this stage Hammerfall isn’t totally opposed to writing outside the box a bit and the lengthy finale that is “Glory to the Brave” serves as the only power ballad (and a piano-led one at that) the band has written that is not only musically valid, but evokes the kind of sentiment the band intended. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that for all their trueness, they always throw a ballad or two onto their albums, and most leave you feeling as though they were contractual obligations. “I Believe” is the throwaway on here. The rest is remarkably consistent; even when they’re covering other peoples’ stuff (lesser known 80’s legends Warlord’s “Child of the Damned” on all versions, the even more obscure Stormwitch’s “Ravenlord” on the repress), it sounds up to par with the album as a whole.

As for presentation, that’s well done too. The album sounds like it was made by real people using real instruments (unlike so many modern power metal bands, Hammerfall themselves occasionally included), with minimal extra flourishes. There’s some keyboard here and there for dramatic effect and some massive layered chanting to reinforce some of the choruses, but otherwise there’s no nonsense to be found, throwaway ballad ignored of course.

All things considered, Hammerfall’s debut is a rather classy album, either an exercise in everything that’s good about power metal or a well-organized gallery of clichés, depending on your interpretation. A worthy, if non-essential introduction to the genre and an excellent diversion from the more extravagant albums out there.

Solid debut. - 76%

Nightcrawler, August 15th, 2003

HammerFall are one of the biggest acts in the power metal scene right now, and are worshipped by power metal fans and loathed by death metal fans- two very good signs. When criticized, they are usually accused of being unoriginal, generic and run-of-the-mill speed/power metal, but for their debut "Glory To The Brave", these accusations are completely off target.
While the themes are pretty cliché power metal lyrics ("Come across to the Promised Land. Close your eyes, I will take your hand. Through the river of steel we'll go when the dragon lies bleeding") and their general approach is the classic 'mighty warriors and ferocious dragons", the music on this record is fairly different from most other bands, and also very varied.

The music is based on very solid speed-based riffwork, catchy drumwork with lots of double bass, and very solid basslines, and also features the instantly recognizable voice of Joacim Cans. He's a pretty decent singer, but his doesn't have a very wide range, something that usually is expected from a power metal singer. Nonetheless, he's got a strong midranged voice that works very well in the band.
The songwriting itself is pretty varied and very interesting, featuring a several really cool riff sequences and some nice tempo changes in several of the songs, keeping it interesting and varied. This is probably the album's strongest side, as it sets HammerFall apart from many other power metal acts that suffer from being somewhat predictable.
But the songs themselves can sometimes vary in quality, and there are several tracks that feel quite boring and forgettable. "The Metal Age", for example: It has very solid riffwork, but the inspiration and spirit that you can find in the band's later material just isn't there. Same goes for "Stone Cold". These are good songs, but just don't have the same power as some of their other stuff. The first of the album's two ballads "I Believe" is also pretty weak, despite a very nice solo.

The rest is all pretty damn solid though. Opening track "The Dragon Lies Bleeding" is fun and catchy speed/power metal. The Warlord cover "Child of the Damned" is a heavy can of melodic asskicking. The title track closes the album in a huge fashion; very powerful and emotional (don't mistake for 'whiny') ballad.
But the real highlight is the song "HammerFall". Awesome speed metal with a huge epic atmosphere, headbanging guitar rhythms, and that excellent slower bridge towards the end- "Just follow your heart, don't listen to the crowd..." Great lyrics, too.
That's probably the best song I've heard from the band, and it's easily the best track on "Glory To The Brave". The second highlight would have to be the title track.

In conclusion... HammerFall brought something new and instantly recognizable to the world of power metal with this debut, and while this is certainly a strong album it is a bit inconsistent, and they would soon get better. Nonetheless, I'd definitely recommend this to fans of power and speed metal alike.

A splendid debut release - 95%

Crimsonblood, September 6th, 2002

The debut from HammerFall was the largely the start of the huge "True" melodic Metal explosion of the late 90's, even though the main influences of HammerFall were bands from the 80's. With Glory To The Brave, HammerFall combined the music of early Blind Guardian and s 80’s bands such as Warlord and Omen, mixed with Manowar styled lyrics and vocal melodies into an almost perfect package, although not the most original. The opener, "The Dragon Lies Bleeding" is a great double bass and gallop filled track that contains an excellent chorus and memorable melodies. Most of the songs follow the same principle, with "The Metal Age" and "Stone Cold" being a tad slower, but still very melodic. It isn't until "Hammerfall" that we hear the first inclusion of back up choirs. As always with HammerFall, they are used very well and they make "Hammerfall" my personal favorite track on the CD. The token ballad is up next with "I Believe", the similar ballad on Legacy Of Kings is a stronger song, but since this was the debut, they can be forgiven for not perfecting the ballad quite yet- still a solid song though. The rest of the CD is very memorable including the amazing cover of Warlord's "Child Of The Damned", the fast and exciting "Steel Meets Steel", and the epic closer, "Glory To The Brave".

With Legacy Of Kings being my first HammerFall CD, I was kind of surprised at how the guitars and drums were more technical on this release. They are not at a Spiral Architect level or anything like that, but the leads, riffs, and drumming just seem to be more polished and a little less straight forward (having a different guitarist and drummer for this release probably attributed to that). Likewise, the song structures are more dynamic with more surprises and pleasant change ups. You're never sure what you're going to get next in each song because at any moment they could throw a twist in. The result leads for very interesting songs, with no songs sounding the same (a problem I had with Legacy Of Kings); this is a real challenge for bands of this style, and perhaps it is this way because at the time HammerFall were 100 % fresh. Joacim Cans' vocals are solid as always, not great mind you, as he has a limited range, but he knows his range and there is no mistaking his voice. The biggest surprise though was Jesper Stromblad on drums. I knew Stromblad could play guitar from his work in In Flames and Dimension Zero, but he is a very, very solid drummer. He never misses a beat and does some nice snare and bass drum work. The lyrics on Glory To The Brave are the usual topics about fantasy, medieval occurrences, and the odd one about life. I think there are some really strong lyrics on here though, especially on "Steel Meets Steel", "The Metal Age" and title track. In general, the lyrics are not as sappy as you might expect, which is also a nice touch.

From beginning to end Glory To The Brave smokes with only a couple of very minor drops in the quality factor (most notably 1/2 of "Stone Cold"), despite this drop it is still one the best True Power Metal releases available. For any fans of this melodic and glorious style of Power Metal you can't go wrong with Glory To The Brave.