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Infected (2011) is Hammerfall’s eighth album, and one of their most unique, inspired and consistent. Hammerfall has an impressive catalog, and like their other records this one is power metal. It contains fast pounding bass drums, frequent guitar solos, powerful clean vocals, and an emphasis on melody. This album is different though. It carries a sound that is not found on any of their other albums; it is dark, chunky and dynamic. In fact compared to their other albums this one feels less like European power metal and more traditional heavy metal. The lyrics are fun and due to the excellent vocal delivery by Joacim Cans, you can make them out easily.
As I already mentioned, and as the cover art indicates, this album is dark. Weirdly dark for Hammerfall, but it is an interesting turn in their catalog. Instead of uplifting songs like Life is Now or Natural High we have sinister songs like Patient Zero, Dia de los Muertos, and 666 – The Enemy Within.
As for the sound, the album has a recurring stop-go chunkiness that grabs your attention. Like the darkness of the album, this stop-go riffing and drumming is found on multiple songs (the most obvious would be their single One More Time). For a long time I actually thought this was a concept album due to the re-occurrence of both the chunky stop-go hooks and the undead theme, both of which really aren't used in any other Hammerfall album. Some may find it gimmicky, but I dig it.
The timing changes frequently on this album, going from zombie-crawlingly slow to blisteringly fast and back again within the same song. Slow is not a word you normally find in a Hammerfall review, but the “DUN.. DUN.. DAAAA…” riff in Patient Zero, the album opener, really sets the mood for the odd timing you will find scattered throughout the album.
This album has some really fun lyrics. There are the “story” tracks like Patient Zero, which tells the tale of a poor dude becoming the first sucker to be infected and starting a zombie outbreak. Then there are the heavy metal tribute/anthem songs B.Y.H (Bang Your Head) and Let’s Get It On. B.Y.H. is like a historical retelling of the NWOBHM experience and the kindling of their love of metal, kind of like Megadeth’s Back in the Day. Gets me pumped up every time… Bang! Your! Head! This will make for an awesome live experience.
There really isn't a bad song on this album. There are lots of great songs and only 3 that I found just “good”. These being Send Me A Sign, which is not bad for a ballad, Immortalized, and Redemption. None of these are skip-worthy, it really is a consistent album. I am curious to see where Hammerfall will take us next.
I have seen many comments from "disappointed" kids that HammerFall have changed. What did they change? Yes, they have changed a bit their logo, they have changed their clothes, they have changed the album cover (Hector is gone). So is it enough to say this is "new" HammerFall? Some say this is their best album, and they sound much heavier and better than before. If they were not heavy enough, then they would not be part of heavy metal music. Do they sound heavy? Yes, they always sound heavy, from the first studio album to this one. So heaviness is still here. Is this their best studio album? No, it's not, but it's still excellent. This is not perfect HammerFall release without bad songs like: Renegade, Crimson Thunder, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, Threshold and No Sacrifice, No Victory. This is the same HammerFall that started to unleash heavy music since 1997. There is no old and new HammerFall, there is only one HammerFall, and here they are.
Guitars are in drop D tuning, but fortunately they do not sound like gaycore, groove, industrial or other wannabe poser bands. They play classic heavy/power metal, and they play it the best way possible. This is not their best studio album because there are some bad parts like keyboards in song Redemption. It somehow reminds of trance music or shit like that. It could have been excellent without that part, but now it is just very good. This is their release with the most keyboards, although there are not many, but 666 - The Enemy Within and Redemption contain notable amount of it. The Outlaw could have been better, because it is much softer than any other song here. They payed much attention writing lyrics, while not focusing much on music. It's very good anyway. I Refuse could have been more energetic, and a bit more creative in order to be excellent one.
There are many better parts like riffs, which are heavy, powerful, and very creative. Songs like Patient Zero, Bang Your Head, One More Time, Dia De Los Muertos, 666 - The Enemy Within, Immortalized and Let's Get It On are examples of those amazing riffs. Just like in their previous releases, here you can find powerful, energetic and bombastic power metal songs like Patient Zero, 666 - The Enemy Within, Immortalized, One More Time and Dia De Los Muertos. Also they have powerful and very beautiful ballad Send Me A Sign, which is cover of Pokolgep's song, but with changed and translated lyrics from Hungarian to English. They made it better than original, just like they always do. They know how to HammerFallize songs they decide to cover. It sounds like their own. Guitar solos are nice and tasty. Lots of guitar duels and harmonies, shredding and other guitar techniques can be found here, but this time Pontus didn't leave good impression. He made better guitar solos on No Sacrifice, No Victory album. Stefan Elmgren knew how to make better guitar solos, but Pontus hasn't done it here. Anyway, each guitar solo perfectly fits each song.
People say: "HammerFall fail to make dark songs". I don't know what they mean by that, but this is not "dark" (whatever that means) studio album, 'cause this is just another release with their authentic sound. This studio album is not commercial at all, but offering for the metalheads. This is just new album for God's sake, new songs, new inspirations, new way of thinking. HammerFall are really cursed with nerdy "fans" and hateboys. First, people said: HammerFall changed with album Crimson Thunder. Then they said: no, they changed with Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, and said that album was "darker". Then they said: no, they changed with album Threshold. When No Sacrifice, No Victory came out, people said: this is "new" HammerFall, and now again. So, this is the clue that these are just empty talks.
Good sides of this release:
Heavy, powerful, strong, unique, massive riffs, orgasmic melodic guitar work, Joacim's excellent singing, excellent tempo changes, enjoyable rhythms, powerful and massive refrains. Well-done progressions in songs like Patient Zero, Bang Your Head, one More Time etc. where they managed to make excellent tempo and mood shifts. This is an excellent album, and I recommend it for every metalhead.
Bad sides of this release:
I Refuse, The Outlaw and Redemption are the only weaker songs, but they are still very good, so, there's nothing wrong about that. In a case you want to listen to great song about outlaw, then listen to Manowar's Outlaw and Gamma Ray's Mr. Outlaw, and you will realize what I mean under perfect song. Redemption could have been excellent without those trance keyboard moments.
Patient Zero, Bang Your Head, One More Time, Send Me A Sign (Pokolgep Cover), Dia De Los Muertos, 666 - The Enemy Within, Immortalized and Let's Get It On.
Swedish metallers Hammerfall are veterans of the metal scene, since their inception in 1993 and have directly contributed to the success and size of the power metal genre, particularly in Europe. With their popularity peaking early on after the release of their first 2 CDs (‘Glory to the brave’ and ‘Legacy of kings’), which was considered to be true heavy/power metal; Hammerfall have since tweaked their sound and found their niche within the genre.
Similar to America’s Manowar (but with less cheesiness), Hammerfall have fought on, literally, containing songs of fantasy lyrics and themes. Often given harsh judgement and criticism from ‘Renegade’ onwards, Hammerfall have built quite a large fan base in their 18-year career. They are one of those bands who you either like or despise (like from me), mainly due to their simplistic sound and the same likeness of each CD released, from ‘Crimson thunder’ onwards.
I personally feel that when Hammerfall released ‘Threshold’, it seemed as though their “gimmick” was starting to wear thin. How many CDs can you release, containing virtually the same fantasy themed power metal tracks before they run out of ideas and the fans begin to grow tired of it? ‘No sacrifice, no victory’ again pushed that theory, with the band releasing a decent, but tired sounding CD that was quite inconsistent and containing just a few killer tracks. Something had to change as it was quickly becoming stale and some fans were starting to jump off.
The fellas at Hammerfall must have also felt this pressure building up over the years and have finally responded accordingly with their latest release, entitled ‘Infected’. The first notable aspect of the CD is the cover art, which shows no trace of Hammerfall’s mascot, the hammer-wielding ancient warrior. That, plus the usual Hammerfall logo has been slightly changed and given the impression that it’s been written in blood; you are not alone if alarm bells may be going off in your head right now. Traditionally, those types of changes mean a major change of sound of direction for a band, but in this case Hammerfall’s change is more about the songwriting if anything else. Instead of lyrics about warriors bound for glory, brotherhood, swords (etc, etc); the lyrics throughout ‘Infected’ are quite diverse and not keeping to any particular theme or story.
Hammerfall elected not to continue with producer Charlie Bauerfield, who has produced their last 4 CDs; instead going with James Michael who has previously worked with the Scorpions, Meat Loaf and Motley Crue. Michael was placed in a co-producer role, alongside Hammerfall guitarists Pontus Norgren and Oscar Dronjak. Because the band has treaded in different waters lyrics-wise this time round, there is a distinct sense of uneasiness, awkwardness and a slight lack of confidence within the songwriting and it comes out here and there during some of the songs on the CD. Quite a few of the tracks has a hit ‘n’ miss formula to them, where in some parts they kick ass, but in other sections of the same song it can be cringe worthy or irritating.
Let’s take the track “Dia de los Muertos” as an example. A memorable track with a great flurrying melody with a catchy chorus and an excellent guitar solo, however after the solo the track trundles on for another minute, almost lost, with no direction or vocals until the song closes out. It just seems like an odd way to end a song, after the great build-up beforehand. Another top track “I refuse” has a brilliant and powerful beat that just makes your head nod hypnotically, and everything is going great guns until you get to the god awful chorus where you hear vocalist Joacim Cans shriek I refuse a couple of time. It’s painful to say the least, but you just have to grin and bear it as overall the track is excellent. Lastly, the cheesy introduction to “Let’s get it on” with producer James Michael himself performing the spoken word intro was really not needed and almost spoils the terrific 80s throwback, riff-laden energetic track.
Where Hammerfall have got it 100% right with the tracks on the CD is with the opening song entitled “Patient zero”. The introduction sets the scene of the ‘Infected’ cover art and once the track launches in gear we are privy to an old-school yet awesome guitar riff and beat that makes you grit your teeth and bang your head like there’s no tomorrow. The whole track is a huge standout, including a sweet solo to boot. Another fantastic track is “666 - The enemy within”, a more darker-tinged arrangement, with heavy bass, and numerous thundering guitar riffs and solos from the constant tempo changes throughout the track. It is definitely a track that Hammerfall don’t normally do, but that’s one of the more positive differences on this CD compared to their previous ones.
“Immortalized” is another pummeling track and one which probably goes under the radar a bit too. Again it’s a speedier and diverse track with a clash of old and new, guitar driven with slabs of memorable riffs to get the fist shacking, while featuring pounding drums all the way. To a lesser extent, both “Bang your head” and “The outlaw” are decent tracks that a fair amount of appeal to fans but not as good as the tracks previously mentioned.
In the end, ‘Infected’ is a spirited and creative effort from these veteran power metallers. I commend and respect them for doing something different than what they’re used to, and while it is a bit inconsistent quality-wise from top to bottom, there are plenty of highlights throughout. While their sound of this CD is not a massive change from their norm, it is enough to be noticeable and possibly a few extra spins will be needed to fully appreciate (or not) this release. It’s far from their best effort, but still a CD that fans of Hammerfall can enjoy. And for those who have dismissed this band in the past, who knows, ‘Infected’ may surprise you.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com and www.themetalforge.com
Infected is HammerFall’s eighth studio album and many fans felt is marked the first major change for them. Hector, the band’s mascot, no longer graces the cover, and the song titles are noticeably darker. Despite the major change in image, the band doesn’t actually sound all that different. On my first listen of this album, I was extremely disappointed. Many of the songs seemed boring, slow, and uninspired; however, after repeated listens, the magic of this album became apparent.
Rather than draw their main influences from Helloween and other Power Metal bands, HammerFall has modeled their new sound after Judas Priest and Accept. This is no more apparent than in songs such as “Immortalized” and “Patient Zero”, where HammerFall combines a thunderous drum sound with immensely heavy guitars. While the music is still melodic, it feels much more powerful than the band has ever sounded. In fact, “Patient Zero” has a doom-influenced atmosphere until it breaks out into classic speed metal riffing towards the end of the song. After this track, HammerFall continues their homage to the metal gods with BYH. This is perhaps the only song that sounds like it would have fit in on any HammerFall album. There are a few other songs that would fit in on the more recent HammerFall albums; “Immortalized”, “666 – The Enemy Within”, and “One More Time” all exhibit the mid-paced, pounding anthems that the band has been pumping out since Crimson Thunder. “The Outlaw” continues in the vein of “Life is Now” from No Sacrifice, No Victory, as it sounds like a radio-friendly version of the band’s signature sound. Some of the other notable elements of the album include the well placed keyboards in “666” and “Redemption”.
Besides the change in sound, the best thing about this record is the performance by the members of the band. Joacim Cans has never sounded bad on a HammerFall album, but when I saw the band live on the No Sacrifice, No Victory tour, he sounded abysmal. On this album, he must have received some divine inspiration, as he sounds better than he ever has. The Pokolgép cover, “Send Me A Sign”, reveals Cans’ amazing ability to carry a somewhat average song. The only negative comment about his vocals is that he attempts to go too far outside of his range on “I Refuse”, but this is a small complaint about an otherwise perfect performance. The next member who stepped up his performance was Pontus Norgren. The band’s previous lead guitarist, Stefan Elmgren, was an excellent player with a knack for writing great solos; however, I am equally impressed by Norgren’s contributions to the band. One of his best solos is on the sole track that he wrote, “The Outlaw”. Ultimately, he does a superb job and somehow improves his work from the last album. The last noticeable improvement is in the drum department. Ever since Anders Johansson has been in the band, he has relied primarily on the steady rock drumbeat. He doesn’t play too differently on this album, but the drums sound punishing. While the snare sounds great, the bass drums really shine. Any moments featuring double bass work (particularly in “One More Time”) sound heavier than any power metal band I’ve heard. The improved contribution of these three members adds to the atmosphere of this remarkably different record.
When all is said and done, HammerFall have created something that sounds inspired. I certainly wouldn’t accuse them of going through the motions on their previous three albums, but there is no doubt that this record is far more interesting. The increasing experimentation works on most of the tracks, but falls short on a couple of others (“I Refuse” and “Redemption” are the weakest songs). HammerFall have been so consistent for so long that the negative reaction to this album doesn’t surprise me; I didn’t even like it upon first listen. If you give these songs a chance, they will really surprise you. Whether or not HammerFall continue in this direction, I will consider this album to be a major success in their discography.
Standout tracks: “Patient Zero”, “The Outlaw”. “666 – The Enemy Within”, and “Immortalized”
Forrest Gump said that life was like a box of chocolates and that you never what you’re going to get. Apparently this means that Hammerfall was aligned with the undead long before they started wearing it on their album sleeves, because predictability is this band’s religion and they’ve yet to break with the faith. For all of the worried sentiments being kicked around upon the release of the first version of album’s title and art, which were justified given its stark similarity to Biohazard’s insignia, things haven’t really changed much here. No pun intended, but “Infected” is about as infectious and communicable as they come for a standard power metal album of the old guard, 80s heavy metal persuasion, almost to the point of being the unintended sequel of “Crimson Thunder”.
To be fair, the band has changed a bit in that the typical odes to olden tales where dragons and heroes abound has been jettisoned, and in their place is a mishmash of heavy metal clichés in the horror flick mold. This format works only insofar as it applies to any pre-thrash metal ventures into zombies and occult themes of the NWOBHM, since the simplistic riff work and pristine vocal job doesn’t venture very far from the orthodoxies set up by “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Battle Hymns”. The aptly named speed fest that is “Bang Your Head” all but smacks the listener upside the head with lyrical references to the early 80s and offers up riff work that’s about as complicated as what was standard for that era. All that really keeps this in the modern realm is the louder production job, which is about as up front and heavy as your standard Firewind album.
As far as the entire album goes, things are pretty evenly put together, with few songs standing out and most everything being marginally solid and entertaining. While indeed quite campy, “Infection” does a good job at avoiding the slapstick self-parody that Dream Evil has been shamelessly engaging in of late. Safe sing along anthems such as “The Outlaw” and “666 - The Enemy Within” remind heavily of a number of catchy mid-tempo works heard on “Renegade” and “Crimson Thunder”, with the usual mix of simplistic songwriting and predictable melodies. The high points are the doom-laden opener “Patient Zero” and the epically deep and fairly complex “Redemption”, while the low point is the ballad “Send Me A Sign” which is actually a cover so blame can’t be wholly lamed on Hammerfall for the redundant folk acoustic line that meanders and the anti-climactic melodies that it carries.
On the whole, not the worst album that Hammerfall has ever put out, but definitely not a must have for those who can only take this kind of cliché steeped music in small doses. The lead guitar work has been downplayed pretty significantly here and there’s nothing to really captivate the adventurous power metal fan who goes for grandiose ballads like “Glory To The Brave” or highflying adventures in melodic speed like “The Dragon Lies Bleeding”. But aside from the signature cloaked and plate mail toting knight sporting a great war hammer on the album art, there’s not a whole lot to complain about here.
Here’s something that’ll throw you for a loop: Hammerfall not releasing a bad album. Yes, that hasn’t happened in a while, now, has it? After their last album had maybe one or two decent songs in a mire of less interesting, overly-cheery pap, I wasn’t expecting much from this. Like everyone else I was confused at the cover art, which is so unfitting for this band and their sound that everyone pretty much expected them to go all groove on us, like so many other bands have. But lo and behold, they pretty much just released another album of their signature ultra-polished, sickly sweet, super-cheesy Swedish power metal, only with a few songs that have slightly darker lyrics.
Really all that’s changed here is that they traded in their usual campy fantasy for a dose of campy horror cliché. With lyrics like “Cuz I feed in darkness/I feast in broad daylight/Whatever you do, better hold on tight/and stay out of my sight,” it’s obvious we’re not dealing with anything too serious here, but then, this is a Hammerfall album. They just put different window dressing on it this time; that’s all. The one thing I wish they had done differently here is actually go all the way and make a whole concept album about zombies, like the cover art indicated. “Patient Zero” sets a very cool, fresh atmosphere that I wish the rest of the songs expounded upon, rather than continuing to flail about on different, unrelated subjects.
The songs themselves are the usual Hammerfall-styled collection of some good tunes and some mediocre ones, but what surprised me is how few of these songs really struck me as outwardly lame. A lot of them are pretty damn fun, like the opening stomp of “Patient Zero,” the hyper-catchy “The Outlaw,” the speedy “Dia De Los Muertos” and the wailing, melodic “666 – The Enemy Within.” The production is nice and clear, and Joacim Cans hasn’t sounded this good in years. Some tunes like “Let’s Get It On” and “Bang Your Head” are more standard, and the ballad “Send Me a Sign” is actively weak, but overall the album keeps a nice level of consistency.
Mostly this is just another Hammerfall album, a fact which would be looked upon in a much friendlier light had they kept releasing albums at the quality of Legacy of Kings or even the less-good Crimson Thunder. Those of you who were turned off by their last couple of albums might like this a little better, as it packs some old school Hammerfall tunes like you haven’t heard in years. So go check out Infected. It’ll be healthy for the modern power metal listener’s ears.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
One more crime...
What can be worse than faceless and repetitive power metal boredom as the band presented us on their last release "No Sacrifice, No Victory"? This album brings you the answer: faceless and directionless boredom. HammerFail had released some average records in the last years, but they had at least a certain brand and style that anybody would recognize and even accept within the metal world.
Now it's the midlife crisis of the band and they wanted to sound different. They changed everything as they got a new producer, completely new and unusual cover artwork, and they said that they have improved and concentrated on their technical skills and written about new horror topics. When I first heard of that I was afraid that this brave new direction wouldn't fit at all to the flower metal of Hector's heroes. My next reaction was excitement because I was expecting the band to change in a fresh way.
It didn't exactly happen like that. On the positive side, there are some experiments like atmospheric sound and film samples, complex song structures, and a few new topics for the lyrics. But the riffs are even more simple and boring as usual and the album isn't consequent enough and goes nowhere as it lacks of direction and structure like the band lost its feeling for catchy choruses and addicting hooks.
The only memorable moments in here are the dark horror introduction of the surprising, but quickly disappointing opener "Patient Zero", the power metal keyboard opening of the closing track "Redemption" that copies some Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica in a bad way, and finally the first single "One more time", probably the weirdest and most unusual song the band has ever written and one that is quite addictive by being very challenging for the old fans with its abrupt breaks and unpredictable changes of style.
The rest is predictable and boring. Let's pin the worst examples. The stereotypical "Bang Your Head" won't make your head bang but shake because you feel immediately embarrassed. The predictable fifth son ballad "Send Me a Sign" is as exciting as athlete's foot and it doesn't help that this track is another cover song, this time from a rather unknown Hungarian band. The original song is, in fact, called "Hol van a szó" ("Where's the Word" in English) by Pokolgép and is way better than the cover version with its rough and charismatic voice that makes me think of an old "aria" ballad. HammerFall's Joacim Cans completely destroys the original atmosphere of the song. This is probably the band's worst cover song. Finally, "Let's Get it On" is even more silly and has some live male shouting samples that want to add a powerful live atmosphere to this boring average rocker in the most ridiculous way. Even the less horrible average tracks have a lack of quality to the other material of the band catalog and fail to touch, inspire, or even shake a leg in me.
In the end, there is no single outstanding track on this record that's convincing over a full length even if "One More Time" comes rather close to it. This album is a weak and desperate mid-life crisis attempt of an old fashioned band to change its style. When you thought that this band couldn't be less interesting and energizing as on the last record, they now prove that they really can and have reached the bottom. Everything has gone wrong and I wouldn't even suggest buying this album to a faithful HammerFall fan or someone that is expecting something new and believes in the last couple of reviews and interviews with the band and their new output. I'm serious, don't buy this blindly. You really should listen to some tracks to avoid a negative surprise. I give fifteen percent for the courage of the band to release this album and its weak sense of innovation at some points,and the fact that one can listen to this album as undisturbed background music at least.
Let me keep my verdict short for you: this is the bottom of HammerFall and probably already the winning candidate for the worst album of the year.
I'm sure I wasn't alone in being taken aback by the advance art and cover image for the latest HammerFall album, which perhaps was more fitting to the next Left 4 Dead sequel, or perhaps 28 Decades Later. A power metal band taking zombies head on? Would it be a concept album with a sequential narrative? A gaggle of songs about horror topics? As it turns out, Infected, the Swedish mainstay's 8th full-length is not necessarily such, but instead a pretty standard and inconsequential effort not unlike the last handful. There was some dread, some apprehension that the band might be trying to go all groove and heavy here, but that's not at all the case. This is business as usual, a selection of rather mediocre tracks with a few highlights that aren't enough to heave it over the threshold of quality.
No, this is not the Glory to the Brave II that many HammerFall fans of old have undoubtedly anticipated, and in fact it's not even the measure of their last, average record No Sacrifice, No Victory. What stuns me is the lack of effective or memorable chorus sequences throughout, just a lot of humdrum and melodramatic fist pumpers that go absolutely nowhere, a few borderline offensive as they're so damned cheesy. Do we really need a crappy acronym anthem for "Bang Your Head", "B.Y.H."? For that matter, do we really need another song called "Bang Your Head"? Only one of them matters folks, and it's not fucking this one, a dreary and uninspired anthem that must have taken Dronjak and company less than 10 minutes to fully compose. Then there's the actual zombie epic, "Patient Zero" which I had hoped might justify its tacky film-like intro, but winds up just an assortment of pretty average riffs and no real vocal payoff.
Other sodden compositions here include the militant flag waver "One More Time", the drippy ballad "Send Me a Sign" (hoorah for creative song titles), and the totally dorky "I Refuse" which sounds like Captain Planet and his Planeteers trying to write an AC/DC tune. "Let's Get It On" and "Redemption" are your standard HammerFall filler, and probably the only two songs I got a positive reaction on were "The Outlaw" and the faster speed/power piece "Dia De Los Muertos". It's true that the band do cover more occult and horror topics in the lyrics than usual, but there is no real unified undead concept, and the music itself is so typically uplifting that it creates a bizarre contrast with the theme and artwork. And not in a good way, like, say, Powerwolf.
Don't get me wrong, there's enough professionalism and production quality here to ensure that Infected doesn't fall wholly into the suck-pile, but for the songwriting it's got to be the single worst HammerFall album to date, and I was really hoping it might turn out to be the cusp of a cool new direction for the band. It's your typical, shoddy, big budget power/heavy metal album out of Europe, with clean performances, next to no wanking, and unfortunately, next to no songs worth hearing. These Swedes just don't do 'dark' very well...