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Out with the old, in with the old. - 76%

hells_unicorn, May 24th, 2011

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.