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Mediocrity shouldn't be named for a Queen song... - 45%

BastardHead, February 20th, 2013

This'll be a short one, because come on, how much can you really say about Hammerfall? They're the safest band in the universe, stamping out predictable, mid-tier trad metal since practically day one. I'll admit, I haven't heard Glory to the Brave, but essentially every source I've stumbled across has made the same claim; they got worse as they went along and that's about as complex as their career ever got. So with that, let's take a look at what should theoretically be their second best album, 1998's Legacy of Kings.

I'll make this quick, "Heeding the Call" is great and everything else is utterly forgettable. Each and every Hammerfall album I've heard has had at least one "hit single" type song I can jive, with later albums having "Renegade" and "Hearts on Fire", and this here is no exception. The style that the band has always tried to exemplify is pretty much summed up perfectly in that song. Simple, speedy riffs, squeaky clean high vocals, and a giant, anthemic chorus. I totally get the appeal, I see what the band is shooting for, because they hit bullseye on this one particular track. Hammerfall is really just an extremely one-dimensional, bare bones, lowest-common-denominator type band, the fast food of trad/power metal, if you will. But really, there's nothing wrong with fast food, I eat/listen to it all the time. It's just that Hammerfall's brand kind of sucks. Bloodbound is like the Wendy's of the style (greasy and awful for you but simultaneously delicious), whereas Hammerfall is more like Taco Bell (lots of options that are all made of the same low quality ingredients, and it only tastes good when you're drunk).

Therein lies a huge issue with Legacy of Kings, the band lays out the template at the beginning and then steadfastly refuses to stray from it. Which wouldn't really be a problem if the songwriting was any good. The whole thing just goes in one ear and out the other and that's that. It's paint-by-numbers trad metal with a ballad at the end and a faster song to start, with nothing else of note. The vocalist is pretty middle of the road and the riffwork is as predictable as the tides and none of the leads are very interesting and no choruses apart from "Heeding the Call" and I guess "Back to Back" stand out at all and that's all there is to say. Despite being a figurehead in the genre, one of the faces of the "revival" that heavy metal had around the turn of the century, and a huge influence to a lot of young upstart bands, they managed to sound tired and uninspired by the time their second album rolled around. Throughout almost this entire disc, I never feel any sort of energy being put forth from the boys.

And really, that's more worthy of disappointment than anger or hate. Legacy of Kings has potential, without a doubt, it's just that it's only realized on precisely one track before the album just completely loses steam and forgets how to rock. It feels like a pop album, with one song chosen for radio airplay and a ton of effort put into it, surrounded by droves of half-hearted filler. I mean, there's nothing offensive or even really bad at all here, everything is pretty competent, it's just fucking boring. Most of the riffs are just standard late 90s power metal and 80s heavy metal riffs with no imagination put into them, and the vocals are high pitched and well done but really syrupy and inconsequential. No songs stand out apart from the oft mentioned "Heeding the Call", and no individual band members stand out. It's pretty much just a big grey mass of mediocrity, and really not worth your time. The idea is good (strip down heavy/power metal to it's barest form and just have fun with it), but Hammerfall lack the songwriting skills to pull off such an endeavor. You can safely skip this.


Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/

Heavy Metal Troops On The Rise - 98%

WishmasterTheDark, December 11th, 2011

HammerFall continued their heavy metal crusade started with Glory To The Brave in order to save the heavy metal music and wipe away the plague which affected it in 90's. Posers were shocked because of the attention HammerFall got, and they started hating on them. But did they stop HammerFall? No fucking way. This studio album is a killer classic heavy/power metal machine made of songs which continue Gory To The Brave tradition,with fast and slower songs, with passionate ballads too. There are many excellent fast songs: Heeding The Call, Legacy Of Kings, Stronger Than All and Warriors Of Faith, with ground-shaking drum work, raw, classic and heavy riffs and some well-placed power chords, orgasmic melodic lead guitars, fast, tasty, unique and technical demanding guitar solos, soaring vocals, catchy refrains and well-written lyrics. Dreamland belongs to this group of fast songs, but it's not excellent like others. That is the only weak moment on this album. If the lyrics could have been more creative, specially refrain, then everything would be all right. So, it has memorable riffs, leads, guitar solo, it's really enjoyable very good song, but not excellent.

On the other side, there are slower songs like Let The Hammer Fall, which has monster classic heavy riffs, creative killer drum rhythms, and that's easily one of the coolest sing-along songs from this album, along with Heeding The Call and At The End Of The Rainbow. Although Let The Hammer Fall is faster than At The End Of The Rainbow, it's not as fast as the songs I mentioned above. At The End Of The Rainbow is one of those songs which will stuck into your mind after the very first listen, but many others as well. All songs will actually stuck into listener's mind without leaving him 'til the day he dies, except Dreamland which is the weakest song from here. Really weird thing is that such an passionate, slow, piano-driven ballad like The Fallen One remained in shade for very long time. Maybe it's just me, but actually I have never paid enough attention to that song. It's a true jewel, just like Remember Yesterday, the other excellent ballad from this studio album. They covered Pretty Maid's song Back To Back, and made it much more bad-ass. They played it so well, and made it sound like their own, so I'm not surprised that some people think it's their own.

The album artwork perfectly represents HammerFall's role in heavy metal music. Of course they were not the only band formed in 90's which actually played heavy metal music, but not many other bands did it the way HammerFall did. Some 80's bands started to bend, and tried to adjust the mallcore trends like groove, industrial, -core, nu etc. Lyrics are not about knights and dragons, but mostly about "fighting for heavy metal" (keeping it alive) and playing it they way it was, just like Black Sabbath, Manowar, King Diamond and other masters did. For example: Heeding The Call which says - we are the ones to resurrect heavy metal, Legacy Of Kings which says - we''ll keep it true, Let The Hammer Fall which is self-promotion song, At The End Of The Rainbow which represents the new found way to keep heavy metal alive, Stronger Than All which says - you can say whatever you want, we don't give a fuck etc. Some songs express their feelings like Remember Yesterday and The Fallen One. These songs show that you don't have to pretend to be harsh and "br00tal" with down-tuned guitars, growl-screams/shrieks, wannabe bad-ass lyrics etc.

Good sides of this release:
Just pure fucking heavy metal, that's all you can get from HammerFall. This release is highly recommended for every metalhead, and metalhead only.

Bad sides of this release:
The only weaker moment is their very good song Dreamland, which prevented this album from being pure masterpiece. But anyway, this album is excellent.

Highlights:
Heeding The Call, Legacy Of Kings, Let The Hammer Fall, Remember Yesterday, At The End Of The Rainbow, Back To Back (Pretty Maids cover), Stronger Than All, Warriors Of Faith and The Fallen One.

Good, clean fun. - 85%

Empyreal, March 3rd, 2010

I am surprised how well this album actually holds up. I got this thing about five years ago now, and listening to it today…it still sounds good. HammerFall were/are basically the everyman’s metal band, the poster band for cheesy, simplistic 90s Power Metal, and this is still my favorite album of theirs by far. Legacy of Kings is just full of blazing speed, sleek metal riffs and the high, smooth vocals of Joacim Cans, who has never sounded better. It takes its cues from Judas Priest and Accept and a lot of other bands before them, but it uses them in stride, adapting them to the band’s own style, which was finally coming into fruition after the juvenile debut album. Everything on here is just fun. Nothing is bad spirited, nothing is shot in the dark, nothing is even remotely negative at all. The songs are simple, but they are loud and infused with several doses of classic metal vigor. Kick ass.

I don’t know; there’s just something really endearing about this album. It’s just so childishly idealistic. These guys are looking toward the positive, with the notion that everything will turn out right and that they’ll be the heroes in the end. It’s got a lot of heart to it, and I really dig the upbeat feel that these songs have. I mean, these songs are so happy that they could cheer up a fucking cancer patient whose family just got killed in a fire. And whose girlfriend just dumped him. It exudes happiness without fail.

Pretty much every song here is good, albeit not really rising above that to “great.” But I can’t complain when an album is this flat-out enjoyable. “Heeding the Call” is fast, ripping through the speakers with careening guitar work and Cans’ vocals delivered with intensity. The title track is an anthemic pounder with a kick ass chorus and a driving rhythm that makes me want to stand up and pound my chest. Further killers include the Priest-esque “Let the Hammer Fall,” with its swirling melodies and booming riffs, the catchy “Dreamland” (that chorus melody is heavenly!), the heavy anthem “At the End of the Rainbow” and the double-whammy duo of the heavy “Stronger than All” and “Warriors of Faith.” The two ballads are good enough, and I usually like one of them more based on mood – they’re pretty standard, but again, they’re enjoyable and heartfelt, so I’ll take them just fine.

HammerFall are a lot of things, from enjoyably cheesy to stupidly cheesy. Their later albums sort of lost the plot, and even when they sounded good, it never lasted that long before I was tired of them. But this one has surprisingly stayed with me and never stagnated, and although I’ve found a bunch of better bands since I first heard this album at the young age of 15, I still put this one on every now and again and rock out. It’s good stuff. Stereotypical of Power Metal, sure, but unless you’re really trying too hard, hating Legacy of Kings is hard to do. Recommended.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Legacy of Hammerfall - 95%

hells_unicorn, January 9th, 2007

The spirit of heavy metal is truly a regal concept. For the fan of the NWOBHM and all of its various descendants, the illustration of a king sitting proud upon a throne of power is an accurate depiction. The sense of triumph, self-empowerment, and accomplished greatness that it yields from the various collections of notes and sounds contained within a single recording is enough to inspire poetry. So the question for the listener is this, does “Legacy of Kings” live up to the spirit that lives within the best of the metal genre. The answer is a bombastic yes, contained within 10 glorious war hymns.

When Hammerfall released its debut 2 years before this album, true heavy metal was considered a thing of the past; it was the subject of jokes and ridicule amongst even the self-loathing groove metal bands that were the supposed saviors of heavy music. The album cover of “Glory to the Brave” showcased a lone knight standing amongst a forest of dying trees and tainted soil, which was fitting of most of the music that dominated metal at the time. By contrast, “Legacy of Kings” portrays the same proud knight enthroned in a grand chamber with an air of majesty and solemnity. It signifies the end of an era of recession and mediocrity amongst the metal faithful and a return to better days. The legacy of this rebirth and all of the various bands the came into being since 1998 as a result does not belong only to Hammerfall, but their music is the most well-known and accessible in the fold so their affect upon it is the most visible.

“Legacy of Kings” is the first album with guitarist Stefan Elmgren and his impact on the sound of the band is significant. The guitar solos have been injected with a sense of emotion and energy that was not present on the debut, in addition to a more varied approach to song writing, which has resulted in a perfect metal offering in the vain of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Be it the high up tempo rockers such as “Stronger than All” and “Warriors of Faith”, or the more somber yet charming approach of ballads such as “The Fallen One” and “Remember Yesterday”, everything flows perfectly from start to finish.

Many of the faster tracks on here are more studious in their construction than on the last release. “Heeding the Call” and the title track are infectiously catchy and easy to follow, yet avoids redundancy. The chorus of the latter and the sing along section before the guitar solo of the former are highlights that no doubt make for great fodder for live consumption. The cover song “Back to Back” is quite well done and fits perfectly into the song cycle, though I am not familiar with the original version of it.

Although most power metal outfits tend to shine during their fast tracks, with some exceptions such as Sonata Arctica whom rule during their ballads, Hammerfall’s standout tracks on this offering are the mid-tempo tracks. “Let the Hammer Fall” was the first song I ever heard by this band and since then I’ve been hooked. It is highly reminiscent of slower songs by such acts as Accept and Iron Maiden, containing a collection of solid riffs and the most emotionally charged guitar solo on the album. “At the End of the Rainbow” is cut more from the Dio/Sabbath style, containing a similar plodding drone to songs such as “Heaven and Hell” and “Holy Diver”, yet having a more complex set of parts and a more melodically complex tinge to the chorus.

In conclusion, this is Hammerfall’s best release to date. Fans of the NWOBHM, the LA 80s scene, and the more straight-forward power metal bands such as Firewind, Falconer, and Jag Panzer will find much to like on here. It is an album that is defined not by innovation, but by quality of songwriting and performance. It is not meant to supply innovative new ideas, nor does it seek to frighten or shock the listener with absurd depictions as some darker bands do, it is only meant to be what music ought to be, fun and entertaining. It enjoys time in my CD player at least twice a month, and holds a very special place in my collection as it was one of my first power metal albums.

Take Heed - 55%

DawnoftheShred, October 23rd, 2006

For a band credited with reviving the entire power metal movement of their beloved 1980’s, Hammerfall displayed a growing lack of enthusiasm as their career progressed. After the likeable, honest Glory to the Brave for a winning debut, one would naturally expect advancement: more power, more riffs, more elaboration…..anything more than what was received on their follow-up record Legacy of Kings. In short: the formula used to craft the first album has been patented and rebranded; some new ingredients, but the exact same taste. Great idea for product development in the food industry; not so great in the music world.

Though a different lineup is in tow, Legacy of Kings follows the exact template of its predecessor. Bust out the door with some catchy Priest-inspired speed metal, integrate your mid-paced hook-oriented anthems, keep the choruses big and repetitive to get people singing along, spice the tracks with some shreddy solos, and close out each of the sides with a ballad to keep a sense of diversity. It’s a tried and true strategy that’s sold plenty of albums for legendary and obscure bands alike, but that is not the fault here: the determinant is songwriting ability, Hammerfall’s Achilles’ heel. From what I understand, only one or two of the band members contribute actively in the writing process, with founding guitarist Oscar Dronjak as primary constituent. It shows on this album, where most of the songs start to run together. Opener “Heeding the Call” is deservedly celebrated as one of the band’s strongest power metal speedsters, and my attention usually lasts through the title track. Afterwards, the blender kicks on for the album’s remainder, and the band pours in bits and pieces of all their obvious influences: Dio, Accept, JP, Helloween, etc. Don’t ask me to tell you anything about the middle bunch of these tracks unless I’ve just listened to them that day, and this from a guy who can recall any section of Reign in Blood on command. Legacy of Kings is like a leaky basement with poor drainage, where all the loose ideas pool together into the middle and lose distinction in the murkiness.

Joacim Cans must eat mild buffalo wings every day, because his vocal delivery just reeks of weak sauce. His is the polite, inoffensive, safe delivery that was such a bane to the NWOBHM movement. This begs the question, is he performing this way because he lacks desire, or in genteel reverence of the early 80’s sound? His higher range is particularly embarrassing…show a little spirit man, you’re playing music for a living. A better vocalist could potentially have mediated some of my earlier complaints by mixing up vocal melodies and lyrical themes: Cans’ lines kinda sound like all of his other lines.

There are certain positives worth mentioning. The production, in expectedly strict imitation of the debut, is natural and all-around likeable. Unlike the debut however, the lead guitar work is fancier and spotlighted more often, enough for me to take notice even during the ballads. Speaking of which, the debut is imitated again in this sense: “Remember Yesterday” is disposable fluff while “The Fallen One” makes for a simple, solemn outro. Though again, I’m a sucker for piano bits, you may not be.

If you’re into Hammerfall’s brand of chant-along power pop and don’t mind repetition that borders on crippling, this is a fine addition to your collection. But this is the point where I first realized that Hammerfall would never evolve beyond grade school metal innovations and continue to churn out the same sort of songs year after year with slightly different flavors like a cereal manufacturer.

Can’t stray too far from the formula or you’ll lose consumers: that’s the big business approach to the music industry.

Now this is more like it! - 84%

Wez, October 6th, 2004

This is much more what I would expect from a Hammerfall release, this annihilates the lukewarm "Crimson Thunder"! Even the good songs on that album are a little weak when stood up against some of the terrific tunes on this disc. This is all very much textbook stuff here, but it is executed superbly and is so much fun to listen to. I've been playing the hell out of this disc since I bought it. It's basically 90s power metal, with many nods in the direction of traditional heavy metal and some speed metal mixed in.

The album starts with "Heeding the Call", which is typical of an album opener, full of energy, with those Helloween-ish melodies abound and sing along chorus. It's probably the most immediately effective track on the album and is definitely one of the strongest. It's followed up by the title track which continues on in the same way without ceasing to gallop along at high speed, and is a great slice of metal songwriting. "Let the Hammer Fall" slows down to build up on mood and paces itself very well, it focuses more upon 80s heavy metal elements with an excellent lead break in the middle. "Dreamland" is faster power metal with a more epic design with extended passages that also lend it a more glorified, if somewhat cheesy atmosphere. But while I can't say any of the songs are literary greats, there's something endearing and plain fun about the "power of steel" mentality.

I'm not so keen on the turn the album takes after this, with four thundering tunes behind already, I'm hungry for more and the last thing I want is to slow down completely and fall into ballad territory. That said, "Remember Yesterday" is not too badly written, I just don't want to particularly slow down at this point, and thus the song suffers. It seems like an unwritten rule of power metal that at least one ballad must be present on each album you release. But, I digress. "At the End of the Rainbow", opens with a bassline that sounds like the song is about to burst into Iron Maiden's "Stranger in a Strange Land", but ends up breaking into a rather more Priest like tune with a slower, anthemic power metal chorus, with that middle break going all Priest and 80s metal again (in other words, it means that now is the time to headbang!) and follows on with a short solo before a great power metal bridge leads onto the chorus once more. A well rounded song indeed!

"Back to Back" is a cover, which band it's of I don't know, but what I do know is that it's another good tune. Just like Hammerfall to cover a song in this vein, it's very close to the style they play. The first six songs had between them very clear boundaries and can be separated easily. From this point onwards, "Back to Back" and the proceeding two tracks seem stuck together pretty tightly. They basically have the same general structure, and with this the last part of the album loses a bit of power. Nevertheless, "Stronger than All" and "Warriors of Faith" are consistently strong tunes, especially the latter with its near thrashy break in the middle. The last track, hmm, I'm not sure what to think, while I think the placement of ballads on this album is very questionable (and I'm certainly not keen on ending the album with a ballad either), "The Fallen One" has a little something to it. I like the opening piano parts, but the whole thing doesn't seem to work as a whole song. The solo is well done though and Joacim Cans does give a surprisingly intense performance, but I just don't like the album ending in this sort of way.

Though "Legacy of Kings" will surely be in the stereo a lot for a good while to come. It isn't going to change metal as we know it, but is a very worthy addition to the collection of anybody with a liking for heavy/power metal.

Quite competent indeed - 70%

UltraBoris, August 28th, 2002

Crimsonblood pretty much summed up everything on a factual level. It's power metal, with just enough speed metal thrown in to make it truly worthwhile. The production is very good - the guitars are nice and loud in the mix, and the riffs are not destroyed by endless double bass.

Cans's vocals are indeed quite average, but they do tend to work well here. Also, the songs display enough variety from one to the next to keep the album interesting. "Heeding the Call" is what introduced me to this band in 1998 or 1999 - I liked the Helloween "Keeper I" style melodies, combined with the more speed-metal sensibility of "Walls of Jericho".

Then, "Legacy of Kings" is not quite as fast and a bit more epic, while "Let the Hammer Fall" is the equivalent of "Rock Hard, Ride Free" - yes, pretty much this can be compared to "Defenders of the Faith" at times. Lots of endless soloing, speed metal riffs everywhere - it's not nearly as amazingly overpoweringly refreshingly new as that album was in 1984, but the general style is quite similar.

Other songs that rule include "Back to Back", which is a cover of something - it's got a killer Priest-like solo and some very riffs that sound like Iron Maiden played at 45 instead of 33 by accident. Also, "Warriors of Faith" has a nice thrash break in the middle, making it probably the heaviest song on the album.

As for the ballads, here is where I disagree with Crimsonblood - "Remember Yesterday" is really boring. But, "The Fallen One" is quite nicely done. I think it works well as an album closer - nice atmosphere and generally memorable. No, it doesn't sound like the rest of the album, but it is interesting.

Okay, so it's pretty much nothing you've never heard before. But if you want power metal with lots of speed metal parts and way more riffs than Sonata Arctica, or if you liked the first few Helloween albums, and Accept, and Judas Priest... this definitely sounds like the 80s, and in a very good way. No stupid modern touches here - very well done.

HammerFall - Legacy Of Kings - 85%

Crimsonblood, August 28th, 2002

Led by Joacim Cans on vocals and the dual axe attack of Oscar Dronjak and Stefan Elmgren, HammerFall are one of the most typical True Power Metal bands, but also one of the best. After a very succseful debut with Glory To The Brave, expectations were high for Legacy Of Kings.

Legacy Of Kings starts out with one of my favorite tracks, "Heeding The Call". It has one of the best choruses found on the CD and really characterizes what HammerFall is all about in one quick blow. As is found in a lot of HammerFall songs, back up choirs are used throughout. The backing vocals are used very tastefully and are subtle enough not to overpower Cans, but rather add nicely to each song where they are used. After the opening track, there are only a few surprises on Legacy Of Kings. Most of the songs are fast and come complete with double kicks and palm muted riffs. The best of these include "Heeding The Call", "Legacy Of Kings", "Back To Back", and "Stronger Than All". HammerFall does throw in four songs that are a little different though. The first of which is "Let The Hammerfall", which is a mid-paced rocker that is very catchy. The next is "At The End Of The Rainbow"; this song sounds like it could come straight off of a Dio CD; the song is a great change of pace and is a nice addition to the CD. The next two surprises (well, maybe not surprises, but a change of a pace never the less) are ballads. The first, a power ballad, "Remember Yesterday", is very good and uplifting. The second is "The Fallen One" which is really somber and isn't that great; I found it to be kind of bland and not fitting with the overall theme of the CD.

The production job is very good on Legacy Of Kings. All the instruments are mixed well and the bass can actually be heard. Lyrically, HammerFall is entrenched in the glory of battle and victory; often including songs about kings, knights, and all things medieval, with a bunch of fantasy thrown in for good measure (in this sense they are very similar to Manowar). Vocally, Cans does not have the best range nor the best vibrato, however, he stays within his limits and he fits the band well. All the songs are very catchy from a vocal stand point, so he can't be that bad. All the other instruments are played well; the guitars are not the most technical but are impressive rhythmically; the drums are just slightly better then most Power Metal bands, mostly thanks to tasteful fills; and the bass is solid.

The last two songs are a little weak on Legacy Of Kings. "Warriors Of Faith", while not being a bad song, doesn't stand out like the rest and the ballad, "The Fallen One" sounds horribly out of place on an otherwise very happy CD as aI mentioned. Otherwise, "Legacy Of Kings" is solid, even though some songs sound similar; "Heeding The Call" and "Legacy Of Kings" have almost the exact same rhythm pattern, and it wouldn't be so obvious if they weren't put right after each other. The evil repetition demon shows up every once in awhile, but individually a lot of the songs are great on here. In short, there are a lot of memorable moments here for fans of Power Metal.

Take note though, this type of Metal is not for everyone. As I've mentioned, this is very happy music, for some people probably too happy. "Dreamland" is especially guilty of this. Also, the lyrics to some might come across as being corny. So you've been warned. :)