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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/