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HammerFall as a band are kind of like the afternoon Kids WB action cartoon of Heavy Metal, being shamelessly watered down and censored, but still entertaining enough for the kids and harmless enough so as to not really offend anyone outside of the pizza-faced nerds who live for the comic book on which it was based. No Sacrifice, No Victory, however, is kind of like what the voice actors of said cartoon would go on to do right after the show went bottom-up, having done nothing but kiddy programs in the past and wanting to "expand their artistic horizons." So the end result comes out as darker and edgier, using a few swear words and a few darker themes that the parents of all the kids would balk at, but overall it ends up being kind of mediocre and faulty, not having enough merit to stand on its own. Maybe the makers will go on to better things, or maybe they will not.
That's what this album is like, basically. No Sacrifice, No Victory is the seventh HammerFall album, and it's a bit of a mixed bag, sounding sort of like the band took songs from three or four different albums the members had recorded separately and mashed them all together. We have a gamut of different sounds here, all of which sound okay on their own, but none of which really gel together as a whole as they did on, say, the last Edguy album - we've got speedy, neoclassical Power Metal, the traditional HammerFall stomping, a more hard rock oriented direction, and even a vaguely minstrel-sounding ballad. The band is obviously trying to progress forward here, with more varied music and darker, laughably religiously themed lyrics (is it supposed to be more mature...?), but they just don't seem to have the talent to do it and come out sounding really cut-rate. Oh well. At least this sort of late-in-the-game progression is more forgivable than that of CERTAIN OTHER *coughAxelRudiPellcough* BANDS WHICH I WON'T MENTION HERE.
We kick off with "Any Means Necessary," and I like this song; I really do. It's hooky, it's stomping and it's full of attitude, even though the riff might be more simple than your bare white wall. It's definitely something you can work out to, and one I'd enjoy seeing live. "Life Is Now," despite buying into every cliche in the Power Metal book, is also good, sounding like something Edguy or Firewind in their better days would write, with a catchy, layered chorus and a nice mid-paced stomp to go along with it. "Punish and Enslave," while sounding vaguely sexual, is a pretty okay song, although it is unmemorable, and then we kick into "Legion," which is the best song they've done since "On the Edge of Honor," with blazing leads and a killer, soaring chorus to boot. The ballad I mentioned is "Between Two Worlds," and it's good, although it sounds ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE A HAMMERFALL SONG.
With that said, it is still the best ballad they have ever done.
"Hallowed Be My Name" is okay, a hard rocking mid-paced tune with a generic chorus and a pretty cool gunshot effect that breaks up the riffs; I like that kind of thing. "Something for the Ages" is my pick for best song on here, and to my surprise it is an instrumental - not usually something I enjoy a whole lot, but damn, HammerFall have got this down pat. The melodies here are soaring and rich, and the whole thing is just beaming with energy and ball-busting power that the band should have exercised more. They should have just ended the album there, as the title track blows, probably the worst song I've ever heard from them, with no hooks at all and a really boring rock beat on the drums. Next is "Let the Hammer Fa---oh, I'm sorry, I mean "Bring the Hammer Down", and it is about as generic as they come. Sure, guys. Keep on naming your songs stuff about hammers. That's really cool...seriously, did they put any thought into some of this shit? The songs' names are almost exactly the fucking same! Not that it matters, but still...there should be some kind of a medal for that.
"One of a Kind" about sums up the album as a whole, though, for better or worse. It's a pretty good little epic, with Joacim screaming out the chorus in the highest voice his ball-vice will allow, and the guitars soaring in a typical Power Metal manner. The less said about the "My Sharona" cover, the better. I'll just say this: it isn't pretty.
No Sacrifice, No Victory is a pretty fair album from these old vets, though; not too shabby, but not great either. Pretty much par for the course for them these days, but also with a little spice of innovation, which is always nice to see. The band are going somewhere after this, we just don't know where. This has all the markings of a transitional effort - so which path will the band choose? Find out next time on The Adventures of HammerFall! And don't do drugs, stay in school, et cetera.