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So, this is the direction which they took since the debut album, and continued that only righteous heavy metal way. Never compromising, never bowing down before the mallcore trends, just straight-forward classic heavy metal and power metal at its best. Majority of these songs are done in power metal style, while there are few classic heavy metal songs like A Legend Reborn. Throughout their discography there are more power metal than classic heavy metal songs, but notable amount of classic heavy metal songs are present enough to make them masters of classic heavy metal and power metal styles. The beginning of symbolic line-up which consists of Anders Johansson, Magnus Rosén, Joacim Cans, Stefan Elmgren and Oscar Dronjak started here, and didn't last too much. Everything nice runs short. When posers look at the album art they probably say: "This is Dungeons And Dragons bullshit.". Well, HammerFall's lyrical topic is not about that at all.
That album cover can be easily considered as description of this release - fast and powerful. From beginning to the end this studio album strikes with strong, intense, powerful and heavy riffs, in combination with great lead guitar work and guitar solo duels and harmonies. A little bit weaker production may leave wrong impression that songs aren't good. Turn up a bit volume on your player, and you will capture the essence of it all. This release is really well balanced. It can please fans of faster heavy metal, while offering mid and slower songs of the same quality, and a ballad too. Always Will Be is really an excellent ballad, with huge amount of romantic emotions, and serves like a commercial breakthrough, since it has a music video. It doesn't fit well in this energetic and powerful heavy metal ambient, but only quality is what really matters. So, Keep The Flame Burning, Renegade, Living In Victory, The Champion and Raise The Hammer will take you on a ride through speed-fest, and show you how many heavy, raw and aggressive riffs build up great songs, along with great drum work, and soaring vocals.
Stefan and Oscar have soloing race through each song, and show their amazing skills and creativity. Stefan shines with his technical superiority over Oscar, but over majority of other guitarists as well. Anders just knew when to hit his cymbals or touch his bass pedals, while pounding rhythms and giving these songs an amazing feel. Joacim sounds fantastic, and he is able to perform well along with fast tempo. From slower songs we have Templars Of Steel, a strong and impressive fit-pumping, anthem-like opener, a hymn of all HammerFall's fans. It's really a killer combination of slow tempo and powerful, heavy riffs, soaring vocals and powerful chorus. Guitar solo fits this powerful ambient too. Other songs are done with the same amount of energy and power, and each song is special on its own way.
The Way Of The Warrior is more notable for its amazing intro among other mentioned things related to The Templars Of Steel, while Destined For Glory and A Legend Reborn will have to grow on some listeners. Few more listens, and there you go, you can enjoy this release from beginning to the end. Destined For Glory is notable because of its lyrical heavy metal wisdom which can teach you some moral values and which announced upcoming massive heavy metal years shown through mini story of a "a mail-clad warrior", which is probably related to their mascot Hector, and HammerFall themselves as well. So, all songs except Renegade, Always Will Be and The Champion are songs about revival of heavy metal music shown through metaphoric way - warriors (metalheads), fight (keep heavy metal alive), steel (heavy metal), etc. The Champion is fantasy tale indeed, and Always Will Be is a love ballad, while Renegade is based on a movie.
Good sides of this release:
This album is the definition of heavy metal sound, and a good way to show the youngsters the essence of it, specially in these times when everything with distortion is labeled as "metal". It offers everything you need to experience heavy metal in its top-notch form. It has many strong, intense and row riffs, great lead guitar work and tasty technical solos with lots of feel, excellent drum-work and amazing vocals. Lyrics are well written, and have nothing to do with "dungeons and dragons" despite the album cover. This symphony of steel is a must-have for all metalheds. Highly recommended.
Bad sides of this release:
Songs could have been louder a bit while they were mixed in the studio.
One of the truly interesting yet probably 100% coincidental aspects of Hammerfalls tenure as a metal band is how much their career is reflected through their album art. On their debut a lone warrior stood amongst a dying forest, reflecting how few great musicians stood in a world where metal was all but completely dead. On “Legacy of Kings” you behold that within a single year bands had begun to pour in and on the throne of a newly built castle stood a proud knight, metal had come home and all was well again. On “Renegade”, we get a visual that can be taken two ways. It can be seen as the knight burning down his own kingdom, which fits with what the detractors of this album feel happened when Hammerfall started to sell big and recorded some albums with less speed and more polished production. However, it could also be seen as the knight burning down the castle of his enemies, and that is what I have come to see in this album.
“Renegade” is not the greatest work ever put out by Hammerfall, because the struggle to get to the top is where the warrior is truly tested, once he is there his sense of achievement must evolve from accomplishing lofty goals to maintaining the current realization of them. In this respect, “Renegade” succeeds as it is a polished work that still contains the same level of energy that was present on the last two albums. However, there have been some changes that are noteworthy, particularly in how the album is paced when compared to previous efforts.
We kick off the track list with “Templars of Steel” and right away we see a slower and more vocally driven approach. The song has plenty of solid guitar riffs, as well as a good heavy atmosphere, but it has a long drawn out intro that behaves almost like one of those brief instrumental preludes that one finds on symphonic power metal albums nowadays, though without the huge arrangements. “Destined for Glory” and “A Legend Reborn” are also quite moderate in tempo, though obviously not lacking in the riff department. The latter is instrumentally one of the more ambitious works by Hammerfall, containing an inspired acoustic guitar intro and some solid atmospheric keyboard work.
“The Way of the Warrior” underscores the close relation between Hammerfalls accessibility and the power of their choruses, though there is plenty of solid riffing as well, the introductory lead guitar part is quite impressive. “Always will be” is our token ballad for the release and it kicks off with a melancholy and beautiful lead guitar intro, followed by some great vocal work by Cans, and is the first example of a mostly acoustic Hammerfall song. The title track is an upper mid-tempo number with plenty of good guitar work, although the vocal line is a bit flat and anti-climactic.
Fortunately Hammerfall has not forgotten how to play fast on this album, as we have 3 solid cookers on here that highlight what the band did best on their last two albums, continue the grand tradition of early 80s Judas Priest. “Living in Victory” is the happiest sounding of the bunch, though not quite as fluffy sounding lyrically as Dreamland was. “Keep the Flame Burning” is the most agitated and fast moving of the group, though the chorus doesn’t have a powerful hook and goes by a bit too quickly. “The Champion” balances out the extremes of the other two nicely and has some classic chivalry inspired lyrics that makes one dream of the knights of the middle ages.
The highlight of this album is the instrumental, which is the closest thing to the sheer intensity that present on “Legacy of Kings”. The technical display put on by the guitars, matched by the fast and heavy flow of the rhythm section make this one you can bang your head to quite easily. This is the best instrumental ever recorded by the band and rivals many of the instrumental efforts put out by other bands in the genre, and it’s one of the better songs out of Hammerfall’s entire catalog.
In conclusion, this is a more polished and listener friendly Hammerfall, but it is hardly what its critics are making it out to be. When one pulls a Metallica, it is extremely blatant, and what is going on here is more of the natural and gradual evolution that a band ought to go through. It’s not quite the magnum opus that the previous release was, but it is worthy of Hammerfall fans and others who like the more simple and to-the-point kind of power metal. If you like Judas Priest, Manowar, Riot, Iron Maiden, and other early to mid-80s acts this album will not disappoint.
If you’ve heard one Hammerfall album, you’ve pretty much heard them all. I generally regard this one as one of their better releases, primarily because it’s the first one of their albums I listened to. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments, they’re just few and far between.
Individually, any one of Hammerfall’s songs is generally good. It’s just that an album full of them gets old really fast. Such is the case with Renegade. Certain songs just reek of awesomeness. “Templars of Steel,” the album’s opener, features a sweet intro and a surprisingly catchy chorus. “Way of the Warrior” has a lot of cool guitar work and another memorable chorus line. The album’s title track showcases one of the band’s coolest riffs right off the bat and continues on to be a generally cool tune. Most of the songs on here are interesting standing alone, minus the shitty ballad, but begin to sound far too similar to one another to be bearable after just a couple of tracks.
Musically, the album isn‘t bad. The gaping difference in quality between the guitar riffs and solos present on the first two albums has been rounded out, so that both are just about average in presentation. The bass and drums are forgettable, but the production on this album has managed to remain at the same level as the first two albums. Even the vocals are still pretty good; however, the lyrics are really starting to get old. The generic, self-glorifying, medieval warrior lyrics the band employs were invented and exhausted by Manowar a decade before Hammerfall started releasing pitifully inadequate albums. So no, overall the music isn’t bad, but it certainly accomplishes nothing new.
Some people like the fact that Hammerfall sticks to their guns, pumping out album after album of the same sort of material. It’s a sick sort of consistency that prevents their fans from having to suffer the painful stylistic changes that fans of thrash metal stalwarts like Anthrax, Metallica, and Testament had to deal with in the early 90’s. Personally, I’d rather take shit about Metallica’s later releases than try and defend Hammerfall’s lackluster discography. These bands tried (and usually failed) to expand their horizons, but at least they tried. People often say that Metallica should have just stuck to their guns, that they should have kept putting out awesome metal albums every couple years, myself included. But there’s a good chance that if they did, they’d have ended up with a bunch of mediocre releases that did nothing to provide variation or interest. By being ambitious and trying new shit, occasionally some cool new concepts will emerge. By releasing consistently mediocre albums that fans will buy on principle, there is no chance for innovation. Maybe innovation only seems to work for progressive metal. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Hammerfall are hell bent on stereotyping the power metal genre as insipidly unoriginal, an offense that cannot be forgiven. Too bad they kept on releasing material after Renegade. They could have ended on a decent note.
To make long things short: This is definitely my favorite Hammerfall album. Easily the culmination of their works to date, it was the next definite step up after their sophomore effort had already improved a great deal over their also very good but still quite amateurish and underdevelped debut.
So, how is this album better than their earlier works? Well, more than anything, it's the consistency. Every album, before and after this one, can face up to Renegade in its glorious moments, but none of them manages to start kicking ass and stop kicking ass but one single time, otherwise carrying the awesome from beginning to end. For another thing, vesatility - borderline Speed Metal like "Keep the Flame Burning", "The Champion" and "Raise the Hammer" alternates with slow, crushing tracks like "Templars of Steel", "The Way of the Warrior" and the almost-Epic "A Legend Reborn", with catchy mid-paced tunes like the title track, "Living in Victory" and the uber-cheesy-power-anthem "Destined for Glory". Oh yeah, there's also the obligatory ballad, a rather lame track though.
Want any particular highlights? Fuck, all of the tracks except the ballad are absolutely ace traditional Power Metal with a huge 80s vein (Accept are easily the band's main influence,along with Warlord), extremely riff-oriented. "Keep the Flame Burning" is probably the best one - fastest song on the album, definitely features the band's top riff and solo ever, and some excellent, driving leads. The titile track is by far the catchiest both as far as vocals and as far as the main riff are concerned - a live staple played at any show they had since this album came out, and not without good reason. "Raise The Hammer" is a kickass speedy instrumental, lots of harmonies, soloing and shredding with an excellent sense for melody, and for a change very good drumworks as well. "A Legend Reborn" is a slower, crunchier number, with a nice acoustic intro and outro, semi-epic song structure ( not just simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus construction) and a killer solo. "Templars of Steel", another live staple, is an odd opener in that it's the slowest song on the album and doesn't immediately kick you in the face so much as getting you in a crunchy, slow sing-along anthem.
Basically, almost all other songs are on a par as well - "The Champion" with its cool speedy main riff, "Living in Victory" with that powerful chorus and wonderful harmony in the middle, "The Way of the Warrior" with its heavy catchiness and pure Accept style chorus, and "Destined for Glory" with its awesome anthem qualities (despite those horribly cheesy lyrics).
There are really only two complaints I have about this album. One, "Always Will Be" is, when all is said and done, a weak and pretty whiny half-acoustic ballad and has no cool power ballad qualities whatsoever unlike, say, Remember Yesterday, Glory to the Brave or I Believe - it's in fact really pussy, especially so in the end. Pretty forgettable.
Two, the drums. They're kept very simple and far below the abilities of Johannson, and the only exception, "Raise the Hammer", shows how much better the band sounds when there's some serious drumming going on. It's not a major weakness for me, but it's still a fair bit of a pity.
Otherwise, this album offers you some of the best straightforward 80s style Power Metal you can find, extremely riff-oriented and with a lot of catchy singalong chorusses. No, it's not anyway near complex and only once brushes slightly on Epic, but it's quite simply very competent and a hell of a lot of fun.
*edit: Old review sucked in terms of formatting, style and content and my rating standards changed, so I rewrote it completely
Now, "Glory To The Brave" was a pretty solid album, no doubt about it. But it lacked that certain something, that I can't put my finger on, though it's always there. As of yet, I have not attained their latest full-length album "Crimson Thunder", but it's predecessor "Renegade" is certainly some very well done power metal. Not quite as good as the album that came before it, "Legacy of Kings", but very rocking nonetheless.
It's a bit more formulaic and predictable, standard speed/power metal, but as you all should know by now I prefer quality to originality. And this certainly has quality. The stuff here is just raging power metal all the way, with lots of double bass, awesome solos and some very solid speed metal riffs here and there, like on "Keep The Flame Burning" and "Living In Victory". The epic atmosphere is ever present through each song, and if you like that stuff then this won't disappoint you. I'm a fan of the cheese, so this definitely appeals to me.
However, what really sets this album apart from "Glory To The Brave" is the spirit in the songwriting. You can tell in each song that they're completely into it, and the material on here just sounds much more inspired. The anthemic chorus on "Templars of Steel"... That insanely catchy semi-epic main riff on the title track... and so on. "Renegade" just has tons of those really memorable moments that just shows that they're really into it, much more than before. And the songwriting for the most part is very consistent, with only one sub-par moment, that being the mainly acoustic ballad "Always Will Be", which is not bad, just very average and somewhat overemotional. Kinda messes up the flow of the otherwise intense speed/power metal stuff we get here. Otherwise, it's all killer material. Some songs stand out, however.
The opening track "Templars of Steel" is a midpaced metal anthem with some wicked catchy riffwork which will have your fist pumping in the air within seconds. Very effective and memorable track; power metal at its best.
"Renegade", the title track, has perhaps the best riff they ever wrote. Man, that one is just incredible. And the song maintains a high quality and intensity level all through, with very atmospheric and memorable vocal lines and an insanely catchy singalong chorus.
Other songs worth mentioning are "The Way of the Warrior", with it's awesome chorus and lyrics, "The Champion" for it's general catchiness and "A Legend Reborn", with that grand, epic feeling to it. But really, this is all killer stuff. If you like your power metal with a perfectly balanced dose of epic cheese, then I don't see why you shouldn't like this.
"Renegade" is pretty simple and unoriginal power metal, but it's really fucking good at what it does. The memorable moments on this album are countless, and you just can't restrain from singing along to the powerful material they've put down on songs like "Templars of Steel" and "Destined For Glory", and it's impossible not to air guitar to the riffs on "Renegade" and "Keep The Flame Burning". Definitely recommended.
This isn't quite up to par with the first two Hammerfall LPs, but it's still some reasonably good power metal. This one has a really slick production job - not black album slick, but still very much so, that takes away the last of the rawness that was present on Glory to the Brave. That's the biggest complaint, that's it's just a bit too happy.
What's good? Well, first off, what is not there that would be bad? There's only one ballad. Not two, like on the first two. Fuck yeah... the ballad is of course an abomination against god and man, but at least the last song isn't a ballad. It's a generic midpaced rocker. In fact, there's a lot of those there - and even the faster songs aren't the speed metal mania of a "Dragon Lies Bleeding" or a "Heeding the Call". Nonetheless, if you like straight-up bang your head, bang your fist, sing along kind of stuff, you'll like it.
As for what's really good - the fact that despite being kinda slick, it isn't Sonata Arctica dripping with cheese and bad drums. What other reviewers may call bad drumming is actually quite good. Nice, understated, keeps the beat - as opposed to the maximal double-bass attack that every other power metal band out there seems to insist on nowadays. Oh and the singer doesn't suck. He's no Hansi Kursch but he's good for the job.
Highlights... The Champion is probably the best song on here, though pretty much you can't go wrong with any of the non-ballad tracks. Templars of Steel starts off with a nifty intro and is a real anthemic number, and then Keep the Flame Burning is almost speed metal. Even the instrumental, Raise the Hammer, is pretty damn cool - there's one excellent melodic riff in there that they play just the right number of times.
You've heard it all before. But that just means it's tried and true. If it weren't for the slick production, this would be completely glorious. In any case, it's not bad. Fans of Manowar, Accept, Helloween, you know the drill...
I mean, this music is Uninspired Shit with capital letters. It emphasizes everything that people hate about Power Metal, and yet it is held up as a shining example of cheesy Power Metal for the world to see? Please.
This band is just so subpar. It has its moments, but that doesn't mean the overall project is lame and uninspired. Everybody has their moments (unless they're bad Grindcore). The riffs in this album are so recycled and overused that I feel like absolutely puking when I hear the same damn riff behind the vocals in every single song. The drum does almost nothing but 1-2 beats, and it gets old and boring as the album progresses. Alone, any of these songs are decent Power Metal songs, but when they're put together, they just plain suck the life out of you. Speaking of sucking, Hammerfall's vocalist has got to be the worst Power Metal vocalist I've ever heard. He's even more annoying than Tobias Sammet, and that's saying something. His voice is flat and uninspiring, and he often loses the pitch in important, climactic moments of songs, thus effectively ruining any possible chance of making a good lasting impression on the listener; in other words, he's not good enough to be singing for a Power Metal band. Finally, the production is pretty damn shitty, and it's not the "I-can't-afford-it" production, it's the "Somebody-fucked-this-one-up" production. All of the vocal work is lost behind the flat-sounding guitars; I can't hear any depth or clarity to the sound at all, and it slowly begins to drive you insane.
Now, there are some cool parts of this album. Templars of Steel has cool riffs, but the drums and vocals are lame. Renegade has cool riffs, but the drums and vocals are lame. The Way of the Warrior has cool riffs, but the drums and vocals are lame. The Champion has cool riffs, but the drums and vocals are lame. Raise the Hammer has cool riffs, but the drums and vocals are lame. You see the problem here?
If you're a fucking diehard Power Metal fanatic, I suppose you'll want this album since EVERYBODY thinks Hammerfall is such an AMAZING BAND and what kind of IDIOT doesn't like their sound? Me, I think they're extremely overrated. Give me some Stratovarius any day.
I had probably only heard of HammerFall a few times before I decided to buy Renegade. The guy at the store played it and exclaimed in Madarin "this sounds marvellously exquisite!" I got the album and was blown away by Templars of Steel! The guitars, I must say, cut like a hot knife through butter during the intro. This track's chugging riff is more of something to gystrate to. The chorus was totally meta-physical; you have to experience it. The second and title tracks are stuff you would want to headbang to. They thunder at you at a hundred miles per hour and reek with energy throughout the trip. I remember listening to Renegade once and said to myself "have I ever heard the mighty Judas Priest churn out this much energy?" Maybe they have but Priest probably have not surpassed it yet.
Living In Victory and Legend Reborn are tracks which I can listen to again and again if only for the lyrics. Renegade is full of great lyrics but Living clearly stands out from the crowd. I have not heard many other bands which had this great lyrics.
HammerFall has a very powerful rythm section but I would like to hear the bass given more prominence. Magnus is a great bassist as demonstrated on Raise The Hammer which is an emryreal instrumental track. Dues to axemen Stephan and Oscar who crafted those melodic, meandering guitar labyrinths that astounded me. Not to be outdone, Joacim sings his heart out on this album. One cannot help but admire his passion.
Find out why Renegade became gold. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out though.