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Time proves Legacy to be overrated - 70%

musicgirl, November 15th, 2017

Well four good songs on an album is certainly an accomplishment. Some bands have never done that, and I haven't written a song in 30 years. So I should give Legacy of Kings a 95%, right? Wait, not so quick. A lot of albums have far less filler, and Hammerfall is capable of so much more. Their debut and third album, Renegade and latest Built to Last --I've warmed to that since reviewing it -- are far superior to this.

Well let me first mention the high points here. The best song would have to be "End of the Rainbow." That is the only Hammerfall song I have known since the year it came out. All the rest I played catch-up on years later. It's "The End of the Rainbow" that made me want to learn everything I could about this amazing band. The song is a midtempo work of genius that sadly the band doesn't play live anymore. The opening lyrics, "As long as I remember, we marched across this land" sets into motion a suspenseful march to a pot-of-gold refrain.

"Stronger than All" is my second favorite. Joacim puts a lot of expression into his vocals here. It gets off to a headbanging start before launching into the lovably corny melody. Then Joacim's voice heads to the sky, a good lead in for the uplifting, complex refrain adorned with powerful choruses. The track is like a more jovial "Hammerfall," from the first album, though it doesn't come close to the magic of that classic track.

There are a couple more catchy songs on Legacy of Kings. "Let the Hammer Fall" is pure movement. "The Fallen One" could very well be Hammerfall's most beautiful ballad. It has an accomplished guitar solo too, something inexcusably missing from other Hammerfall ballads over the years. All metal bands blessed with guitar virtuosos should not just simply dish out a pop ballad. Unfortunately "The Fallen One" does flirt with pop, just in passing and it doesn't detract from the song. Yet the poppy piano on "The Fallen One" --in my humble opinion as both a piano player and metal fan, no metal song should have piano -- draws attention to the fact that two songs on this album drown in pop refrains. Those are "Dreamland" and "Heeding the Call." They foreshadow the worst yet to come, the totally unacceptable and syrupy "Natural High" from Hammerfall's later and terrible Threshold album. Some people would think I am too hard on all of these songs. I don't think so. Verses build up to a refrain. If that refrain stinks, there goes your whole song, despite what other good work might have gone into it.

I have mixed feelings about Hammerfall including a cover, "Back to Back" on Legacy. Hammerfall has done tons to make sure that 1980s founders of power metal like the Pretty Maids, Chastain, Warlord and others don't languish in obscurity. At the same time, inclusion of a cover is just a way to cover up lack of originals. Here its inclusion reinforces that Hammerfall didn't have much to say at this juncture in time. No instrumental on Legacy of Kings further shows inactivity. Vocals are often written for songs that would be completely satisfactory instrumentals. These have their own melodies. The vocal melody is often a separate, added melody. That is true of Hammerfall's best song "The Dragon lies Bleeding," from the first album. Try listening to that without vocals (a version with removed vocals and C tuning exists), and you would think it was a totally separate song and good in its own right.

The Legacy of Kings title track as well as "Warrior of Faith" just sound at times like other better Hammerfall songs with some similarities to other bands too. After knowing all the Hammerfall hits, they do nothing for me. I guess reviewing an album years after it came out has potential pitfalls. You are reviewing it as a person with the benefit of hindsight, and might not be giving the particular album in question a fair shake. On the other hand hindsight offers wonderful perspective. Truth of the matter is that Hammerfall was at the height of their popularity when Legacy of Kings came out, and all they had to do was ride that wave with minimal effort. Only later reviewers are going to be able to see that.