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A return to former glory? - 86%

MetalGuard, September 5th, 2012

Back in the late 1990ies, the Swedes of Hammerfall took to the scene with a legendary debut album titled "Glory to the Brave", and the rest is pretty much (metal) history: The five-piece has since conquered the hearts of heavy metal lovers all over the world by storm with their uncompromised classic heavy metal sound in a time when Alternative, Indie and Grunge was all the rage, and their second album "Legacy of Kings" managed to cement their status as "saviors of true metal" around the turn of the millenium.

However, not all that glitters is gold, and after the still impressive "Crimson Thunder" in 2002, Hammerfall's star began to dim a bit, and guitarist Oscar Dronjak's shining breastplate armor was suddenly not quite as resplendent anymore. "Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" was a fairly expendable release with little to no highlights except for the catchy single "Blood Bound", and much the same would hold true for its successor "Threshold". It almost seemed like Hammerfall had lost their golden Midas touch... when "No Sacrifice, No Victory" came around in 2009.

Their last album to be produced by the legendary maestro Charlie Bauerfeind, "No Sacrifice, No Victory" manages once again to capture that same drive, that same rebellious spirit, that same never-say-day attitude that Hammerfall's first three or four albums contained. The opening track "Any Means Necessary" took no prisoners with a driving verse and pounding bridge before entering a battle hymn of a chorus; "Punish and Enslave" ended up being a formidable rocker, "Legion" the band's best up-tempo song since "Heeding the Call" or comparable tracks on "Legacy of Kings", and one of my personal highlights would be "Bring the Hammer down", an underrated anthem for the band.

But the good doesn't stop there: Also songs like the title track or "Hallowed be my Name" managed to captivate more than most of the bland and uninspired material of preceding albums had been able to, and it's probably only the slower songs such as "Between Two Worlds" and the instrumental "Something for the Ages" (which was written by new guitar player Pontus Norgren) that left a bit to be desired. Interestingly enough, I always felt it was the fresh breath that Pontus Norgren brought into the Hammerfall sound on this record as he replaced Stefan Elmgren on the six strings, and his more rock'n'roll approach did wonders for the overall sound and feel of the album.

Thus, "No Sacrifice, No Victory" ended up being one of the best albums in Hammerfall's catalogue, and probably the last one in the tradition of the band's great outings "Glory to the Brave", "Legacy of Kings" and "Crimson Thunder". If you enjoyed these albums, and are wondering which Hammerfall record you should buy next, then this one should be your pick.