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Access Denied... In Cyrillic - 75%

TheStormIRide, October 23rd, 2013

Hammerforce, a Russian progressive power metal act from St. Petersburg, released their second full length album in March of 2013, titled “Access Denied”, which has received fairly favorable reviews thus far. I for one found it's blend of progressive power metal elements with electronic, almost dance style elements quite refreshing. Fast forward to October of 2013; yes a mere five months later, the band decided to release a Russian-lyric version of “Access Denied”, called “Доступ Закрыт”. You guessed it, that mean “Access Denied” in Russian.

Since I already reviewed “Access Denied” earlier this year, I'm not going to delve super deep into the band's music. To rehash, it's a very energetic power metal album with tons of keyboard embellishments and synthesized sounds that border on electronica. It seems the order of the day is for bands to go all symphonic and orchestral, but Hammerforce steers clear of that gimmick. Honestly, within the first forty seconds of the album, you're greeted with the synthesizer sounds in the background that almost sounds like it came off of Rockwell remix (you know, the guy who did “Somebody's Watching Me”). While it is in the background, it lends a much different feel to the music than most power metal acts.

The music is fairly typical power metal, albeit energetic and fun. The band runs the gamut between speedy double kick drumming and palm muted chugging on “Масс-медиа”, fast-paced yet bouncy blazing like on “Твоя Война” and the stereotypical balladry on “Размышления”. There are some fun yet straightforward leads strewn throughout the music, but nothing mind blowing. Honestly, the biggest draw to this album is the pairing of speedy power metal and electronic synth music. It all fits together much better than you would believe.

“Доступ Закрыт” is basically an homage to Hammerforce's Russian (and Cyrillic script using) fans. This is the same album full of the same music and the same nuances, only sung in Russian. I'm actually quite shocked at how Dmitriy Yanovsky and Nikita Merzyakov were able to maintain the powerful performance of the original album in a different language. The original album showed only Yanovsky handling the microphone, but this around, vocal duties were split between the two, giving a much more dynamic performance. Even with the Russian vocals, it still calls to mind the performances of Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) during the “Somewhere Out in Space” era. The translated vocals are able to maintain the same amount of hooks as before, which is a true testament to both Yanovsky and Merzlyakov's abilities.

If you already own Hammerforce's “Access Denied”, you won't miss out on much if you don't get this, because it's the same thing, only in a different language. It's hard to find an original take on power metal these days, so Hammerforce is quite a refreshing breath of air. I'm not overly familiar with the Russian language, but I am impressed with their ability to hit all of the notes and hooks in a different language. Personally, I'll stick with “Access Denied” more than this version. Overall, “Доступ Закрыт” is a solid album that pays tribute to Hammerforce's home team.

Written for The Metal Observer:

Power Electro-Dance Metal - 77%

TheStormIRide, August 25th, 2013

Hammerforce is a Russian group from the St. Petersburg area peddling a somewhat modern blend of power and progressive metal. Founded by keyboardist Nikita Merzlyakov in 2006, Hammerforce released their debut album, “Dice”, in 2009. Soon after the release of their debut album, the band added a new singer, in the form of Dmitriy Yanovsky. 2013’s “Access Denied” is the second full length album from Hammerforce and the first album to feature Yanovsky’s vocals. Speedy, electronica-infused power metal is the order of the day.

“Access Denied” is an energetic power metal album filled to the brim with all sorts of keyboard embellishments backed by upbeat and enthusiastic instrumentation and strong vocals. Rather than delving into the realms of symphonic or orchestral elements like many other power metal acts, Hammerforce utilizes the keyboards to give a very futuristic feel with synthesized sounds that border on dance, electronica or techno influence at times. Most of the tracks are speedy, rather typical power metal tracks with the prominent electronica keyboards, but there are varying tempos present. Tracks like “Wasted” show a speedy double kick drum pattern and some palm muted chugging while “Mass Media” delves into double bass runs with a catchy and rhythmic lead guitar overlay. During the more melodic, slowed down sections there are some prominent piano sounds that add a nice dynamic to the melodically picked guitar lines, most notably on the proggy ballad “Reflections”. The guitars stick with fairly average power metal approach and usually just serve as a backing to the prominent keyboard. When the guitars are to the forefront, though, they are forceful and driving utilizing standard power chord progressions mixed with the melodic touches and scale runs for emphasis. There are some strong leads guitar lines throughout, like the neoclassical inspired lines on “Mass Media” or the fast paced blazing during the album’s opener, “I Am I”. The entire album is saturated with those keyboards, though. It sounds like an odd pairing, electro-synths and power metal, but Hammerforce manages to fuse the two into a very coherent and enjoyable album.

The vocals of Dmitriy Yanovsky push this album onto a higher pedestal than most. It helps that the rest of the musicians are competent and the proggy, futuristic keyboards give the band a distinctive flair, but those vocals are just excellent. Yanovsky’s vocals remind me of Kai Hansen’s output circa “Somewhere Out in Space” or “Power Plant”, but they delve in the high pitched range of Ralf Scheepers during the early years of Primal Fear. A few sections see Yanovsky’s vocals getting a little deeper and gruffer, giving an almost harsh, yet still melodic, sound, as evidenced on “Earth is on Trial”. While the instrumentation doesn’t have a lot of in the way of hooks and catchy music, the vocals slightly make up for that. For an example, just listen to the vocals during the chorus of “Templates for All”, which is catchier than brand new fly paper.

Honestly if it weren’t for the vocals, I’d pass this off as a fairly average power metal act. The band doesn’t have a whole lot going for it in the way of instrumentation: they don’t have the lightning speed guitar lines, overly impressive technicality or overt proggy wankery. The band does have the dance styled electronica slash techno inspired keyboard lines which give “Access Denied” a unique sound but it’s those impressive vocals that really sell the album and make it something to be heard. This is one of the better, more original power metal albums I’ve heard in some time. While the general instrumentation on the album is nothing new under the sun, the keyboards and vocals help this to stand apart from a severely over-saturated field. “Access Denied” is a fast paced, enjoyable power metal album that should appeal to fans of Dreamtale, Nocturnal Rites and Stratovarius.

Originally written for The Metal Observer: