I love HammerFall – since my earliest days as a heavy metal fan they’ve been there – my nom de plume, Ferrum Templor was even a take on their Templars of Steel motif, so it’s been painful to watch the band’s demise over the past few releases.
Actually demise is probably too strong a word – like they say in the title of this, their tenth studio album, the band is clearly built to last. But whilst they still make a compelling prospect in the live arena, there’s no doubt that the creative well seemed to be running dry on albums such as Infected and ( r ) Evolution.
But for all that, the prospect of a new album from the ‘Fall still fills me with excitement. Add to this the fact that the band left longtime label Nuclear Blast and headed to fresh pastures Napalm before the recording of BtL meant that maybe some fresh impetus might attach itself to the band’s career. I’m right about that, aren’t I?
Definitely yes. I am. I’m right. The band do sound re-energised here, ready to fight another day and definitely free of the air of torpor that has been choking them of late. The title track and the stupendous Dethrone and Defy are the two best songs they’ve written in a long, long time, whilst they attack the power metal of The Star of Home with the vigour of a band half their age – it’s truly invigorating stuff. Penultimate track New Breed is similarly ‘up for it’ , and will deliver sore necks wherever it’s heard!
However, there are still a few tell tale signs that the band are having trouble delivering the goods completely. Hammer High sounds tired and hackneyed, whilst The Sacred Vow, though it will cause fists to pump in a live situation, seems to owe much of it’s appeal to the fact that it’s more or less a direct rewrite of Templars of Steel from 2000’s Renegade.
Am I expecting too much from a band in its nineteenth year as a recording entity? I don’t think so. Joacim Cans sounds in career best form, the guitar playing of Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren is positively inflammable at times – surely they could have come up with a set just a little less derivative of themselves? Whatever, there are moments here that will truly reaffirm your love of HammerFall if you are a longterm fan, and happily they just about outnumber the duds, so I’m happy to report that, overall, Built to Last is a welcome return to form.
Built to Last is released on November 4 by Napalm Records.