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Album Reviews : HammerFall – Built To Last

By on November 7, 2016

hammerfall-built-to-last-coverNow ten studio albums in, Built To Last marks HammerFall’s latest since 2014’s (r)Evolution. In a big turn for HammerFall, it too marks the Swedes first ever record to not be released on their long-time German label, Nuclear Blast. Instead, they have signed with Austrian label, Napalm Records this time round. The label switch has, however, done little to deviate their style – with HammerFall maintaining that famed, glory-filled cheese they’re known for.

Despite a rather weak start with the fairly stock standard heavy metal track that is “Bring It!”, Built To Last really kicks off when it hits the second song, “Hammer High”. The current single also, this song is an anthemic gem that will no doubt become a quick favourite in their live show. Filled with soaring choruses, the album picks up again with the driving rhythms of “The Sacred Vow”. Their first single, “The Sacred Vow” contains all the elements that spell why I love this band: those epic choruses, the anthemic rhythms, and the emotionally charged, soaring vocals that come courtesy of frontman Joacim Cans.

By the hammer of Hector! “Dethrone and Defy” has to be one of the best songs HammerFall have released in some years. It’s full of vivid imagery in the lyrics, and the speed is indicative of their classic early albums (a la Legacy of Kings); the energy further feels fresh and revitalised. Oscar Dronjak‘s playing here is some of his best yet, and the soloing from Pontus Norgren – while not revolutionary – most certainly, at the least, makes the music hit that much harder and feel that much more impactful. This case is also true when it comes to their power ballad, “Twilight Princess”. HammerFall have always had the ability to pull off power ballads, whilst allowing them to be organic and avoid that easy pitfall of campiness. As campy as this band may be at times, their power ballads are more often than note full of genuine emotion – both in the music and lyrics, as well as the overall delivery.

Another strong talking point with Built To Last is the drumming from David Wallin. Currently serving as HammerFall’s drummer since Anders Johansson left the band in 2014, David Wallin (who also performs with PAIN) proves his impressive drumming chops tenfold here. As it is with songs such as “Dethrone and Defy” and the title track, Wallins brings a measure of power and technicality to HammerFall’s sound that cannot be talked of enough. His drumming is never stale, and the way he weaves it around the vocals, bass and guitars only heighten the punch in HammerFall’s music.

HammerFall are a band that know how to play to their strengths, and as it is with other bands like label mates Powerwolf, HammerFall have created a formula all their own: a formula they stick to. It is something that works to HammerFall’s advantage. They understand what their fans are after and they continue to deliver that, time and time again. While some may be more critical of the fact Built To Last ultimately sounds quite similar to previous records (even a couple riffs feel very similar to those featured on (r)Evolution), it doesn’t feel as much of a negative in HammerFall’s case. Though I do wish there was a bit more experimentation sound-wise as was the case on albums Crimson Thunder and Threshold, there is enough of a variation in the tempo shifts to keep myself – as a long-time fan and listener – satisfied.

I’ve got to give them credit, however, when it comes to the closing track of the album, “Second To None”. Allowing themselves to experiment a bit more with the use of keys and those softer melodies, it is one of the better tracks on the album and the way lead vocalist Joacim Cans emotes in the chorus is wonderful. That scratched moment at the bridge was also a pleasant surprise, very faintly coming almost like a throwback to Oscar Dronjak’s days in Ceremonial Oath. It is the perfect way to ring out the album, and yet again demonstrate why HammerFall are one of the rightful kings of the genre of power metal. They are a band that understand their identity and their demographic, and they never deliver work that is anything less than stellar. Built To Last has not changed that.

Built To Last is out now via Napalm Records!

Grab your copy HERE.

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.