Overall not bad, also not good

Swedish power metal outfit HammerFall began their quest for musical domination way back in 1996 with their Glory to the Brave.

Since then the band has withstood the test of time during a lean stretch for the power metal genre. With more recent releases, however, they have somewhat toned down their sound and taken the tempo a few steps back. This album continues to soften their approach and may have the listener asking “Is it still power metal?”

While the album overall is not bad, it’s also not good. The band to some degree emulates the sound and feel of their previous release No Sacrifice, No Victory. This time around they scale back the record even more to the point of sounding mainstream. HammerFall’s signature reference to Templars, glory and grand duels are gone and replaced with weaker messages both lyrically and melodically. Some of the songs are really quite weak considering their chosen style.

Long regarded as elite power metal representatives, HammerFall fail to impress this time. There is a lack of originality and depth in most of the songs, like “Bang Your Head”. Lead guitarist Pontus Norgren delivers sonic power riffs that help save the day, and Joacim Cans as usual brings crisp and booming vocals that hit the spot. But that is not enough to make this a worthwhile purchase. Even though HammerFall is not reknown for lyrical content , it’s even worse this time around and their attempt at catchy, mainstream tunes falls short.

That being said, there are some stand-outs that fans will be entertained by. “Patient Zero” is a nice opener, but is then really let down by a poor attempt at an anthem with “Bang Your Head”. “Let’s Get it On” is another example of what HammerFall are still capable of as they take a trip down memory lane and lift some influence from earlier albums. Closing track “Redemption” is a great six minute epic that roots itself firmly in classic HammerFall using great tempo and nice power metal licks.

Overall the sound and lyrics are a little slow and cheesy and don’t meet the normal high standards of HammerFall releases. It does show that they are still crafty exponents instrumentally but they lack  lyrical depth. They’ve gone away from their traditional mystic precence – even their unique and famous over the top album art is gone in place of a poor, placid black cover. Die hard fans should be happy if they liked the previous record but all in all it lacks spice except for a handful of tracks.
1. Patient Zero
2. Bang Your Head
3. One More Time
4. The Outlaw
5. Send Me a Sign
6. Dia de los Muertos
7. I Refuse
8. 666 – The Enemy Within
9. Immortalized
10. Let’s Get it On
11. Redemption