Sound: HammerFall is back and they have a new killer album to share with the metal loving public. Unfortunately their super cool mascot Hector is not there with them. Their new record is just an hour of pure HammerFall. There are killer guitar riffs and soaring vocals. The lineup is not changed from the last album ("No Sacrifice, No Victory") and there sound has not much evolved. The main elemetns of HammerFall are still here and the riffs are still mindblowing. Overall this is another excellent addition to the HammerFall catalog and is totally worth the listen. The guitars are powerful and riffing, the bass steady and the drums epic. The vocals and lyrics are fantastic as usual, and Hammerfall have evolved on some of their lyrical concepts. As usual the combination of Oskar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren does not fail to impress.
Pontus Norgren is one of the modern riff masters, his fills never fail to impress me. Some of his greatest feats on this album include "Bang Your Head" and "I Refuse". His solos stay impressive however they feel a bit looser on this album. I am not sure if this is a good thing but it definitely gives this album a bit more flavor. There are some guitar parts here that have the face melting magic of earlier HammerFall releases, showing that this band has a lot left to do guitar wise. Still the sheer magic of early HammerFall is starting to fade, and there is a marked decline from this album versus their classics. Norgren and Dronjak's influences still primarily come from Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Oskar Dronjak is an excellent rhythm guitarist and he really keeps the music heavy and powerful. In addition to this he fits in well with the rest of the rhythm section.
The rhythm section of this band is pretty good. The bassist of the group, Fredrick Larsson is a decent bassist and uses a lot of galloping bass lines. However I do wish that he had some more interesting and creative fills to create an even more epic sound. One of the true treats of this band is found in the drumming of Anders Johansonn. If you want your head blown off by a drummer just listen to "Dia De Los Muertos". The sheer attack and skill of Johansonn is one of the greatest parts of this band. He also has some great build ups, for example in the song "Send Me A Sign" he has an excellent build up for the explosion from acoustic to electric. // 9
Lyrics: The vocals of Joacim Cans still do not fail to blow me away. He still has that same beautiful soaring falsetto that he carries so high that it makes me smile. The voice of Cans is that of a powerful god of metal, his voice holds the power of a million viking warriors. From this album alone it is easy to say that Cans is one of the best clean vocalists of the past decade. His lyrics are excellent as always, however this album is different from others because the lyrics are less fantasy based. There are still a lot of fantasy type songs, such as "666 - The Enemy Within". However, the overall impression lyrically on this record is one of realism. Tracks like "I Refuse" are a lot more common than on previous albums. // 10
Overall Impression: Overall HammerFall still has a killer sound on this record and they still have some of the magic from their early days. There are still some mythic riffs and a couple killer songs. The guitars are still roaringly powerful and there are still brilliant shining solos. The rhythm section is as always solid. In particular Johansonn has some killer drum work on this album. Finally the vocals and lyrics are excellent as they ever have been and Cans is still reaching god like notes with his beautiful voice. All in all HammerFall is pushing on in their role as one of the greatest power metal bands and this album is definitely worth a listen. // 9