Hammerfall - Built to LastSometimes I wish AMG released audio reviews. If we did, the first thirty seconds of my review of Hammerfall‘s Built to Last would be uncontrollable laughter. I mean, for fuck’s sake, they have a song called the “Twilight Princess.” But, for all the laughter and poking fun I can have with Built to Last, Hammerfall never let me down. Maybe it’s because I don’t expect that much from them, I’ve never taken them too seriously, and they’ve been pretty damn consistent for over twenty years. After a couple good records in the ’90s, they switched on the cruise control and haven’t deviated from the settings much. Sure, their album covers suck and there are a few albums that stand the test of time as well as bare steel in the Amazonian rainforest, but none of their albums disappoint me. Hell, even Infected wasn’t dogshit. It just wasn’t any good. Again, you have to know what you’re getting into and you need to keep your expectations to a reasonable level.

But, what’s the most interesting part of this year’s Built to Last is its release via Napalm Records. Up to now, Hammerfall has never released an album outside the halls of Nuclear Blast. What does this mean for the band and their music? Well, don’t look too deep into this change. Switching labels doesn’t mean anything changed musically. Built to Last is not a return to the Glory days, but it is a serious piece of history. It marks a new era for the band and that’s gotta be worth something, right? Like a listen or two?

Press “play” on Built to Last and “Bring It!” gets this sumbitch going in a hurry. It’s got everything a standard Hammerfall song should have – punch, melody, and a catchy chorus as only Hammerfall (and Dream Evil and Primal Fear) can write. “Dethrone and Defy” and “Stormbreaker” are like the opener, delivering fast-paced power metal, firecracker plucking, and soaring solos. The former chugs, chills, and builds up to gigantic choirs and Cans’ Halford-ish demon wails. The latter sets out slay a dragon in the most Dream Evil kind of way but fails to grasp my attention. But, if you’re looking for the best fast-paced number, look no further than “New Breed.” It’s ridiculously old-school and has one of those classic, crowd-pleasing choruses that sandwiches the band between a full choir and thick slices of Västerbotten cheese.

Hammerfall 2016

If you’re looking for something addictive, then check out “Hammer High.” It has barbed hooks like the quills of a porcupine. Exaggerated by sappy melodies and punchy builds, this track has everything for that sing-along Hammerfall concert goer. You may not know it, but all you have to do is listen to “Hector’s Hymn” again and you already know the lyrics to “Hammer High.” More hooks snag us as we turn the corner and run into the title track and closer track, “Second to None,” which opens with some ballady keys and gentle vocal arrangements, it passes through another catchy chorus and into some nasty chugging reminiscent of Infected. The riffs are subtle, but they have just the right amount of memorability—causing even the weakest neck to sway back and forth with the beat.

But, no Hammerfall record is complete without a sappy ballad. And, as you might expect, “Twilight Princess” is it. It’s cheesy and whiny as fuck, but Hammerfall wouldn’t be the same without its usual plate of tooth-picked cheese cubes. As you may have noticed, this review reads like every review ever written for a Hammerfall record. Built to Last has anthems, it has power-metal ballads, and it has dynamics as tight as a twilight princess [Report to HR.Steel Druhm]. But, when compared to the band’s more recent outings, Built to Last mirrors the sound and direction of (r)Evolution. There’s really nothing new here, but it’s far from disappointing. Built to Last is fun and it will continue to get some spins from me for the rest of the year.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: hammerfall.net | facebook.com/hammerfall
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2016

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  • Huck N’ Roll

    Super fun cheese! Like you say, you get what you know you’ll get.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    I have a big spot in my heart for Hammerfall, but this record is awful.

  • This doesn’t sound built to last!

    • SelfIndulgence

      They weren’t built for comfort they were built for speed….actually there is no speed here either.

  • Handy Donut Hole

    Feels similar to dousing my head in a bucket of Velveeta…

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Not really a good album. Formulaic, slow and weak on songwriting. Disappointing really

    • ArtifeX

      Extremely boring and formulaic, mi hermano. It’s hard to believe its the same band that wrote Legacy of Kings. Even that album was a bit formulaic but the songs were extremely catchy.

  • Jason

    I believe Decibel gave this a 3 also (on a scale of 10).

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      3/10 means it’s half as good as 3/5.

  • As the band that initially got me into metal, HammerFall have always had a place in my heart, and every record is, in my opinion, good (except the dead boring “No Sacrifice, No Victory”), even if a little cheesy. “Built To Last” will probably not take down any of their best outings, but it is still quality work. Power metal’s answer to Motörhead, you know what you get

    • ArtifeX

      Hammerfall has indeed a place in my heart as well, as one of those bands I listened in that glorious age of ’97-’00, but to be honest, they haven`t released anything above OK since the beginning of the millenium.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        It’s not exactly the same band. And that’s the problem. We will never get a Glory to the Brave of Legacy of Kings album again.

        • ArtifeX

          Oscar and Joacim remains, I believe they’re the core of the band. I don’t know how influential were Stefan, Patrick or Magnus in the songwriting process. Or Glenn and Fredrik in Glory to the Brave.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Even if they didn’t write the songs, it’s impossible to nail the exact same thing with 3/5 different lineup.
            Personally though, they stayed alright ’til 02-ish.

          • ArtifeX

            True, a band is like a relationship or family. It’s never the same chemistry with different members.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            True. But they sure did change after those guys left.

          • Johan

            I think the difference made was having Jesper Strömblad as songwriter for the first two albums. I suspect that he added some heft and urgency to the music. After that the albums has slowly been overtaken by sugarcoating over the years.

  • RuySan

    Hammerfall is the the most obvious case of One Hit Wonder in the metal world. The “Hit” being the whole “Glory to the Brave” album. So fun and unpretentious, it made all the difference being released when nu-metal was “the new shit”. Don’t know what happened to the guys that wrote that album. They were probably kidnapped by aliens and replaced by doppelgangers.

    • ArtifeX

      Completely agree. I would add Legacy of Kings too.

    • CarvedInStone

      I think the answer to the question “what happened to HammerFall?” is that Jesper Strömblad stopped writing. He co-wrote almost all of the songs on the first 2 records and a lot of songs on “Renegade” as well. After that his involvement with HammerFall ended and the quality started to drop noticeably.

      • Wikingking

        Still, Crimson Thunder is probably their best record so far.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    I didn’t like (r)Evolution that much. Better than Infected – but not enough to climb over Chapter V or No Sacrifice…, neither of which I loved. And this honestly feels like a bit of a comedown from that so…

  • Oberon

    I was already on the fence after (r)evolution, and this review kinda confirms the fact that I am going to pass on this album. It pains me to say this, but these guys are going out with whimper

  • Curtis Rodgers

    This author is an ass. And you cheesedick haters go way and go listen to your Avenged whatever cds.

  • CarvedInStone

    I am in the small camp of people who think that Infected was good and a much needed breath of fresh air for the band. I really enjoyed that album. So I was disappointed when (r)Evolution was released and it was “business as usual” again. I hoped that with when Dronjak said that they signed with Napalm “in order for us to continue to grow as a band” he actually meant it. But unfortunately it wasn’t true. It’s just more of the same. Boring, uninspired and formulaic.

  • The opening drum beat of the embedded track reminded me of some other song, and it drove me NUCKING FUTS for 2 whole days before I finally figured it out.

    Its the same opening from Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away”. Nightwish covered the same song, but they sped it up. Gary Moore’s is beat for beat the same.

    I realize this has no relevance to the album review, but if it drives someone else crazy like it did me, now you know.

  • Name’s Dalton

    I was ready to hate this band’s music that singer put a spell on me.

    …ok spell’s broken.

  • Dead1

    These blokes released one really good album in the 1990s and then got boring and comfortable.

  • sir_c

    Bored to last should have been the title. No tight princessess to be found here

  • Marc Rikmenspoel

    I’ve never really cared for their music , but Andreas Marschall cover paintings rule! At least Napalm gave them the freedom to re-use Marschall, just as Manegarm was able to go back to using Kris Verwimp. Now if only Blind Guardian returned to Marschall, but they’re not on Napalm…

    • CarvedInStone

      Nuclear Blast didn’t prohibit HammerFall from re-usign Marschall. The last album they released with Nuclear Blast had a Marshall cover as well.

      • Marc Rikmenspoel

        True, but these were the first two in a while. I could have phrased it better, but the point really was to go against criticism of the cover art. I like the traditional cheese ;-)

  • Weirwolfe

    Great review. Best I’ve heard them for a while. Their first two albums are magic.