HammerFall // Infected
Rating: 2.0/5.0 —Uh, dudes?
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: hammerfall.net | myspace.com/hammerfall
Release Dates: EU: 2011.05.20 | US: 06.07.2011

Hammerfall - Infected“Contamination breach in sector 7-G. Beginning emergency shutdown in 15 seconds. Contamination breach in sector 7-G. Evacuation protocols for project Legion in effect. Beginning emergency shutdown in 5 seconds, 4, 3, 2, 1.”

Radiation clouds, torn limbs, zombies on the loose, Armageddon closing in, Aaah! In other words, heaven on Earth for horror maniacs such as myself. Just the perfect cliche plot to fit your favorite movie in the genre or some random Left4Dead-ish first-person zombie shooter which despite all plot holes always provides a lot of fun and action. And I really wish I was reviewing something of this sort, but well, life’s a bitch. What I’m actually whining about is the mere fact that we’re talking about HammerFall’s newly born record, Infected, which will not entertain you even nearly as much.

Last time I checked, this band was all about Templars, steel, glory, more Templars and even more steel! A precious band that I always looked up to despite a lack of poetic lyricism. Cause, let’s face it, their music has just been catchy and enjoyable enough to listen to. Heck, they even held the front line of the genre and continued their crusade in dark times when Halford said that “metal is dead” and Kiske was “ashamed to be a part of it.” But listening to albums of this sort, I’m willing to believe that the former statement had some truth to it. After all, Infected is recorded by one of those bands which were always “there for me.” And yes, the introductory quote to this review is taken off the album, and it feels wrong. Along with pretty much everything on this album, starting with the poor artwork, production issues and tons of unconvincing music.

The sad truth is that Infected can’t even hold a candle to any of its predecessors. Light years away from the debut and even more from my dear Renegade/Crimson Thunder era; it doesn’t share lots of significant similarities with the 2009’s No Sacrifice, No Victory, while it’s closest to its softened nature. What bothers me most about the new release is that despite several glimpses of hope, it is still the spineless record that it was when I first tried to listen to it. If you want it in black and white, just go and re-watch your favorite George Romero horror classic and then compare it to the last year’s  squeaky, polished, watery-diluted and over-exploited supplement to the Resident Evil series. Doesn’t feel all that good, right? Well, I guess I won’t be the only long-time HammerFall fan to be offended by the ill spirit of Infected anyway.

Hammerfall As it is difficult to fill just one hole in a big problematic mess, let’s get straight to the compositions themselves – from all those 11 tracks, there are about 3-4 good ones (at best) that could’ve easily been put on an EP of some sort in order to spare us lots of trouble. Something’s utterly wrong throughout the entire effort – most of the elements which shaped this band as an important name for the old school heavy/power metal worshipers are completely gone! You’ll neither find glorious anthems like “Templars of Steel,” “Legacy of Kings” and “Crimson Thunder,” nor do we enjoy some solid headbanging time with “Hearts on Fire” or “Blood Bound”-like tracks. The hard rock elements which broke through on the previous record are here to stay, with the producing “help” of James Michael (Scorpions, Meat Loaf, Motley Crue) who came in to fill for Charlie Bauerfeind who instead still does a tremendous work for Blind Guardian and Helloween.

Next comes an act of compositional suicide by Oscar Dronjak & co who successfully accomplished the impossible and ruined what could’ve been more or less bearable songs with weak verses and even weaker choruses, something intolerable for a band well-known for its dangerously catchy climaxes. And I don’t mean just the lack of choirs which was present back on No Sacrifice, No Victory – no sir,  Infected features tracks literally lacking choruses like “Bang Your Head” and “I Refuse” with pathetic two-words-of-an-excuse for a “chorus.” It all would’ve been lost even more if it wasn’t for a few good power metal flashbacks to break the mid-tempo domination for all time’s sake like The Outlaw” and “Dia De Los Muertos.” It’s also fair to give credits to Oscar for the man tried his best to compensate for the compositional weak spots with some guitar duels with Pontus Norgren who sounds as if he really found his rightful place in this band – full solo passages here and there are at least good enough to twist the lame songs and cheer the listeners with energetic riffs and melodious digressions. Finally, we have Joakim Cans still singing his heart out in his own manner on the acoustic ballad “Send Me a Sign” and the 7 minute long ending “Redemption,” which is true to its name as it’s a vague light at the end of the tunnel and a real treat for fans of the old HammerFall style.

Yeah, it’s one hell of a hard ride. Got me thinking that most reviewers usually address disappointments recommending them “only for die-hard fans”, but I’m far from being convinced in this as one of them myself, so you won’t hear it from me. It’s clear that one or two bad albums can’t spoil the big picture that I’ve been dealing with through the years with HammerFall’s music, but damn, they sure tried my patience to its very limit with Infected.

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  • Lord Doom

    Holy shit, that’s the cover of a Hammerfall record? I’ve never been the biggest power metal fan, but Hammerfall’s album covers always appealed to me because they were so vibrant and fantastical (I think that has a lot to do with Samwise’s art) and now this? It looks like a bad Left4Dead knock off you’d find in the bargain bin. It’s also a pity that judging a book by its cover in this case is true.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Hahahaha. Yeah, this is pretty bad.

  • Steel Druhm

    Let the mass outrage and fanboy flaming begin…

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      What if the fanboys are just as disappointed? Within Darkness seems like a bit of a fangirl herself and she’s crushed.

  • Ciaran

    My god, what happened?

  • Bahamut

    I predicted trouble when I first heard the album title but then came the track listing and the album cover. I even heard the previews and could tell only a few songs were worth a damn while the others are some of the blandest and most generic metal songs I’ve ever heard!From the previews I’ve heard, I know this album isn’t worth the $10 they’re promoting all over on Facebook.

  • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

    For the record, this cover is better than the other one that they had posted on Blabbermouth the other day which basically looked like Biohazard made a record called Hammerfall.. haha.

  • Steel Druhm

    Wow, that alternate album cover was really bad!

  • Within Darkness

    Don’t forget to bow down before the ltd. edition artwork: http://img52.imageshack.us/img52/6266/page0blogentry85hammerf.jpg

  • Keeper

    I remember seeing Hammerfall about four or five years back at the House of Blues in Chicago. They started playing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and then stopped maybe right before the bridge part of the song.
    Then Cans yells out “We are Hammerfall, we play true metal, and we will never, ever sell out!” Reffering to Metallica, of course.
    I thought it was funny how serious he was, especially after the band obviously learned to play a Metallica song.
    Which now makes me want to hear this new album. I don’t mind when bands experiment, just so as they don’t preach the otherwise.
    Fantastic review. This is a great site. I just discovered it. Will definately be returning.

  • johan

    This isn’t surprising, Hammerfall’s records have sucked ever since they decided to stop being a power metal band and become a cock-rock band like every other once formerly great power metal bands. Edguy, Sonata Arctica, and Hammerfall have all been perpetuating the downfall of power metal since 2006, and it looks like they’re not going to stop. RIP Real Power Metal :(

  • Drained Soul

    I’d like to describe this album as a modern Grave Digger without the attitude. Since the great thing ’bout GD is sticking to tradition and deliver tons of attitude, the result is utter crap.

  • Wiseman

    Epic fail from Hammerfall. At least No Sacrifice No Victory was half good. Apart from The Outlaw and Dia De Los Muertos, this is the perfect example of powerless power metal.

  • p.zoltan

    The song “Send me a sign” is a cover song, from the legendary hungarian heavy metal band Pokolgép, and it’s called “Hol van a szó”

  • Simo62

    I bought the record a couple of days ago and until now I’ve listened it about five or six times trying to get into it. I couldn’t agree more with the review: where are the HF’s trademarks: catchy riffs and singalong choruses? I’m a long time HF fan having all the brilliant previous albums but but this one is a huge disappointment.

  • A commentor

    Meh. I was actually really looking forward to this album…only to be disappointed. No Sacrifice, No Victory was a pretty big disappoint for me; you can tell that they were starting to veer away from their true sound and start to go in another direction. At least in the 2009 album there was a good handful of “Hammerfall” songs. To be honest, Send Me a Sign (Cover), sounds like something Hammerfall would actually write, and it sure sounds damn better than anything else on the record. Now, I’m not bashing the band for having a different sound or anything – I’m just genuinely disappointed.