Hammerfall_(r)EvolutionLife may be good, but it also subjects us to those unavoidable bitches like death, taxes, hangovers and back hair. One of the very worst of said bitches is the dreaded Law of Diminishing Returns. Few bands better exemplify the havoc this truism can create than Hammerfall. When they fired the opening salvo of the retro metal crusade back in 1997 with their Glory to the Brave debut, their fusion of Euro-power and traditional metal felt familiar, but somehow new and exciting and the song craft was above reproach. Follow up Legacy of Kings was less impactful but still fun, exuberant and catchy as crabs. Then, tragedy struck. Each successive album was weaker, less interesting and less credible, with only a few scattered winners to remind the listener how great things started out. This culminated with the very non-infectious slog of 2011s Infected and it looked as if Hammerfall was in free fall. Buzz has been buzzing that (r)Evolution would be a return to those sword in the air glory days that fans pined for as they LARPed and rolled the many sided die of destiny. Is this the album where these hard luck cheese whizzards stop the diminishing, or is it a step deeper into the metal abyss?

Things open with one of the best songs the band has penned since Clinton was playing hide the salami in the White House. “Hector’s Hymn” incorporates everything that made Glory to the Brave such an easy listen and adds healthy doses of Manowar brand testosterone and muscle oil along with a dollop of Rhapsody of Fire bombastic pomp. It’s energetic, addicting and just plan fun in an utterly cheeseball way. “Live Life Loud” is an unapologetic metal anthem with every known cliché crammed in and you know what? It works. The simple, thunderous drumming and big, pumping riffs team perfectly with Joachim Can’s high-pitched, crystal-clear vocals and you’ll be caught in its mindless spell, powerless to resist its metal fist. Also quite respectable is “We Won’t Back Down,” where Cans sings of standing one’s ground and not backing down over the top of crisp, zippy riffing and a somewhat urgent tempo. Original it is not, yet enjoyable it is.

Sadly, the Hammer doesn’t continue to hit that sweet spot. There are a host of decent, but unexceptional tunes littering (r)Evolution and while none made me want to cry, neither did they make me want to hear them again. The title track is decent as braindead metal anthems go, but it feels tired like much of their recent output. “Ex Inferis” sounds like an outtake from Crimson Thunder and though it strives for big and epic, it delivers dull and slow. When I saw they had a song called “Winter is Coming” I expected a dark, brooding, Stark approved yarn full of dread and menace. What I got was a power ballad with pirate beshirted hard rock tendencies. It isn’t awful, but it never seems to get going and it isn’t memorable or engaging. Worst of the bunch is closer “Wildfire,” which drops a weird, symphonic chorus that belongs on an Epica album or a B-side from early Tristania. It doesn’t fit and it’s rather annoying.

Hammerfall_2014

And so goes the rest of (r)Evolution. Much of it is lightweight and inoffensive piffle, neither good or particularly bad, existing in that grey limbo where songs go to wait for replays that never come. So light is much of the material that at times I felt I was listening to Stryper‘s early works (especially on “Bushido”). The bigger problem is that like much of their product after Legacy of Kings, this stuff feels stale, a little soulless and contrived, and that’s a tough thing to overlook.

That’s certainly not to say these guys can’t cut the mustard musically. Cans is the very model of a modern major Euro-power singer and his vocals are always pleasant and bright, maybe even too much so at times. The guitar work from Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren is slick and professional, if unoriginal and clichéd. They toss out some sweet solos at times and their industry standard Maiden-esque gallops are more than adequate for this kind of simplistic material.

Sound-wide this is one of the most overproduced, commercial sounding albums I’ve heard in forever. Cans is way up in the mix and the overly booming, reverbed drums are also mixed very loudly, no doubt to make unheavy music sound heavier. The production only adds to that soulless vibe the band gives off these days.

This is a step up from Infected, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a Pax Romana. There was nowhere to go from their last turkey but up and even with the temporary power boost evident here, the Law is still the Law and the returns are still diminishing. As with the last six albums, poach the best, forget the rest and watch the Hammer…fall.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6  |   Format Reviewed: 269 kbps MP3
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU][NA]
Websites: hammerfall.net  |  facebook.com/hammerfall
Release Dates: EU: 2014.08.29  |  NA: 09.02.2014

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  • Jukka Alanen

    Damn, I was almost looking forward to this after hearing Hector’s Hymn. Oh, well. Even the cover art is stale.

    • Piet

      Yeah the album art is pretty awful. I love Hector’s Hymn as well. Reminds me of my days as a young metalhead just discovering the fantastic Power Metal with bands such as Sonata Arctica, Heavenly, Rhapsody and Hammerfall. I would discover a few new bands each day and listen the shit out of them. Good times, good times.

  • Fazy

    I can’t say I expected a real revolution, however I hoped for a bit more than “less meh than Infected, yay!”. Even as a man brought up by Euro-power and sucker for “templar metal of steel”, I can’t see myself listening to most of tracks more than twice. As you said, poach the best, screw the rest. Neither revolution, nor evolution can be found in this one.

  • http://heavymetal.about.com/od/interviews/p/Dan-Drago.htm Dan Drago

    This is their best overall album since Legacy of Kings. They have been on an unbelievable free fall since Legacy and this release opens the parachute. It doesn’t touch their first two but is exactly what Hammerfall fans would want.

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      Yep it probably is the best since Legacy of Kings, but considering the bar set by their last 5-6 albums, that isn’t really saying much.

      • Mike Eckman

        Its kinda like getting repeatedly kicked in the gonads, and then just when youre expecting to get kicked in the gonads one more time, someone just dumps a bunch of poop on your head instead. Its messy, but at least it doesnt hurt as bad.

        • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

          That’s the whole review in much fewer and more graphic words.

          • Mike Eckman

            Maybe I should be a staff reviewer after all. I could be “Abbreviated Metal Guy”.

          • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

            You may have a new calling.

    • Mickey Holm

      There is no doubt that Glory To The Brave and Legacy Of Kings are the two best albums from Hammerfall. But I would´n say that they have been in a free fall afterwords.
      I´d say that their two previous releases has been like a free downfall, but Renegade, Crimson Thunder, Chapter V and Threshold was all amazing albums in my opinion.

      About the new album, it really sounds like it´l be a failure. I´v heard three songs so far, but Hectors Hymn is the only one that kicks a little ass. Both Bushido and (r)Evolution are very boring songs.
      In my opinion, Hector´s Hymn is not tat much back to the old days. YES, it is a little more like their old style, but it´s only the riffs at the intro that sounds like their old stuff, the rest of the song is good, but it is not really a revolution for them, in my opinion.
      The song just sounds soulless, as written above :/

      • Leonard Valentin

        You really have to listen to the song called “Origins” and “Demonized” ! They are much more kick ass as Hectors Hymn.

        • Mickey Holm

          Yes origins is a great track :)
          But i am still very disappointed regarding the album, there were more great songs on Infected, and that was not really their best ether! :o

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Dammit Hammerfall…

    • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

      At least I wasn’t forced to go with the Hammerfail line I had planned.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        I’m curious to know what that line might be. And depending on your response, you may be forced in the future.

        • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

          It had just enough good material to end up OK and avoid a rating of disappointing.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            “OK” is better than nothing I suppose. With every Hammerfall release, I expect one to bust wide open but they continue to feel held back and lacking inspiration. Fucking bummer.

  • Jean-Luc Ricard

    Man Hammerfall were a running joke at the metal forums I used to frequent. If Hector’s Hymn is the best song they’ve put out in a ages then…. sheesh.

  • brutal_sushi

    At least we still have Primal Fear…

  • Mike Eckman

    You guys should create an article dedicated to albums that managed to prove the “Law of Diminishing Recordings” false. My vote would be Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”. Also Iced Earth’s most recent album is quite good as well.

  • lvtnsnddpths

    most awkward title ever.

  • harley_d68

    Can’t disagree with a single word.

  • http://www.angrymetalguy.com/ Al Kikuras

    That last Manowar album was a steamy pile too.

  • Mickey Holm

    Hm, now i´v heard Bushido, Hector´s Hymn and (r)Evolution, and i must say, i had expected something ells, and something better.

    Compared to Infected, this is definitely back to the roots. but from what both the band and the reviewers has said about the album, “best since Glory To the Brave” Classic” “Never sounded better”, i am a little disappointed.

    At this point, Hector´s Hymn is the only songs that kicks ass. Bushido is boring, and (r)Evolution is both boring, and there´s too much hard rock/glam in it.

    Of course, this album can only be better than No Sacrifice, No Victory. But i´d really hoped for something like a new Glory To The Brave, or a new Legacy Of Kings. Infected was, in my opinion, not a bad album, it was a different style, but there was 6-7 good song on it non the less.

    But I hope that the rest of the album really IS back to the old days, and that it is better than their two previous releases :)

  • Oberon

    With the exception of the album of covers, I’ve enjoyed the entire Hammerfall collection. For me, they’ve aged better than Manowar and Primal Fear.

    I keep telling myself that it isn’t as bad as Ensiferum’s last outing