Did you ever have that one band that you love but no one you know has ever heard of them? HammerFall is one of those bands for me. I believe I first became aware of them around 2008, although I cannot recall the exact song that brought them to my attention. I was excited to see that this Swedish band’s 10th studio album, Built To Last, would be released on November 4, 2016. It doesn’t disappoint.
Right from the opening track, HammerFall invites all comers to “Bring It”. The roaring guitars grab your attention and pull you in. The bass and percussion provide an unrelenting beat beneath the powerful guitar chords and melodic vocals. Before you can catch your breath, it is followed by “Hammer High“, the tune that just might become the new anthem for this group. I can certainly see where this would be a great choice for concerts with fist-pumping lyrics that are easily repeated by a crowd. “Sacred Vow” opens with a beautiful acoustic solo before electric guitar and percussion kick in the door and take it to a whole other metal level. The pace continues with another butt-kicker, “Dethrone and Defy” before the band takes it down several notches with “Twilight Princess”, a beautiful ballad that begins with a gentle flute melody. The remainder of the song features only one guitar to accompany the gorgeous vocals of Joacim Cans building to an emotional summit. Now that we’ve taken a momentary break, HammerFall punches us in the gut with the energetic “Stormbreaker” with impossible drum line throughout. I’m not sure if Viking metal is an actual thing but I think “Built To Last” is a perfect example of it with the chanted chorus and melody. I don’t know why but it just makes me think of a group of Nordic men on a sea voyage in their Viking ship. Back to straight up power metal with “The Star Home” which also includes a few tempo changes and a whole lot of robust guitar riffs. I’m quite partial to the song and message of “New Breed“. As the chorus states “New breed, old breed, we are all the same breed. Heavy metal, running through our veins“. The song has a bit of a throwback feel with a forceful twist. Building from a ballad into a dynamic opus, “Second To None“, the band leaves little doubt that they are back on the top of this genre.
No one can call the musicianship of HammerFall into question. Their instrument mastery is evident on all of their albums. The soaring vocals and lyrical content are always incredible. The mix on Built To Last is absolutely clean and perfect. I have listened with a critical ear to this album several times but I am unable to find anything that could have been improved. Seriously, BUY THIS ALBUM! You will not be sorry that you did. And while you’re at it, check out their equally stellar previous releases. Now, go tell all your friends about HammerFall so they can get the recognition that they deserve!