10 October 2014

HammerFall - (r)Evolution

It may be an overused facet and perhaps a rhetoric, but Viking metal has a strong showing in the Nordic countries, and this band which I'm examining here is Swedish. As can be expected, the album cover paints a clear picture of what's in store - medieval scene, a knight or Viking of some sort holding aloft a hammer in a lightning filled sky. This could easily be a promo picture for the next Marvel instalment of Thor, if they ever get round to doing that. 

HammerFall formed about the early 1990s and it's my guess that the band name was either obtained from a classic Queen hard rock tune, or perhaps from the aforementioned Marvel Norse superhero. Or both as it seems. Originating from Gothenburg, their musical influences stem from Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and judging by their stylings, Iron Maiden too, but it's my fear that maybe our Swede friends are maybe trying to be a touch too much of a NWOBHM carbon copy.

I've dived straight into their album, number nine on their discography list, and on my initial reactions I lament to say it seems that my misgivings are justified. I really wish for the contrary because as an avid fan of metal, I would be really willing to laud any HM album and defend them to the hilt. First, the recordings on this are crisp and clear, we really do have some talented musicians in vocalist Joacim Cans, and guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren who between them alternative between rhythm and leads.

However, that's where the good points are, and regrettably not much to go from there. Their first major stumbler is the aura of their music. It's just far too retro and dated, Cans sounds too much like Bruce Dickinson and I feel disappointed that seemingly he hasn't tried to hone his vocal talents and make uniquely them his own. Must try harder I suspect. The next let down is that their influences don't appear to be too broad, nor are the themes, an old rockers' reunion it appears. Apparently, they've dabbled on speed metal as well, which I would honestly love to hear, but there's none of it here on (r)Evolution. I don't know the idea behind the title name either. I know that Genesis have a curious titled album due out soon called R-Kive, but I suspect while it could be a commercial success, it won't be critically.

Going back to HammerFall and the IM pastiche, they even have a mascot in Hector for crying out loud! I believe that he's crafted into the form of a knight, and his name's mentioned in the opening track Hector's Hymn. First, good rhythm and beats all let down by the Jake E. Lee riffs. It's not a bad song, but it's not very imaginatively written, nor are the lyrics. Did someone say in a team building exercise, "let's include the words 'hammer' 'warrior' and 'thunder' in our song"(?) I'm up for spontaneously including words in songs but hasn't worked this time. Sorry. And it's the same story in the title track (r)Evolution, it is seriously dated, rather pedestrian and not the best advertisement you'll ever find.

The pace picks up in Bushido but the opening riff and chords sounds like Kill The King although it does threaten to stand out respectfully. Slight improvement and gets slightly better in Live Life Loud until the chorus comes, not the worst I've ever heard by any stretch of the imagination. Ex Inferis does tell a good story, but again, a forgettable chorus and the pace never gets off the ground. Fortunately, that's redressed in the next track We Won't Back Down, possibly the best track on the album, but not spectacularly good. Winter Is Coming isn't a disaster either with some encouraging harmonies and Metallica-esque rhythm from the Nineties, while Origins could possibly grow on me. Tainted Metal? It sounds a little different, good riffwork input but once again, the chorus is forgettable. Mind you, we do get A growl in Evil Incarnate, could things really be progressing?!

As heavy metal albums go this is really below par, it's not one I will ever recommend, and maybe it would have received a higher mark from me if this was launched thirty years ago. And this is largely where the problems with (r)Evolution lie. At the risk of incurring some serious wrath it's stuck in a time warp and musically it feels very constrictive and limited, which is a great shame because I really wanted to like this given the skills of the musicianship. But for now, it's back to school and the drawing board for some. One advice I would give would be would be to take in more metalcore, as it's the buzzword at present and please, PLEASE erase Jack Black completely from the mindset!

2.5 out of ten. If only there was some quality control....
Best Track : Origins

Buy the album here on this link at Amazon
Listen to (r)Evolution here on Spotify 
Deezer listeners can click on this link
Official HammerFall website on this link here
Official HammerFall Facebook page here

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