Friday, September 5, 2014

HammerFall - (r)Evolution (2014)

After about 15 years of constant touring and song writing, Swedish heavy metal band HammerFall decided to take a break in 2012 to focus on other things, like writing a biography or act in rock musicals. Now the band is back after its two year long hiatus, and judging from the album cover, Hector has been reborn after the zombie phase known as "Infected". This was an obvious sign that HammerFall would go back to their power metal roots, a rumour that was ultimately confirmed by the band. They even confidently said that this is their best record up to date.

Now, I would not go as far as saying that "(r)Evolution" is HammerFall's best effort ever, but it definitely feels like the band has found the spark again after a couple of lack luster efforts. "(r)Evolution" is definitely a step back to the band's roots, but it still takes some elements from their later records, like the heaviness from "Infected", and also from other sources, like Rhapsody of Fire and the popular book/television series "Game of Thrones" (this is not the first time though the band has taken inspiration from it). This certainly makes "(r)Evolution" a well diverse album, but it is not enough revolutionizing to lure in any greater amount of newer fans.

As I already mentioned in the live review I did on the band's gig at Gothenburg, a big fan favourite can be found in the opening track "Hector's Hymn". Not only is this a celebration to the band's mascot, it is a epic track that takes a lot of pieces from the band's career and mentions it in the lyrics, like the templar's of steel (also known as HammerFall's fan base) and unbent, unbowed, unbroken (of course taken from the album with the same name). Speaking of taking things from earlier material, I think it is weird that the single "Bushido" ends with the opening riff from "The Way of The Warrior". The song itself is fine, but far from mind blowing.

It is clear that the first half of the album contains most of the better songs. The title track does a good job in mixing the classic HammerFall beat with a chorus that almost uses the same hockey quire as Accept does, while "Ex Inferis" is a nice dark, heavy track that works very well with its slow tempo. The other half of "(r)Evolution" is more uneven in its performance, but it does not only contain fillers, it actually contains two tracks that are surprisingly not typical HammerFall, but is still power metal gold. "Origins" is more or less a typical neo-classical power metal song that still impress with its epicness and a fantastic solo, while "Wildfire" is just as the name suggest. A song that captures the apocalyptic feeling that Rhapsody of Fire can do so well, but also contains a drive and speed that would make Kai Hansen proud. It is definitely the song that surprised me the most in this album, and I thoroughly enjoy to hear that HammerFall keeps on evolving in their song writing.

Unfortunately, HammerFall still puts out some fillers to make a complete album. The obligatory ballad "Winter Is Coming" is not the worst ballad by the band, but I could live without it, and songs like "Live Life Loud" and "Tainted Metal" just feels out of place in this record. Such a shame that HammerFall's usual problems are still there, because I believe that this album could have been something extra ordinary if these fillers was more polished.

"(r)Evolution" is not the best album HammerFall has ever created, but it is a huge step forward compared to the band's latest releases. The album is typical German heavy metal from Sweden, but it does also have a vein or two where it is obvious that the band wants to keep on developing their music. However, I would not consider this a full on revolution. No matter what, the hiatus has done the band good and I am looking forward to how the future will treat the band.

Songs worthy of recognition: Hector's Hymn, Origins, Wildfire

Rating: 8/10 Bushidos

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