Hammerfall – “Dominion” (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
‘..Sweden Rock, (We Make) Sweden Rock, bringing the hammer down, three are the crowns in our banner…’. With multiple international number ones, gold certifications, sold out tours, and over 100 million streams and 100 million YouTube views by 2019, there’s little doubting the achievements of Hammerfall since their formation in the mid 90s – indeed, their latest single ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’ really says it all being a dedication to all the trailblazing Swedish bands from At The Gates to In Flames and Europe! Playing hugely catchy modern heavy / power metal rooted in Judas Priest and the melodic dexterity of Yngwie Malmsteen’s fretboard work, the band are today a renowned staple on the Euro festival circuit where they have been entertaining large audiences for many years through their undoubted passion and their unforgettable en masse singalongs. As such, this 11th album bears all the hallmarks of this veteran band from huge, but deep power and epic riffs, bountiful amounts of catchy melodies backed by full blooded harmonies and all topped off by a thunderous rhythm, adding both guts and glory when needed on the 12 tracks here. Written in and around touring, there’s a definite live feel to the material as you might expect, although there are still a few surprises, not in the least the piano ballad written by vocalist Joacim Cans and producer James Michael (Sixx:A.M., Mötley Crüe), ‘Second To None’, whose gentle tones are fabulously contrasted by crashing power riffs and tender heartfelt guitars really bringing on the emotion. But if you like it fiery, then ‘Testify’ should have a warning for its aggressive Priest like twin guitar riffs and steam hammering drums producing plenty of catchy headbanging moments – not forgetting those huge, almost hardcore shout outs! Remembering their viking heritage on the epic ‘Bloodline’ with its glorious riffs and graced by power metal melodies drawing in a hint of Manowar especially in Cans soulful vocals of ‘…we are the bastards that will grind you down…’, more choirs, and certainly the twin solos of Pontus Norgren and Oscar Dronjak, the undoubted appeal of the band’s music is etched all over “Dominion” – in short, Hammerfall are home. Closing with the deep Scandic folk of ‘And Yet I Smile’ and its rich melodies reminiscent of early In Flames and Cans excelling in his moving highs on the stirring chorus you know that in the end, HammerFall have grown stronger yet again.