Hammerfall – “(r)Evolution” (Nuclear Blast Records)
20 years on and Hammerfall are still going strong! Formed in the early 90s with Jesper Stromblad in the line up no less, for me “Renegade” resonated power metal heaven when I heard it in 2000. Now onto their 9th album and coming off a 2 year sabbatical, this album – despite its title – takes me back to those heady days with the album cover, along with the fact that Hammerfall are once again working with Frederik Nordstrom, who produced their first two albums back in the 90s. Still, it’s not a complete return to their roots but more of a fresh perspective on their past, taking the best from their previous albums and combining it into a Hammerfall sound to go into the future with a new hunger! For those who haven’t heard this classic Swedish band, I would say they take the fast paced heavy metal of Riot and mix it with the catchy epic elements of Manowar, along with an unashamed passion for powerful melodies along the lines of Angra. From Joacim Cans high soaring vocals to the twin dueling guitars of founder Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren, it’s those barrages of catchy melody that really send the heart into overdrive on the likes of the epic ‘Bushido’ or the passionate ‘Origins’ and the fast chorus chanting finale of ‘Wildfire’. Still, the moving ballad of ‘Winter Is Coming’ with its deep emotion brought to the fore by Can’s passionate vocals and the simple but straight through the heart riff would quell anyone’s critique that heavy metal is just noise. Along with Accept like metal anthems built for crowd chanting like ‘Tainted Metal’ and the slower ‘Ex Inferis’ with its classical guitar sound, “(r)Evolution” sends me back into heavy metal heaven like it did over a decade ago – not bad for a band that started as just a side project all those years ago – can’t for those festival dates next year!