• HammerFall - (r)Evolution (2014) - It's a long way back to the top - 75% (10/09/14)

    HammerFall - (r)Evolution (2014)

    HammerFall had always somewhat been the Manowar of European power metal: overtly epic song structures, talented musicians wasting their talent by playing a rather redundant melodic metal style, battle hymns with simplistic lyrics, a slightly silly image and a stereotypical mascot. Just as for Manowar, the first HammerFall records are considered as classics by most metal fans of any genre and have brought a breath of fresh air to a whole scene that was going through hard times and needed some innovation or at least a spirit of renaissance. HammerFall had somehow delivered both. On the other side, both bands had disappointed with their last records. HammerFall’s “No Victory, No Sacrifice” had sounded too redundant and had included many fillers along with two or three quite decent tracks. “Infected” saw the band trying to reinvent itself with a much darker and more modern approach but in my opinion this experiment sounded artificial and had horribly failed. “(r)Evolution” is HammerFall’s attempt to appease its old fans and to go back to its root in order to recreate the liberating and epic power metal spirit of the first two albums. As always, one can’t exactly recreate the dynamical and carefree spirit of the early years. This release doesn’t beat the extremely solid “Threshold” either but it’s still a respectable return to form that sounds much more consistent and honest than I expected. I would place the release on the same level or slightly above records such as “Renegade” and “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken”.

    “Hector’s Hymn” is easily the best single track the band has written in eight or even nine years. It’s an epic, powerful anthem with an extremely catchy and melodic chorus you won’t get out of your mind anytime soon. The liberating guitar solos make your power metal heart explode, the bass guitar sounds fierce and proud, the high-speed drumming is filled with energy and Joacim Cans has even improved as a singer and sounds more grounded and powerful than ever. It's a sad thing that this band has never managed to reproduce these shining elements in concert. This song is not only a true hymn dedicated to the mascot but it’s also a statement that HammerFall is back in full strength. At the risk of seeming ridiculous, this joyous piece of fun is one of the best metal songs written this year due to its highly emotional tone but not because of its generic song writing.

    Even though this song is easily the best on the release, the band goes on to prove that it can still write and perform its trademark power metal tracks. The melodic mid-tempo stomper and title song “(r)Evolution” is somewhat simplistic and recalls several older HammerFall tracks from “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” as well as “Crimson Thunder” but it has been almost a decade since we haven’t heard such a strong traditional HammerFall anthem and that’s once again why this nostalgic trademark track has been chosen as worthy title song. Other highlights on this album include the epic mid-tempo single “Bushido” that definitely needs a few spins to grow but works much better in the album context than as a lone standout track, the cheesy but quite catchy, melodic and nostalgic feel-good track “Origins” that should please to the older fans and the surprisingly fast and pitiless over-the-top closer “Wildfire” with its apocalyptic chorus which is the second best track on the record in my opinion.

    Obviously, this album also includes a few rather redundant power metal tracks we have heard over and over before in the past. “Live Life Loud” is such an example as it’s the shortest and also most forgettable song on here that includes the least imaginative chorus which consists of stupidly yelling out the title three times in a row. The predictable half-ballad “Winter Is Coming” is not much better as it has an exchangeable musical structure and very weak lyrics that could have been written by a depressive elementary school student that has to write a poem about his favourite season in English class. The repetitive gang shouts and overtly epic choirs sometimes sound mildly amusing as in “Ex Inferis” that is an odd mixture of any old-fashioned European power metal track and the dark, dragging and lifeless mid-tempo structure of the abominable “Infected” release. This record definitely has its flaws and includes a couple of major fillers in the middle part.

    Still, it’s an honest relief to listen to this back-to-the-roots release after the last two abominations. HammerFall perform with passion and pleasure and finally play the style that suits them the most again. This emotional approach is contagious and pardons for a weak middle section including a couple of exchangeable and predictable tracks. This record should have been released five years earlier and most European power metal fans would have liked this release. If you replace the fillers on this new output with the few tolerable songs from the last two albums such as “Any Means Necessary”, “Life Is Now” and maybe “One Of A Kind” as well as “One More Time”, one would in fact get a very decent record that could be the fourth best HammerFall release. I recommend this new album to fans of the band’s earlier outputs and collectors. On the other side, there are many power metal bands that have already surpassed HammerFall and released better material this year like Edguy, Lord Symphony or Unisonic. If the Swedish quintet attempted to re-conquer the genre thrown, they still have a very long way to go and to prove that this new release was only the first step back in the right direction.

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