• Like a flawed exam from a motivated student - A review of HammerFall's ''Built to Last''

    HammerFall - Built to Last (2016)

    HammerFall’s new output Built to Last offers classic melodic heavy and power metal material recalling the band’s streak of five records in the last decade, from Renegade to No Sacrifice, No Victory. Fans of the band will like the fact that the band sticks to its trademarks while haters will feel that the band has become irrelevant over the years. For any neutral listener, there isn’t much interest in purchasing Built to Last either to be honest.

    Overall, the record has a more rocking tone and a more organic production than the rejuvenated predecessor (r)Evolution but compared to the last effort, the new output has much less remarkable song writing and feels more than ever like an uninspired rehash of the band’s former releases. You will get the usual melodic mid-tempo stompers around four minutes with majestic choirs in each chorus singing about hammers, fantasy topics and the metal spirit. Quality-wise, the album reminds me of a mixture of Crimson Thunder and No Sacrifice, No Victory which are two records I consider of an average quality. While the record is obviously business as usual which mustn’t be a bad thing per se, I can’t really find one single ambitious, memorable or outstanding song on the entire output. I doubt this album will have a remarkable fan base, impact or legacy. It’s just another HammerFall album, no more or less.

    This doesn’t mean that the songs are cringeworthy. They aren’t great either. I would describe them as being okay. My favorite song on here is probably the heavier ‘’Stormbreaker’’ that comes around with an extensive instrumental section dominated by melodic and powerful guitar harmonies and a short drum solo. The most epic track on the record is the title song ‘’Built to Last’’ with its joyous melodies, massive choirs and simplistic lyrics you can still sing along to after a wild party in your favorite metal pub until two o’clock in the morning. This is also the case for the highly predictable metal-by-numbers single ‘’Hammer High’’. I can see my former sixteen-year-old self banging his head and raising his fists into the air to this during a metal party but today I find such a song mildly amusing at best. ‘’Bring It!’’ sounds like a light version of a Judas Priest song of the eighties but it has enough speed, passion and power to convince as a solid opener. Of course, the band also delivers its usual saccharine ballad in form of ‘’Twilight Princess’’ and even though this song doesn’t offer anything interesting, the vocals are performed with enough conviction to make it bearable. Geeky, lonesome and romantic World of Warcraft players will surely like this like it’s 2006 all over again. 

    HammerFall once were a band that rejuvenated the metal genre in the late nineties and inspired countless new bands and young metal aficionados all around the world to rediscover traditional metal music. The band hasn’t changed its attitude and has slowly become a conservative outfit that many people only remember as that band that introduced them to metal music many moons ago. Nowadays, nobody discovers metal music with such a band anymore. There are way more interesting bands like Avenged Sevenfold for this. HammerFall had its righteous purpose twenty to ten years ago but today it’s only for hopeless nostalgics. This band and its new album are a charming memory of the past that belongs in a museum but not in your personal collection. This album is like a flawed exam from a motivated student that wouldn't pass normally because he is making the same mistakes over and over again and doesn't really understand what's going on but who still deserves the minimum passing grade for his honest effort. In the end, the most interesting thing about this album is the concert CD/DVD that comes with the limited edition which features several cuts from the much more energizing predecessor.

    Final rating: 60%

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