JONATHAN CHURCHILL: DEFENDING OUR ISLAND
2nd June 2011
There's great excitement this week as I've been listening to Hammerfall's brand new album, 'Infected'. And first impressions show that this zombie-themed epic definitely has a pulse, entering the Swedish charts at #2!
My column is dedicated to proper Metal bands and Hammerfall fit the template perfectly with roaring double-kick drums, soaring melodic vocals and some of the finest twin-guitar work you'll hear outside of a Megadeth album. The problem recently is that the band had battled their way into a Knights-Templar themed dead end, musically and creatively. But for 2011 the band have realised this and raised their game significantly.
'Infected' delivers a new visual style and musical direction, supported by a viral marketing campaign, which includes iPhone and Android Apps! But behind all the clever marketing and promotion there's plenty here for old-school Hammerfall fans to get their teeth into. It's also a major step forward from the repetitive and slightly embarrassing Battle Metal template and will deservedly infect a horde of new listeners.
The first half of the album delivers a mix of proper Hammerfall moments including 'Bang Your Head' and the superb Renegade-inspired 'Outlaw', but it's opener 'Patient Zero' and the fist-pumping new single 'One More Time', which standout as a new twist on the distinctive Hammerfall sound. The cleverly named single is real grower and like a virus, once it gets under your skin you'll keep going back for One More Time! It's got a powerful hook and exceptional vocals, like a 1980s Joey Tempest at his very best!
After the slightly turgid power ballad, 'Send Me A Sign', (one for the fan-club) it's heads down to the finish and some of the finest classic Metal tracks you'll hear this year. I can't wait to hear these live! The ballistic 'Dia De Los Muertos', for me, has an addictive feel of 'Legacy Of Kings' in the riffs and is Hammerfall at their very best, but it's the experimental 'I Refuse' which really catches the attention.
It's a powerful statement: a brave and classy modern Metal number, proving Hammerfall has a lot more to offer than most power-Metal bands. This is worth downloading to check out the incredible vocals from Joachim Cans who has really pushed himself on this album.
The last three tracks are just sublime. 'Immortalized' is epic, grand power-Metal with seamless powerhouse drumming from Anders Johansson. And it has the classic deep Hammerfall backing vocals, with a definite hint of Maiden's 'Seventh Son' and Priest's 'Nostradamus' in there too! You only have to hear Pontus Norgren and Oscar Dronjak's lead guitar work on this record to see that they're becoming a major force in Metal.
'Let's Get It On' however is my favourite so far. It kicks off with a retro galloping Iron Maiden-style riff, has a cheesy repetitive chorus, and just works because it is so simple. Like Green Day's 'Know Your Enemy' this just gets under your skin and will be immense when played live.
Like all good zombies, there is life until the very end and Hammerfall definitely save the best 'til last. Final track, 'Redemption', is the most adventurous the band have been – I can hear elements of Queensryche and, again, 'Seventh Son' and 'Nostradamus', but it always sounds new and distinctly Hammerfall. There's even some Sabaton thrown into the mix with the keyboard sounds and double-kick drumming at the start. This is an epic finale and just leaves you wanting more.
The best classic Metal album of 2011 so far!
I wasn't sure at first, but after a few listens this just suddenly came to life and I can't stop playing it. Overall this is a great album – not just musically – but because the band have genuinely tried to move themselves forward and raise their game. It's hard to live up to their immense back catalogue of tracks like 'Legacy of Kings' and 'Riders of the Storm' and after a patchy last album they have taken the brave step of moving in a new direction and it's a huge success.
The concept theme is strong, the artwork and story elements are well thought out and the social media element enables easy-access to information about the band which is often lost thesedays as nobody buys CDs any more!
In terms of pure melodic power metal, Hammerfall reign supreme but what this album does is re-invigorate the band and whet the appetitie for what they can do next. Let's hope they try to up their game again as I think they have the talent and the potential to really create something special.
Don't miss seeing them live this summer.
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