Hammerfall – (r)Evolution
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Hammerfall has returned!
There are few bands out there in the heavy metal world as easily recognizable as Swedish power metal pioneers Hammerfall. The band was formed in 1993 but has had periods of being active and stagnant over the years. Their overall sound and lyrical themes of fantasy-rich battles have hardly changed throughout their career, up until their most recent album Infected in 2011. One of the best things about Hammerfall is the ability to get lost within the epic lyrics, vocal layering, and straight forward heavy metal gallop throughout every track. Infected didn’t meet the band’s standards set in albums like Renegade (2000) or Glory to the Brave (1997). While a band should never be punished for doing something different, the fans didn’t exactly react well to this new sound. However, it is clear with this fall’s release of (r)Evolution, the band paid attention to their fans and returned with a similar sound as their earlier days (though successfully refreshed and revamped).
The album kicks off with “Hector’s Hymn” which couldn’t get more stereotypically classic Hammerfall if they tried. With the iconic voice of Joacim Cans soaring above the band, the song features epic lyrics, fantastic vocal layering, and guitar leads that are equally as inspiring. This is a perfect track to begin an album about revolution, as it speaks to both the classic Hammerfall we all know and love, and the promising future the band has in front of them. Speaking of the band’s evolution, the title track “(r)Evolution” immediately follows giving the album a very strong start. This song features creative musical references, and catchy vocal arrangements encouraging the listener to chant along with the chorus. Overall, the music is pretty simple and straight forward which assists in making this song one of the catchiest on the record.
“Live Life Loud” is the most anthem-like track, although it has a relatively slow tempo to start, it quickly builds to yet another Hammerfall classic. The drum and bass work provide great rhythm beneath the chanting ‘live life loud!’ chorus, though I do feel as if the guitar work is somewhat lacking and left a layer of the song missing throughout the verses. The guitar solo, in true Hammerfall fashion, is spot on and perfect, but I feel as if the rest of the song is missing something.
A shining moment on the album is the slow, ballad-like “Winter is Coming” and if the Game of Thrones fan in you is smiling right now, it should be. This has become a somewhat tag-line for the series, and Hammerfall took full advantage of that fact. This is a very serious, somber song, and with the slow tempo and Cans’ voice soaring above it all, it truly is chilling at times. Immediately following, for those of you that fell asleep, “Origins” wakes you up with a faster tempo, great guitar leads, and prominent drumming. This is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album, as it has a large and epic chorus, but it is not over the top or cheesy. The guitar melody featured in the beginning repeats throughout the song, but the shining moments are definitely in the guitar solos. The true strength comes from Norgren and Dronjak’s great harmonizing ability and the galloping bass lines beneath it all. Overall, this song feels like a very natural Hammerfall song, and isn’t forced or rushed in any way.
The album comes to an end with “Wildfire” which is another favorite track of mine. It is so upbeat and high energy, and features an epic chorus style hardly ever heard from the band previously. The guitar work is 100% speed metal, but the song also features a great bass solo harmony into an irresistibly groovy bridge. This is one of those songs that has to be played on repeat over and over to hear all of the elements mixed in, and although it closes the album, it still manages to bring it up to a whole new level.
(r)Evolution definitely starts and ends on very strong notes, though the middle is somewhat hit or miss with filler tracks. That being said, the album is a powerful one, and is definitely a step up from Infected that fans of classic Hammerfall will love. This isn’t a sequel to 2005’s Chapter V, but I can definitely hear a lot of that album’s influence in play (they even reference the record, and you’ll catch it easily). If that album was a favorite of yours with its fun, larger than life lyrics and riffs galore, you’ll love (r)Evolution just as much. I definitely do!