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Hammerfall are well known as being one of the industry’s most passionate as well as one of the most over the top acts of the last two plus decades. From blowing our minds with 1997’s ‘Glory to the Brave’ and melting our young souls with 2000’s ‘Renegade’, Hammerfall surely built on their legacy by cementing themselves in a class above the rest. Or did they? Since their glory days, Hammerfall have fallen under a slight stigma as a group reaching for their heyday rather than growing a discography of must-listen works. Average at best has befallen the views of more recent releases like ‘No Sacrifice, No Victory’ or ‘Infected’, so how would 2016’s offering fair?

In listening to Hammerfall, you have to prepare yourself for a few standards that many fans have become accustomed to: 1) Cheesy chants during chorus; 2) A horrendous ballad somewhere in the middle of the album; 3) They will never let you down! As long as your expectations are realistic.

Let us go through a listen: ‘Bring It!’ does exactly what you’d expect with standard riffs, melody and a fairly catchy chorus. ‘Hammer High!’ kicks off with a chanting chorus worthy of true warriors of steel! One would imagine muscle bound barbarians approaching from mountain side, donning loincloth and a burning hunger for war! ‘The Sacred Vow’ changes up the pacing a little, with a calming acoustic intro that quickly belts into signature riffs. This has a slight Iron Savior vibe to it. ‘Dethrone and Defy’ welcomes us with some impressive guitars. More of our expected lyrics about mighty steel, dungeons and dragons. There is even the gross ballad track called ‘Twilight Princess. It’s so bad. Skip.

This is where I actually must be corrected on our journey through ‘Built to Last’. This album feels very superior in its back load! While not everything is perfect, a few tracks really deliver the goods. ‘Stormbreaker’ jumps our bones into high gear after that sappy nonsense, putting together one of the most exciting songs I’ve heard from these legends.Our title track, ‘Built to Last’, is pretty standard fair, while pushing out a very catchy chorus.

‘The Star of Home’, while not exactly the most original, furiously rocks with great speed and classic harmony. ‘New Breed’ is probably the weakest track going into the closing, but ‘Second to None’ makes up for it with some very creative transition from moody keys that merge with wailing, duelling guitars that drive home the final chords.

After each listen to ‘Built to Last’, my opinion grew exponentially. My first go around, I was so ready to simply dismiss this as a silly, below average release, but the more closely I analysed each track, I became more and more impressed! One can hardly believe this is going to bring Hammerfall back to their glory days; however, this is their most ambitious effort in nearly 15 years. Sure, it’s full of cheese and includes a terrible ballad track, but the good far outweigh the bad. Many fans of long-time legendary acts know what to expect from their aged musicians. Fans of Megadeth or even Manowar haven’t had much in terms of brilliant ground-breaking releases since the 90s. But seriously, this new Hammerfall is a nice injection of metal that has seriously been lacking. Long-time fans will be pleased, and newcomers will find a good traditional metal album. Recommended!
Napalm Records
Review by Joshua Jaeger
4th Nov 2016
1) Bring It!
2) Hammer High
3) The Sacred Vow
4) Dethrone and Defy
5) Twilight Princess
6) Stormbreaker
7) Built to Last
8) The Star of Home
9) New Breed
10) Second to None
"One can hardly believe this is going to bring Hammerfall back to their glory days; however, this is their most ambitious effort in nearly 15 years."