A killer winged knight descends.
Though seemingly tied to a bygone era, the revolution of high impact speed metal and melodic heroism that came roaring out of the European underground in the 90s, swimming against the tide of alternative rock cynicism no less, has refused to let up and endures in the continued studio output of newcomers and veterans alike. Perhaps among the most auspicious and commercially viable of the latter group is Sweden’s own Hammerfall, a plate-mail clad quintet that has planted their waving banner upon the hills of vintage heavy metal glory with an eye to stylistic consistency. Since their 1997 debut LP “Glory To The Brave,” they’ve staked their claim to the metal crown with a unique blend of Judas Priest-inspired flash and flair, Accept-influenced grit and a less than subtle nod to Manowar’s brand of grandiosity that could be best described as gallant, yet also a humbler foil to the symphonic pomp and circumstance of power metal’s legion of Helloween disciples.
While the years since their ascent to elite status among the metal masses have seen occasional ebbs in an otherwise uninterrupted flow, this outfit has raised the concept of sticking to what works to an art form, and their latest studio venture “Hammer Of Dawn” is no exception. Following the somewhat odd yet still sonically familiar foray into zombie apocalypse imagery in 2011’s Infected, guitarist and founder Oscar Dronjak and his four musical cohorts have recommitted themselves to buffing the armor of the Steel Templars to a mighty shine, hearkening back to their rawer formative works while continuing to refine their production chops. Between the soaring, ultra clean tenor of helmsman Joacim Cans and the melodically expressive and often flashy lead guitar work of Pontus Norgren, this outfit is anything but a slouch in the technical department, but when all is said and done, this is a fold that closes the deal through memorable and celebratory hooks.
In what can be best described as a booming call to arms, this album forsakes any elaborate overtures or introductory ornamentation for a straight up, gauntlet clad metallic fist to the gut. The opening cruiser “Brotherhood” checks all the boxes of a classic ode to heavy metal comradery and fellowship, though set to an infectiously catchy set of melodic statements atop a high octane speed metal barrage. Similar blends of rapid fire speed riffing fests such as “Live Free Or Die” and “No Mercy” round out the lion’s share of this album’s second half, reminiscing heavily upon the rustic quality of the late 90s fair adorned with the Hammerfall brand, the latter sporting a principle riff that could almost designate it as a sequel to “The Dragon Lies Bleeding”, while the blaring nod to Priest’s “Screaming For Vengeance” “State Of The W.I.L.D.” throws the listener a curveball with a dreamy acoustic intro before bringing the auditory fury.
To an extent, this album could almost be considered a more impact-obsessed successor to this band’s last couple studio offerings, yet its middle section is where things take on a more nuanced character. Perhaps the least subtle of these offerings is the gallop-happy title anthem “Hammer Of Dawn”, which vacillates between a mid-paced stomp and a double kick-happy foray, but ultimately makes its mark with a brilliant gang chorus theme that is sure to compel universal audience participation on upcoming tours. Slower handiwork such as the shuffling heaviness with a slight classical flourish “Venerate Me” and the almost chamber music-like choral refrain of the slow creeping “Reveries” cost the album nothing in terms of splendor, and could just as easily become live staples in the coming months. Even this album’s obligatory respite from the seemingly perpetual succession of fist-pumping anthems and acoustic ballad “Not Today” carries a certain folksy charm to it that reminds of past high points in said department such as “Dreams Come True” and “Always Will Be”.
Trends may come and go, but just as in their early days when pressure was mounting on all bands to duplicate the flannel-clad Seattle sound, Hammerfall is in the ongoing business of providing their followers an escape from the world of mundane pursuits. The sonic palaces that they construct consist more so of strong pillars and reinforced foundations rather than wildly ornate detailing at their respective fringes, resulting in a fairly predictable result, but time has continued to decree that their architecture has a greater level of staying power than many of the bands that rose out of the same late 90s power metal wave. It might be a bit cliché to say that this is a band that one either loves or hates, but “Hammer Of Dawn” is destined to be among the most blatant examples of unapologetic fan service to come out of metal in 2022 that will embolden the faithful and repel much of the rest, and here is to hoping that more battle victories in LP format are to come in the not so distant future.
Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: February 25th, 2022
Genre: Power Metal / Heavy Metal
- Joacim Cans / Vocals
- Oscar Dronjak / Rhythm and lead guitars
- Pontus Norgren / Lead and rhythm guitars
- Fredrik Larsson / Bass
- David Wallin / Drums
“Hammer Of Dawn” track listing:
2. Hammer Of Dawn
3. No Son Of Odin
4. Venerate Me
6. Too Old To Die Young
7. Not Today
8. Live Free Or Die
9. State Of The W.I.L.D.
10. No Mercy
Consistency proves an effective weapon in the arsenal of Sweden’s gallant power metal knighthood known as Hammerfall, as they recapture the same magical blend of 80s nostalgia and 90s blood and thunder that pushed them to the helm of the European power metal wave of the late 90s on their most recent studio venture dubbed "Hammer Of Dawn"