10/20/2011 - Review by: Eric Compton
Hammerfall have now become the Running Wild of Sweden. Fourteen years later, a global metal run and endless songs of dragons, outlaws and the forging of the metal fires have nailed down the very essence of power metal. Like Germany's run of true as steel metal by numbers, Sweden is fast approaching that dreadful state of affairs of "enough already". Still I'm grabbing it all and hanging on tight; some Swedes just permeating the frost with a variety of great ideas and sound recording logic. Hammerfall is a convoluted idea that demands respect at even the most novice stage but still is a mean machine of grooves, hooks and damn catchy songwriting. So brings us platter number "who's counting anyway" and we have "Infected".
The band go back to the states to record in Nashville, TN with producer James Michael (Motley Crue, Scorpions, Meatloaf). This isn't a first for the band, "Renegade" was produced in Nashville as well with famed producer Michael Wagener. Hammerfall do something a little different with the skins, filling out their beats at Bohus Studios by Tobias Lindell, the same venue used most recently by Hardcore Superstar. Fans are in an uproar with the band's slightly new logo and the absence of the group's mascot "Hector" and pre-listening sessions in Europe went as far as to say this is the "Hammerfall of the future" ...misleading me to believe that the band had matured and FINALLY have changed their sound a degree.
After numerous plays of "Infected" I'm party pissed that the band didn't do enough things to modify their sound but still pleased that enough alteration was made to advance the band's longevity and cash in another solid outing. "Infected" is not the best Hammerfall album but it still shows off enough variation and character to make this the best album in nine years. The group focus on a calculated formula of heavier strokes, speedy bits and an overall down-tuned vibe that really pushes the limits.
The album starts with a really interesting "audio visual" that sounds like something out of "The Stand" before exploding into lead off "Patient Zero". Right up front you can hear the down-tuned riffing and the overall heavier vibe from the band. Things go sour with the Euro sub-par "Bang Your Head" and later with the uninspired "Outlaw" and "Let's Get It On". It is this type of songwriting and arrangement that is just imitation of earlier Hammerfall days and yet another recreation of Warlord, Stormwitch and Helloween of the 80s. However broad strokes are made with the bass heavy "I Refuse" (mature writing) and "Dia De Los Muertos". I really like the way the band mix some of these songs up, never quite staying on formula but adding some faster mid sections and quick punchy power in just the right places. Sure the sappy ballads are still here and the band even throw in a keyboard driven epic but overall their are a handful of great songs and a few solid cuts to make this a success.
"Infected" most definitely isn't the Hammerfall of the future and really doesn't do anything in the way of innovation or advancement in technique but still does just enough to sway the listener in 2011. That is a sure sign of longevity and good business...the reason why this band is on major tours in Europe and still pounding the festivals with a dedicated fanbase of mopheads.
Company Link: www.nuclearblast.de
Cover Link: http://www.nuclearblast.de/en/data/bands/hammerfall/releases/hammerfall.infected.ii.jpg?x=330&y=330
6/3/2011 - Review by: Chris Kincaid
Champions of Power Metal--Hammerfall return with their 8th studio album "Infected". I have to say being a Hammerfall fan since I first heard "Glory To The Brave" I had huge expectations, like I have with their other efforts, going into this release.
Sad to say Hammerfall falls short.
Some will say that when an artist spreads their wings and explores their creative options it's a good thing. In Hammerfalls case they're the champions of Power Metal for good reason--they carry the torch better than any other band out there; keeping it's pulse beating at a rapid fire rate and if something works why screw with it in favor of a more modern approach?
Aside from the dreadful cover art that could be a poster for the movie "Idle Hands" and the fact they've ditched their famed mascot Hector, they've also severed ties with their long standing producer Charlie Bauerfeind to work with James Michael, whose resume of artists he's worked with ranges from the Scorpions and Sixx AM to Hilary Duff and Alanis Morissette.
New producers always signify game changers. Well, out of the 11 tracks featured only 5 are keepers staying the course Hammerfall fans know and love with their galloping riffs, tumbling bass and pounding drums. Fist pounding anthems like 'Bang Your Head', the MMA inspired 'Let's Get It On!', 'Dia De Los Muertos', the axe grinding assault of 'The Outlaw' or the irresistable 'Immortalized', which makes use of their trademark gang vocal harmonizing skills.
But the rest of this offering like 'I Refuse', the lyrically silly '666 The Enemy', 'Patient Zero' or the horribly repetitive 'One More Time' is bleak, lacking any real momentum and brings the flow of hard charging guitars to a halt. While it's not the first time they've shoved slower tempo songs into their albums these cuts tend to suck the life out of Hammerfalls sound, clearly showing James's preference for brooding and depressing tones that prefer to send us, the 'Templars of Steel', off on a detour into uncharted territory that doesn't click.
In the end there are good songs to be found but when the weaknesses are as strong as they are here, they prevail in overshadowing the strengths. It's not a total 360! But it's a long way off from being memorable.
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