Hammerfall – Built To Last – Album Review

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Artist: Hammerfall

Album Title: Built To Last

Label: Napalm Records

Date Of Release: 4 November 2016

Hammerfall were one of the first bands that I listened to during a period of power metal discovery around the turn of the millennium, when I simply couldn’t get enough of this genre. Alongside Gamma Ray, Sonata Arctica and Helloween, Hammerfall were a band to whom I turned on a frequent basis.

I just loved the rousing music that was catchy as hell but was also rather grandiose, slightly pompous in a good way and with heavy metal running through their collective veins. Telling tales of warriors and epic battles, Hammerfall always got my head banging and fists pumping with their macho brand of music. Known as the ‘Templars of Steel’, every album is littered with anthems that get lodged in my head and fulfil a need when I tire of the more extreme metal that I also listen to.

‘Built To Last’ is definitely aptly named, given that this is the Swedish quintet’s tenth studio album during a career which now stretches back some 23 years. Hammerfall, it appears, really are built to last and over the near quarter-century have garnered a significant following within the metal community. In some quarters, the fan base is undeniably feverish and fiercely loyal, a testament to a band that has consistently delivered the goods over the years.

With album number ten, guitarist and founder Oscar Drojnak, vocalist Joacim Cans, guitarist Pontus Norgren, bassist Fredrik Larsson and drummer David Wallin have returned to their roots a little more than of late. Never ones to stray too far from their tried and trusted formula, there is nonetheless a distinct feeling with ‘Built To Last’ that Hammerfall have gone back to the early days for inspiration and, in so doing, have created arguably their strongest recording for perhaps a decade or more.

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One of the barometers I use when judging the quality of an album is, regardless of the actual running time, the apparent speed with which it comes to a close. In the case of ‘Built To last’, the ten tracks fly past in a blur of muscular riffs, powerful rhythms, duelling solos, melodic lead breaks and memorable, sing-along choruses led by the unmistakeable voice of Joacim Cans.

‘Built To Last’ kicks off with real intent in the form of ‘Bring It!’ which is a high-tempo, no-nonsense melodic heavy metal anthem. It is a bold statement, one that signals that Hammerfall are hungry and determined to come out of their corner fighting hard. The chorus is a live classic in waiting but the whole thing from the speedy riffs to the cool hard rock swagger immediately gets the blood pumping and plants a smile on my face.

‘Hammer High’ is a classic Hammerfall track. It begins with a strong drum beat and an immediately catchy melody played out by their now-familiar choir-style vocals. This melody is the foundation of the huge chorus but the verses are just as enjoyable. The pace is slowed slightly to allow Cans the time and space to impress with his high quality voice, full of power and melodic intent. The solos are things of beauty too, with Drojnak and Norgren going toe-to-toe excellently.

In a brief change of pace, ‘The Sacred Vow’ opens with a gorgeous classical guitar before exploding with full force. Lyrically, long term fans might notice a few nods to classic Hammerfall songs but it is the killer chorus that steals the show. It has that classic Hammerfall stomp and groove to it that is simply infectious, begging to be replayed over and again. Again, I love the melodic solos whilst Cans’ voice hits heights that shouldn’t be possible for a grown man to reach. Definitely one of my favourites on the album, this.

Thunderous drumming and lightning fast neo-classical hammer-ons usher in ‘Dethrone and Defy’ a track that keeps the pedal to the metal for almost the entirety of its five minute length. It takes no prisoners and is certainly a striking composition because of this. In direct contrast, ‘Twilight Princess’ is the ubiquitous Hammerfall ballad. Introduced by a whimsical flute melody, it gives way to subtle synths, gentle guitars and a vocal performance full of emotion. Again the lead guitar work is gorgeous but the way the song ebbs and flows to assist with the story telling is what makes this such a compelling piece of work.

There isn’t a weak track on ‘Built to Last’ but other definite highlights include the blood and thunder chorus and strangely captivating and slightly unexpected closing melody of ‘Stormbreaker’. Then there’s the more straight-up classic heavy metal sound of ‘New Breed’, which has a worthy lyrical content and more smoking lead guitar histrionics.

You’d never believe then that I wasn’t keen on this album after a single play through would you? ‘Built To Last’ has got under my skin the more I have listened to it, to the point where I find it rather addictive now. And the best thing is, with ‘Built To Last’ Hammerfall have cemented their place in my affections and remain one of my go-to bands when I want a dose of quality metal to get me nodding my head, and singing along (badly). What’s more, ‘Built to Last’ puts a huge smile on my face every single time.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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