CD Reviews

HammerFall - 'Infected' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 03, 2011    
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A real grower of an album.

Way back in the mid 90's when the remorseless tide of grunge had all but extinguished traditional rock and metal values (although to be fair, in retrospect some of the dross that came out in the late 80's/early 90's only hastened its own inevitable demise), HammerFall stood tall and proud as the last line of defence. Fighting against near universal apathy from the mainstream press, this obscure band from Sweden almost singlehandedly revived interest in the genre amongst a younger audience, and have quite rightly spearheaded it's meteoric reformation ever since.

In terms of stylish sophistication (at least from my perspective) they reached critical mass with the brooding 'Crimson Thunder' opus back in 2002, but in the ensuing decade they've consciously moved back towards the simpler, kinetically driven metal that permeated through early albums such as 'Glory To The Brave', 'Legacy Of Kings' and 'Renegade'. However, some two years after their 'No Sacrifice, No Victory' set the band are about to ring the changes with their latest opus 'Infected'.

Dispensing with the services of long time producer Charlie Bauerfiend, 'Infected' sees guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren take charge of the good ship HammerFall; and with the help of James Michael (Scorpions, Motley Crue, etc.) they've managed to take their 80's metal roots and give it a stirring 21st century makeover. Thankfully, longstanding fans of the band have nothing to fear as there are still plenty of classic HammerFall references for you to trip over at virtually every corner; it's just that they've incorporated new elements – from symphonic metal to folk metal (and even progressive metal on the odd occasion) – into the bruising power metal of old and given the whole thing a thoroughly modern sheen.

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Dronjak and Norgren still provide the backbone for the band, trading licks and riffs as if their very lives depended on it – it's amazing really just how quickly they've gelled as a fighting unit given the fact that they've only been together for a couple of years. And with that unstoppable heavy artillery firmly behind him, frontman Jaocim Cans leads the clarion call to victory from the front in the same way that the inimitable Bruce Dickinson did (and still does) for the mighty Iron Maiden.

What makes 'Infected' different to most of their post 'Crimson Thunder' works is that a large part of it is mid paced, yet remorseless – check out 'Patient Zero' or 'I Refuse' for example – which means that when they do crank up the energy levels as on the frantic 'Bang Your Head', the impact is accentuated even more. Not an instant fix by any means and I certainly foresee the darker atmosphere being a little off putting for some of you in the beginning; but the more you persevere, the more it all starts to make a deliciously twisted kind of sense – longer term it may even prove itself to be a classic milestone on the HammerFall journey towards immortality. My advice? Stick with it because this is a real grower of an album!

Dave Cockett

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