HammerFall – Built to Last (Album Review)

HammerFall – Built to Last (Album Review)


Formed in 1993, in Gothenburg, Sweden, HammerFall, despite its having joined the Power Metal clan a decade late, has become one of its enduring purveyors. Currently consisting of founder Oscar Dronjak (guitars, backing vocals), Fredrik Larsson (bass, backing vocals), Joacim Cans (lead vocals), Pontus Norgren (guitars, backing vocals), and David Wallin (drums), the band has ten studio albums to its credit, from 1997’s Glory to the Brave to the newly unleashed Built to Last. Their follow-up to 2014’s (r)Evolution, the album is also their first via new label Napalm Records and sees them working with famed Producer Fredrik Nordström once again.

Released on November 4, 2016, HammerFall’s tenth album begins unapologetically with the hyperspeed of “Bring It!,” whose structure and melody hark back to the first track of the band’s first ever album. For this, the album will surely transcend the listener to HammerFall’s glory days without undermining the sonic progress that the band has achieved over the years. Following next in equal intensity is the pounding rhythm and infectious chants of the Power Metal “Hammer High.” A similar sing-along sensibility is pursued in the plucked guitar–led “The Sacred Vow.”

Another breakneck head-banger, “Dethrone and Defy” oozes with arpeggios, frenzied guitar strums, and sinister bass-and-drum shots. Then there is the album’s power ballad, the haunting “Twilight Princess.” An apt mid-album song, “Stormbreaker” exemplifies the trademark Speed Metal sound of HammerFall—unrelenting guitar ad-libs, steady bass, restless drum patterns, and soaring vocals – which will remind the initiated of the likes of Judas Priest (“Heavy Metal”), Manowar (“Metal Daze”), and Iron Maiden (“Run to the Hills”).

Another chant-inducing stadium anthem, the title-track is certainly the album’s highlight and high point. This is followed by the frenetic “The Star of Home,” which uncannily resonates Stryper’s “The Way.” The penultimate track, “New Breed” is another characteristic HammerFall sound – choral chants, virtuosic guitars, and customary breaks. Finally, Built to Last closes appropriately with the slow, piano-led ballad “Second to None,” which features a dramatic twin-guitar harmony and subtle Swing rhythm.

Because of the band having succeeded in achieving a sound that combines both the classic and the contemporary aspects of the genre that its music has long been associated with, HammerFall’s latest offering exhibits not only sonic consistency but also a return to original form. This is something that old and new enthusiasts of Power Metal will be able to appreciate and relate to. Built to Last has broken the boundary separating the nostalgic and the futuristic. CrypticRock gives Built to Last 4 out of 5 stars.



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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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