August 29, 2014 Hammerfall – (r)Evolution (Album review)
Gothenburg Sweden’s Hammerfall has been a staple in heavy metal over the past two decades. Founded by guitarist Oscar Dronjak following his departure from Ceremonial Oath, Hammerfall’s discography has featured high-charted albums including such career highlights as the monstrous Crimson Thunder (2002). Complimented by the line-up of vocalist Joacim Cans, guitarist Pontus Norgren, bassist Fredrik Larsson, and drummer Anders Johansson, the band has continued to produce album after album of melodic power metal while touring abroad in the process. Three years since their Infected record, Hammerfall is back in 2014 with their ninth studio release (r)Evolution. Working with famed producer Fredrik Nordstrom for the first time since Legacy of Kings (1998), the record comes with both curiosity and anticipation.
The album opens with an invariably paced track titled “Hector’s Hymn.” Featuring prominent drums, thick guitar chords, a well ranged chorus, and an almost frenetic energy engulfed by complex solos and electric vocals this is a strong way to lead listeners into the new record. Following is title track “(r)Evolution,” which begins with a slow, pounding guitar and soprano vocals, before evening out into a strong melody with stretches of ballad-like riffs, and a harmonizing chant that lays the foundation of Hammerfall’s prominent strengths. The final bridge of the track gives a brief moment of silence before hammering out a potent finale. The song “Bushido” opens with a wailing riff, a melodic bass line, and of course the enchanting vocals of Cans. A well timed guitar solo merges the distinct sounds of this track, mellowing out the insane rhythm of the drums, before leading to an accapella verse and picking back up for a wild, intense finish.
Keeping the intensity high, “Live Life Loud” features a mild melody that is emphasized by strong, brutal riffs and almost harsh vocals. Moderately paced with a roaring composition, the track drifts into heavier, more complex notes that keep the listener’s heart racing at an accelerated rate. Building an atmosphere “Ex Inferis” opens with a haunting, pounding beat that echoes louder with each passing moment. It picks up heavier tones and a consistent melody that merges with softer vocals and a ballad-like sound. Simple yet strong, the track puts out a smooth sound that shows the diversity of their style while making for a great midpoint for the record.
Marching into a quicker tempo, “We Won’t Back Down” spirals into a mesmerizing journey featuring the deep backing vocals of Dronjak and a dark atmosphere surrounded by timely drums and bass. Allowing the audience a chance to catch their breath, the smooth ballad “Winter Is Coming” begins with a slow calming solo by Drojnak. Powerful lyrics merge seamlessly with emotionally charged vocals and heavy resounding drums. Deep and poignant, this track allows the listener to unwind and take in the different complexities melded into its sound.
The track “Origins” picks up the pace with wild spinning riffs and intense drums before Cans takes the track home with forceful vocals. The speedy nature of the piece is reminiscent of HammerFall’s earlier albums and is carefully pieced together, delivering a full instrumental that caters to a variety of listeners. Throwing their audience for a loop, “Evil Incarnate” is a harsh, dark, and almost devious lyrical song that explores the other side of the band. Sinewy and heavy, it pulls slow riffs and executes a demonic chorus that makes the song stand out from the rest of the record. Closing out the album is “Wildfire,” featuring lightning fast riffs that gives an almost techno sound to the opening before spinning out of control with insanity as the rest of the band kicks in. Complicated and energetic, this song encompasses the meaning of speed metal; wild, loud, it leaves a lasting impression, and gives the album a solid driven finish.
(r)Evolution displays many strengths and the diversity of HammerFall. The record is a roller coaster of variety and has something for just about anyone, from slow ballads to hyper speed metal. Hammerfall runs the gamut of the genre with the expertise and care that fans have come to expect. CrypticRock give (r)Evolution 4 out of 5 stars.