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Hammerfall - "Built To Last" (CD)

Hammerfall - "Built To Last" CD cover image

"Built To Last" track listing:

1. Bring It!
2. Hammer High
3. The Sacred Vow
4. Dethrone And Defy
5. Twighlight Princess
6. Stormbreaker
7. Built To Last
8. The Star Of Home
9. New Breed
10. Second To None

Reviewed by on November 3, 2016

"...what HammerFall presents is another solid release that neither bores nor stands out any more than past history, other than the fact that the members are 19 years older."

HammerFall made it quite clear after the disastrous “Infected” that there would be a return keeping the band’s sound exactly as it was meant to be. This meant taking it back to “Glory to the Brave” and “Legacy of Kings.” Sounds like the dream of every purist, right? Isn’t this what you hear at every show for every band: Play the old stuff! Isn’t this what you hear in every review and social media comment: they never have sounded better than those first two or my personal favorite they never released anything good after 1998. It wasn’t particularly clear exactly what made 2011’s “Infected” so dreadful, but with “(r)Evolution” the band specifically brought it all back full circle. So what’s the beef now? Well, nothing really. “Built to Last” is the latest cookie cutter HammerFall release that will serve as continued praise from some and stale fodder for others.

Rarely does a band force a discussion on the dichotomy of power metal fans, but Sweden’s power metal stalwarts garner a most perfect dividing line. Fans completely for and totally against anything the band releases can generally agree that “Glory to the Brave” and “Legacy of Kings” represent the benchmark material. So what made the all the years that followed up through “(r)Evolution” divide the two in half, making the choice between “praise everything” and “meh, not as good as the original”? Then there are those who claim Joacim Cans is just a shell of his former voice. Mind you, HammerFall doesn’t seem to care - the only goal being to keep the style true to the original and on that point “Built to Last” is a highly successful release. It is exactly the same catchy riff fest that defines the band. This leaves me wondering whether the real issue with the fans is merely that personal preferences have changed. It certainly isn’t the band.

Leaving that digression for future argument, what HammerFall presents is another solid release that neither bores nor stands out any more than past history, other than the fact that the members are 19 years older. All the elements a fan has come to expect from a HammerFall album appear in full force. We have a ripping opening track, followed by mid-paced fist pumping metal raving tune, followed by a slow starting number that gains momentum, followed by fast paced chugger, followed by the obligatory ballad, followed by a galloping song about the crusades, followed by mid-paced “made for live participation” song, followed by another speedy tune, followed by the atypical slow to mid-paced filler, and ending with the sometimes optional fast or slow building closing song. Sound familiar? I know, it is that good too!

Specifically, “Bring It!,” “Hammer High,” “Stormbreaker” and the title track are the strongest songs in the lot and all would be a perfect fit in upcoming tours. Like Sabaton, HammerFall is built for the live stage, eliciting fist pumping energy and orchestrated crowd chants. Unlike Sabaton, HammerFall has a tad more depth and a much better mix on the studio releases. Despite the fact that the style has become both common and predictable, “Built to Last” is as highly enjoyable as “(r)Evolution.” Perhaps sticking to the modus operandi is perfect for the ebbs and flows and cyclical nature of all subgenres. As HammerFall albums go, the sound remains as tight and catchy as always – the choruses are big and Joacim sounds excellent. The band is truly “Built to Last.”

Highs: Every element you need for a solid HammerFall album is present.

Lows: Keeping the style essential the same leaves nothing for fans desiring something different.

Bottom line: HammerFall is "Built to Last," but are the fans?

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)