HammerFall - _Threshold_
(Nuclear Blast, 2006)
by: Yiannis Stefanis (
Why am I not surprised that less than a year after the release of _Chapter V: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken_, Swedish metallers HammerFall are back with a new offering? Well, vocalist Joacim Cans' band is definitely one of Nuclear Blast's more profitable outfits, and my instinct tells me that the German label is probably trying to gain as much profit from HammerFall's current popularity as they possibly can. On the other hand, could it be that the five Swedes have indeed something new or important to offer with their sixth studio album _Threshold_? The answer, as always, lies in the music.It only took a couple of spins in order to realise that there is nothing new or innovative about _Threshold_ that you haven't heard in any of the band's previous albums. That means that people like myself who could only really relate with the band's 1997 debut _Glory to the Brave_ will probably have to postpone their hopes for one more year, whereas fans of later albums such as_Renegade_ and the previously-mentioned _Chapter V_ will feel like kids in a candy store.I can safely say that _Threshold_ is a very well calculated album that's also blessed with an amazing production, courtesy of Mr. Charlie Bauerfeind (Helloween, Blind Guardian) -- one that many bands would envy. It is these exact attributes though, together with the band's obvious decision to focus more on melody rather than heaviness, that I find difficult to digest. The catchy melodic refrains of songs like "Natural High", "The Fire Burns Forever" and "Genocide" will probably sound great in a live environment (a place where HammerFall are absolute rulers), but are not inspiring enough to flirt with my CD player.Oscar Dronjak may well be a skilful guitarist, proof of which can be found in various moments throughout the album, but I am totally against his mentality of diminishing the importance of riffs in a composition in order to promote melodic bridges and chorusy / poppy-sounding refrains. On the other hand, the Accept-influenced guitar riffs of "Howlin' With the 'Pac" and the obvious Dio references in "Shadow Empire" (see Dio's "We Rock") present the band's real identity and make them easily stand out from the rest of the songs.I understand why many people will disagree with my rating on _Threshold_, but I cannot help but feel that HammerFall is a band with real potential -- one that is sacrificed on the altar of commercialism. Am I going to attend any of their future shows? Yes. Am I going to have a good time while being there? Definitely! I only hope that their future releases find them more in the spirit of heavy metal as I know it: heavy and uncompromising!
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