HammerFall - _No Sacrifice, No Victory_
(Nuclear Blast, 2008)
by: Alexandra Erickson (
I've heard the sentiment that "real" metalheads listen to power metal echoed from quite a few different sources across time. While I don't know that I take this to be absolute truth, I do feel that an appreciation for the musical adeptness displayed in most power metal is a sign of someone with a good ear. It's all personal opinion, of course. And while Blind Guardian are the vanguard by which all others will be measured, HammerFall continue to make waves with their signature brand of camp and guitar ferocity. _No Sacrifice, No Victory_ is the Swedish quintet's latest effort and, while it's not as continually epic as some of their earlier works (namely _Renegade_), there is no question that it has fist-pumping moments aplenty.The album opens on a mediocre note with "By Any Means Necessary" (mind you this is mediocre by HammerFall standards), it's got its guitar whirlwinds that are tossed to even more glorious heights by vocalist Joacim Cans and his Dickinson-esque range. But that is where the watermark is set for the rest of the album. This isn't to say the album is boring, nor am I going to call it a monumental flop. There just seems to be something lacking, a missing ingredient that is keeping the potential glory of this album down in a somewhat generic power metal muddle. The better portion of the track "Hallowed Be Thy Name" falls abysmally into this foggy mess. It's a boring track for the most part, until they develop some character with the unusually chuggy chorus, and of course throwing in lightning fast guitar work to make sure things aren't straying too far off course.There are two tracks, out of the ten that comprise the album as a whole, that stand out head and shoulders above the rest and are a call back to more distinctive, and dare I say, more glorious days for HammerFall. The first example is "Legion". It opens with a demonic voice announcing the destruction of all that is good, a voice that is exceptionally similar to Possessed's "Pentagram", though much easier to understand on this album. Unrelenting from the second the instruments fire up, the furious pace set immediately, tearing into a familiar tempo and guitar laden atmosphere, the reason we call it "power" metal. The jets are cooled with a chorus that was written and recorded seemingly to exclusively be a sing-along, both an individual listening to a recording as well as a very typical live show. The second outstanding track is "Something for the Ages". Five-minutes of annihilating dual harmony guitars wailing, deep drumming with an exceptionally warm sound, all screaming along at a furious tempo. It's an instrumental track which really helps bring the entire album back down to earth as a shining example of what the band is capable of, rather than getting lost in somber ballads and slower chugging tracks that seem to be surfacing more and more.With all of that said, please let me reiterate that this isn't a bad album by most counts. It has the instrumental finesse that HammerFall have set their listeners up to expect. But the band has taken a step into the figurative limelight and it is showing itself in their most recent studio production. It just seems a little more easily-digestible, as though power metal was a difficult mountain to climb beforehand. I've been listening to this album with a fair amount of regularity and have come to appreciate it on the whole, but there are definitely tracks that I find myself skipping with regularity, as well.
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