The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CD Review: Hammerfall - No Sacrifice, No Victory

Hammerfall - No Sacrifice, No Victory
2009 Nuclear Blast
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



For the honor once again, Swedish power stalwarts Hammerfall might as well be given a medal and token entry into the old school ranks at this point. They began at the tail end of metal's popularity in North America while becoming one of Europe's finest torch bearers. Making their bread and butter via reinvention modes of groundwork plowed by Manowar, Saxon, Accept and Helloween, Hammerfall still carries their own vibe which has served them rather well for 16 years now, thank you.

Their last album Threshold was met was shaky reviews and feedback from metal fans, something the band obviously took to heart as of their latest venture No Sacrifice, No Glory. Hammerfall went through a regrouping phase while getting this album into order, namely the addition of guitarist Pontus Norgren and bassist Fredrik Larsson after Stefan Elmgren and Magnus Rosen respectively parted ways with the band, a malady which has frequently beleaguered Hammerfall.

You have to wonder if there's limited appeal or at least patience for what Hammerfall has unyieldingly produced over their otherwise durable careers. They've simply carried the drum, the axe and of course the mythological Mjolnir as wielded by their Doctor Doom-esque mascot. Hammerfall has spent little deviation from their scripts over the years save for more melodic (actually treading close to power pop) textures on Threshold and now as of their current release No Sacrifice, No Glory.

By all means, No Sacrifice, No Glory is a heavier album than its predecessor as central figures Joacim Cans and Oscar Dronjak attempt to bridge the days of their punishing odes of steel ala Glory to the Brave, Legacy of Kings and Renegade to their slightly newer approach to a testosterone-laced game finessed and huckstered best by Manowar.

No Sacrifice, No Glory is pure camp as always with songs such as "Punish and Enslave," "Any Means Necessary," "Bring the Hammer Down," "Hallowed Be Ny Name" and the title track, tunes you would expect to slip out the mouth of Eric Adams as much as Joacim Cans. Not that the execution of Cans is to be compared to Adams, nor Hammerfall to Manowar as of No Sacrifice, No Glory, but certainly the jughead hail and kill all that stands in your way on the tempestuous shores of a crimson ocean motif is what motivates both bands. Let us not forget to add topless and willing nymphs ready to stroke the alpha ego driven by the subjugation of power chords, double-trip tempos and sparkling guitar solos.

"Something for the Ages" is one of No Sacrifice, No Glory's best cuts, a terrific instrumental in which Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren enjoy each other's company with rather tasteful guitar battles and sharp melody lines complimenting the upbeat track's inner drive. If Hammerfall's grand motive for being is all about providing a swirling soundtrack of valor, "Something for the Ages" is certainly the one to do it.

While the title song is hammy in its narcissistic to-the-death choruses (would you expect anything less from Hammerfall?), there's no denying it packs a wallop with a focused trad groove and punctual solos. "One of a Kind" gallops on steed's legs hooved by NWOBHM and German thrash and as Hammerfall's been in the game long enough to know, they merge both effortlessly as you can picture them inside an armory flinging swords, daggers and pikes to their "brothers in arms" as they croon nostalgically before slowing the whole thing down to a moment of reverie and then crunching the song home, all structured as a well-timed mini epic.

"Between Two Worlds" is Hammerfall's obligatory power ballad and it works because of the Bachian fugue organs leading it off, followed by acoustic melancholia and near-weepy vocals from Joacim Cans; all of it cliche but all of it spot-on.

You can take or leave the album's rounding cut, an out-of-nowhere cover of The Knack's "My Sharona." This writer believes if you're going to redo someone's work, make it your own. The potential for Hammerfall to rip "My Sharona" into a hack 'n slash in-joke is the only reason you pay it any attention. Unfortunately, save for Anders Johansson stepping up his ankle couplets on the instrumental breakaway section, "My Sharona" comes off sadly to-the-numbers. Fun for the band, assuredly, throwaway for the listener.

Nonetheless, Hammerfall enjoys a wide-flung audience, one ready to strap on the cutlery and pose in front of mirrors with undeveloped biceps and beer guts while imagining themselves proverbial dragonslayers and one-person wrecking crews. Said demographic gave Manowar life and assuredly Hammerfall's legacy is well-kept in the same manner. No Sacrifice, No Glory is enjoyable rockhead escapism, something that comes as easy to Hammerfall as home runs to steroid addicts.

Rating: ***1/2

32 comments:

DPTH International said...

I liked Hammerfall's latest quite a bit. I lost interest in them sometime after Renegade, but they seem refreshed now.

I like the cover of "My Sharona" albeit is not far off from the original. I'm a sucker for covers. I'm still reeling over Elvenking's version of "Heaven Is A Place On Earth".

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

yeah, it's definitely entertaining...I listened quite a few times before writing and it made it into my keeper pile, lol...I hope Elvenking put some shred into that...I still shake my head a Go Go made such a wimpy song

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