Hammerfall (r)Evolution

Hammerfall (r)Evolution
Shamelessly and obviously plagiarizing yourself is a strange thing to do. However, when you look at Gothenburg's Hammerfall, it's certainly logical, albeit ultimately ill-advised. The band's debut, Glory to the Brave (1997), and to a minutely lesser extent, its follow-up Legacy of Kings (1998), are revered for breathing new life into power metal and helping save metal from itself during the '90s. Fickle fans became bored around album three or four. Essentially, they transformed from a diamond in the rough to a band that had a few shiny baubles amidst fluff.

Following their largely dismissed eighth album, Infected (2011), they evidently listened to their fans, and reportedly "returned to their roots" with (r)Evolution, to the extent that they even rehired producer Fredrik Nordström . The result? A better album than the last few, and one that would logically fit between Renegade (2000) and Crimson Thunder (2002), though one that is unlikely to recapture fans.

Opening track "Hector's Hymn" and its cheesy video reiterate the glorious battles mascot Hector has fought in, and lyrically repeats album names, songs and even lyrics. It's driving and epic, but if the best track is first, what does that say about the remainder of the album?

The music continues on a similar trajectory. You'll hear guitar harmonization, shredding, bombastic vocals that are occasionally layered for anthemic effect, excessively shiny production, driving bass and far too many mid-tempo dull tracks among the occasional speedy, epic, fist pumping songs. "(R)evolution," "Winter is Coming," "Evil Incarnate" and "Tainted Metal" are plodding and flat, while "Bushido" and "We Won't Back Down" and "Origins" are reminiscent of the glory days. In all, it results in another uneven album. They remain a band with shiny baubles amidst fluff. (Nuclear Blast)