HammerFall - Built to Last

HammerFall Built to Last cover
Built to Last
Napalm Records
Hammerfall, obviously, spearheaded a massive resurgence in metal, especially power metal in particular, when they debuted back in the late 90s after being promoted from a side project of some In Flames and Dark Tranquility guys to a full band. And indeed they managed to really make their mark with their first couple of albums and to build a lasting legacy through the years with most of their releases managing to add something to their catalog, despite sounding fatigued particularly around their fifth album. Their wish to experiment with more modern sounds backfired and it took them a few years to get back to where they were, with “(r)Evolution”, which actually sounded quite inspired and promising. Even their shows (where traditionally the band has a strong presence to this date) sounded pretty lively and glorious, as we were all able to attest.
Cue in a label change, seemingly out of the blue and a new album and results are not exactly “peachy” but they’re not exactly terrible either…
“Bring It” has a good riff, but is very predictable and lacks a convincing chorus to really make a lasting impression, but it’s not the worse opener they ever had.
“Hammer High” manages to get things together, quite capably, without managing to sound groundbreaking, but at least they’re not as repetitive or unimaginative as Sabaton. More like Manowar-lite, paying tribute to Helloween. A decent single.
“The Sacred Vow” has an acoustic intro that might lead you to believe it could be a ballad, but nothing is furthest from the truth. It’s actually a nice heavy tune; the other “single” from the album that name checks most if not all of the albums past that the band has put out.
“Dethrone and Defy” is faster and more biting, lifting a little page off, the latter songs from “(r)Evolution”, which is not a bad thing by any means…
“Twilight Princess” is an almost acapella ballad that Joakim Cans takes upon himself to make work, as the guitar in the background is barely there… until the solo comes around in all its glory. Quite a nice addition to the “slower” material the band has in its arsenal then.
“StormBreaker” is a strong, riffy, yet quite melodic, bludgeoning track, with a bit of an unconventional drum break in the middle, but pretty neat overall, one of the better tracks on the album, in fact.
“Build to Last” is a much more epic tune, with sing-along parts and all the trademarks of the band’s style, with a bit of emphasis on pomposity. Actually, I think I like it a bit better than the somewhat unconvincing singles. Well, let me rephrase that, half-convincing…
“The Star of Home” begins in a very promising way and has a very nice riff and a big groove, but it doesn’t quite manage to end the chorus in such a way that it crescents the tune as much as it should.
“New Breed” is a bit of the odd one out, apart from its nice riff, it didn’t do a whole lot for me. The chorus is almost good, but ultimately doesn’t find any gold… at the end of the rainbow, to misquote the band haha…
Lastly closer, “Second to None” is a weird, semi-ballad, whose melodic parts stand out, while the more dynamic ones are not exactly bad, but a bit of an ill fit, as if someone welded together two songs into one… it holds together, but not all that neatly, which is a pity because of a nice solo that is also tossed somewhere in there. And that keyboard intro – outro that mimics a harpsichord, with a lame key sound, while initially fetching, ends up being quite annoying towards the end.
All in all, probably a step down, from “(r)Evolution”, but not anywhere as abysmal as “Infected”… “Build to Last” will not damage the Swedes reputation, but it barely manages to strengthen and spread their legacy…