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HammerFall - 'No Sacrifice, No Victory' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/b0/c0/4e/695_hammerfallnosacrificenovictory_1285954071.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     October 01, 2010    
 
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HammerFall are back and they sound just as good as ever.

If we discount the ‘Masterpieces’ set which was essentially a compilation of covers paying tribute to some of their heroes, it’s been more than two years since we had a brand new studio album from Swedish power metal masters HammerFall. Since that time, their seemingly impermeable ranks have undergone a couple of changes. Bassist Magnus Rosén was the first to leave in early 2007 (his replacement being original bassist Fredrik Larsson), with guitarist Stefan Elmgren jumping ship last year to pursue a full time career as a commercial airline pilot.

I must admit that Stefan’s departure came as a bit of a surprise given how well he and fellow guitarist Oscar Dronjak seemed to work together, although having said that, after just one cursory spin of new album ‘No Sacrifice, No Victory’, his replacement Pontus Norgren (The Poodles) has certainly succeeded in filling the gap!

Much as I respect and admire HammerFall, I’m still inclined to think that the band peaked with 2002’s shimmering ‘Crimson Thunder’ opus, the brooding power metal of yore expertly infused with a level of grandeur and sophistication few had previously thought possible. Since then, it’s been something of a backwards step (in a positive way of course) as the band strove to rediscover their musical roots, although I’ll be the first to concede that 2006’s ‘Threshold’ release actively sought to meld the exuberance of the early days with the songwriting dynamics of the aforementioned ‘Crimson Thunder’. And, with this latest release, they’ve just gotten one step closer.

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First of all, regardless as to what level of input he had to the songwriting process, Pontus Norgren seems to have had quite an impact on the guitar sound as there are now some decidedly Malmsteenesuqe moments which simply weren’t there before. Secondly, whilst there are still plenty of those up-tempo, riff driven, post Helloween power metal outings on offer, these are now tempered by an increasingly adventurous side to the writing which makes for an altogether rounded listening experience – just check out the brooding ‘Between Two Worlds’ and you’ll see what I mean! Add in a broader range of tempos and a crunching production job (thanks to Charlie Bauerfiend), and songs like ‘Legion’, ‘One Of A Kind’, ‘Something For The Ages’ (a surging instrumental with some amazing guitar work!) and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ make this easily the best HammerFall set for some time.

Not too sure why they chose to include the cover of ‘My Sharona’ at the end as it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album, but based on the assumption that it was a bit of fun added as a bonus, I’m not about to let it detract from what is an otherwise exemplary effort on their part.

Make no mistake, HammerFall are back, and with ‘No Sacrifice, No Victory’, they sound just as good as ever!

DAVE COCKETT

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