Hammerfall – (r)Evolution

September 2, 2014 in Reviews by Arno Callens

Hammerfall – (r)Evolution (2014)

Reviewed by Arno Callens

Oh, it’s a pun. Evolution, revolution, now I get it.

In his defense, HammerFall axe-slinger Oscar Dronjak did get the inspiration for that frankly horrendous title from the Swedish title of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t know how much of a defense that actually is, but that’s a pretty kick-ass movie, if anything. To – yeah – hammer the point home, that other slinger Hector is back on the cover as well. So if that oh-so-clever title (which is, by the way, a bitch to write) didn’t get the point across, HammerFall has revolved back to its old self, whilst simultaneously evolving (but actually not really).

After alienating every first-hour-fan ever with the ironically titled Infected (which didn’t have one infectious song except “One More Time”, but that actually caused malaria, so it wasn’t the good kind of “infected”), HammerFall took a year off (in hiding from people hurling copies of Glory To The Brave at them, we think) and decided all that was crap. So they dusted off the aforementioned debut, painted the cover blue, and passed it off as a new album.

I’m joking of course, at least about that last part, because – *sigh*, here we go – (r)Evolution is actually a decent sort-of comeback: a return to form in the way that someone who was once morbidly obese would call now eating only five bags of chips a day. For a minute there, they could have fooled us, because “Hector’s Hymn” is everything a hymn to that silly old mascot should be: heroic, catchy, and with lots of gratuitous hammer references. With an opener like that, could it possibly be true that HammerFall has reclaimed some of its lost glory?

Yes, it did, but just a glimpse. I made wild samurai gestures during single “Bushido”, smiled at the speedy “We Won’t Back Down” (featuring some unknown-to-me excellent guest singer), sang merrily along to the Chapter V-ish “Origins”, and faux-fist-pumped with the Stannis Baratheon-fleet-burning “Wildfire”. Pretty sure that epithet is a first in any (power) (metal) review ever. Let’s double the score, shall we, because even the Jon Snow-underpants-freezing ballad “Winter Is Coming” is gripping in its intimacy.

Alas, HammerFall hasn’t unlearned all of its new-old tricks. The title track (I’ll be damned if I spell it out) is something of a dud, despite the mention of wrecking balls; “Live Life Loud” is a painful reminder that “One More Time” was once a thing; and “Tainted Metal” has little to back up its solid main riff. Then there’s the “darker” songs such as “Ex Inferis” (which means “from hell”, to all you fools who didn’t study Latin or don’t have Google Translate bookmarked) and “Evil Incarnate”, which are decent enough filler material, but not songs you come back for.

As a whole – ugh – (r)Evolution plays nicely, but it has only a handful of songs I’d cautiously place among the best of the Renegade­-to-Threshold-era. Hardcore fans will lap it up, ex-hardcore fans will cross their arms in defiance whilst humming along to a tune or two, the detractors will write mean things on YouTube. Like Caesar said in Rise of the Planet of the Apes: “No!” This doesn’t mean anything, but I’m not the one who picked out that title.

3.25 // 5