Within the last 11 months, power metal has become one of, if not my favourite genre of music. Aside from the cheesy lyrics subjects that many bands use, there is very little I dislike about power metal. I can't get enough of the melodic guitars, high pitched vocal style, the high speeds, the upbeat tempos, the powerful mood that it emits, I enjoy it all. That said, there are a few bands I cannot get into. Take Rhapsody for instance. Definitely a talented band, but I can't dig their "Hollywood metal" style or their insipid lyrical approach. Sweden's Hammerfall is another band I just cannot get into. They're constantly being praised as leaders of European power metal, with releases like Glory to the Brave and Crimson Thunder, but I'm just not seeing where this praise comes from.
With 2002's Crimson Thunder, Hammerfall took all of power metal's most ridiculous clichés, and mixes & mashes it together. The result: a boring, average album from a boring, average band. The music is both very simple and very weak, containing few memorable moments. Songs like Riders of the Storm and Crimson Thunder plod on and on seemingly without anything driving it. It has that standard power metal sound, yet it's dumbed down to the point where you'd want to put it down after listening to the first few songs. Sub-par melodies, harmonies and riffs plague Crimson Thunder, an album which requires the opposite to maintain any sort of interest. Truly an unacceptable recording from one of power metal's so called experts. The only song that manages to create interest and excitement is the Hearts of Fire. I do have to admit the intro is pretty good, and it features the best riff of the album. But aside from that, the album is very lacklustre, and very uninspiring.
If you even know the slightest thing about Hammerfall, you'll know that their lyrics are cheesy. The too go hand in hand perfectly. Cheese – Hammerfall. Hammerfall – cheese. However, their writing does not age very well. Oh no, the whole steel, honour, Templars, destroy the evil, glory ride lyrical approach gets really stale, really fast. There is very little variety until Dreams Come True, a sappy ballad that is just as cheesy as the likes of Riders on the Storm and Hero's Return. Normally I don't mind cheesy lyrics such as those by the likes of DragonForce and Helloween, but the difference here is that both of those bands make up for it with an excellent musical aspect, where as Hammerfall seems like they're on autopilot. I think they could have spent a lot longer refining their work, but hey, if unoriginal mediocre lyrics are what they were aiming for, then they certainly have succeeded.
However the worst part about Crimson Thunder is quite easy to identify. Vocalist Joacim Cans has a comically high pitched voice that while fun to laugh at, just destroys any momentum that the band might have built up through their riffs or harmonies. Just check out the single, Hearts on Fire. Despite probably being the most memorable track on the album, it could have been much stronger if it featured a singer who had some power in his technique. Instead, we're stuck with helium induced singing for the better part of 11 songs. It doesn't help when Cans' voice has very little variance in it, and gets more and more irritating as time goes by. But despite that, it isn't ALL bad; there are still golden moments, such as when Joacim wails "We hold our rebel banners up with pride!" Good Lord…
I like listening to power metal, I like it a lot. Chances are, I'll like most of the stuff I'll listen to, to a certain point. But Hammerfall is one of the exceptions to that. With atrocious riffs, laughably bad singing, dull song writing, lame lyrics, everything that's wrong with power metal can be found here. Crimson Thunder is quite a poor album and has very little, if any, redeeming factors. With albums such as this and Chapter V, it is very hard to see why Hammerfall has been hailed as such a great band, as neither album, particularly the former, display anything that would suggest it. Quite a disappointing record. Don't bother picking this up as there are plenty of better power metal albums worth looking into.
Hearts on Fire