HAMMERFALL – Hammer Of Dawn (2022)
Swedish power metal veterans HAMMERFALL are set to release ”Hammer of Dawn”, their 12th album, this weekend. With each record, HammerFall is musically turning less ‘power’ and much more commercial, as happens with all acts of this ilk. Their typical brand of stomp ‘n’ pomp, arena-built metal, anchored by epic cinematic storytelling is still into their music, and there’s a lot of fans of this type of music out there.
Twelve records into their career, you could forgive HammerFall for resting on their laurels. Their legacy is already established, but rather than phoning it in, they’ve written more merry melodies than Warner Bros. This album isn’t subtle, but it is a well-produced and hugely entertaining record that shines like a ray of wildly optimistic sunlight. Any cultural commentators out there still desperately clinging to the stereotype that metal music is for suicidal, Satan-worshipping malcontents, need to spend a weekend with this album. And a Viking re-enactment society with access to a limitless supply of beer.
In lesser hands, framing those lyrical tales of brotherhood within an incredibly earnest and on-the-nose opening track titled “Brotherhood” would surely inspire eye-rolling. In the hands of HAMMERFALL though, Joacim Cans’s melodic vocal shouts to march onward are beautifully enveloped in an energetic and fast-paced anthem punctuated by Pontus Nogren and Oscar Dronjak’s wonderfully shredding guitars. It’s the band’s ability to time the usage of the tools at their disposal perfectly that allow every momentum swing and thus every track to serve as master’s level courses in tightly wrapped packaging.
The band knows exactly when to pull the reins on their chariots to navigate every turn cleanly, with nearly every track to follow on “Hammer of Dawn” also serving as prime examples.
“No Son of Odin” sees the band walking down paths oft-trodden by others — including HAMMERFALL themselves — but the crafting of the track allows for a maximum level of catchiness to keep the band’s tale of motivational self-triumph to stay inspiring and fresh-sounding.
The rousing power that drives the similarly spirited “Too Old to Die Young” and “Live Free or Die” gives well-worn tropes a fresh coat of paint. Even as orchestral keyboards and heavily layered shout-along choruses are piled on top of one other during the title track, “Hammer of Dawn”, the crunchy rhythm riffs lurking underneath keep the core of the track from getting swallowed by the greater indulgences.
Elsewhere throughout the record, HAMMERFALL utilize the gift of a guest vocal appearance by KING DIAMOND to tastefully augment “Venerate Me”‘s metallic rock. Chorale chants and rumbling bass lines foretell the transition of “Reveries”‘ opening moments from an understated ballad to a stirring piece of heavy metal glory.
The power ballad does rear its head with “Not Today” serving as a respite from the band’s otherwise frenetic onslaught. Moving forward the band marches on and delivers another hard-driving gallop with “State of the W.I.L.D.” and a rousing finish with “No Mercy”.
Is there any ground musically or lyrically contained on “Hammer of Dawn” that HAMMERFALL hasn’t tread before? Not really, but when the formula has been perfected so well and is evident as such yet again, that’s honestly the best answer possible to that question.
This is metal at its most shamelessly fun, life-affirming best. Happy Metal indeed, commercial, accessible in 45 minutes.
01 – Brotherhood
02 – Hammer of Dawn
03 – No Son of Odin
04 – Venerate Me
05 – Reveries
06 – Too Old to Die Young
07 – Not Today
08 – Live Free or Die
09 – State of the W.I.L.D.
10 – No Mercy
Joacim Cans – lead vocals
Fredrik Larsson – bass
Oscar Dronjak – guitars, backing vocals
Pontus Norgren – guitars, backing vocals
David Wallin – drums