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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Reviews: Hammerfall, Wolf, Fury

Hammerfall: (r)Evolution (Nuclear Blast)

OK so the title is dreadful but that seems to be all that is wrong with these Swede's ninth album, after the disappointing Infected moved away from their Heraldic power metal roots into more horror based realms, Hector (their erstwhile Knight mascot) is back with a vengeance (thus the title I suppose). Starting with Hector's Hymn the power metal is definitely back with a vengeance, the galloping bass and drums of Fredrik Larsson and Anders Johnasson, the dual guitars of Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren and Joacim Hans glass shattering voice. Hector's Hymn is a mission statement it is Hammerfall telling the world that they are back to doing what they have always done best, name checking much of their back catalogue in the process. Yes the true metal is most definitely back with the title track having the Accept style stomp, before the Bushido once again brings the blast beats again. Now don't get me wrong I like Hammerfall but they have always been a bit of a guilty pleasure (like a European Manowar) and this album continues that vibe of slightly silly traditional metal with lyrics about warriors, wizards and dragons. Still this album is a lot better than their previous effort showing that for a band this late in their career, if it ain't broke don't fix it! The production of James Michael is great mirroring that of their long time producer Fredrik Nordström with a thick sound. The album has an obligatory ballad in the shape of Winter Is Coming but for the most part this is fast paced, power metal that Hammefall do so well, with Evil Incarnate being a left over from the last album. Personally I quite liked the last album even though it was different but I will admit that it's nice to hear Hammerfall doing what they do best once again. If you like the Hammerfall of old, doing what they do best then you will get a kick out of this record, however it will do little to change your mind otherwise. 8/10  

Wolf: Devil Seed (Century Media)

The spirit of NWOBHM and indeed Teutonic metal looms large with Wolf who are neither British or German, they hail from Sweden and can be seen as spearheading the new trad metal revival that has come out of Sweden, the UK, and the US & Canada in the last few years. The band have been around since 2000 and have Devil Seed is their seventh album and yet again it features some top notch guitar playing from Niklas Stålvind and Simon Johansson who bring the metal right from the outset with big riffs and fret melting solo's. Wolf have always had a a darker edge to their albums with most of their songs focussing on horror themes and their sound being a lot more thrashy in nature than their contemporaries. See Skeleton Woman to see the blood and guts lyrics, a slightly progressive edge, as well as both a speedy electric solo and a classical acoustic solo all of the things that Wolf have always brought to the table. In fact this album is a bit of a throwback to their earlier albums with previous album Legions Of Bastards being more thrash based., this album is more classic metal. With Surgeons Of Lobotomy also having a progressive element, My Demon is reminiscent of Mercyful Fate with it's occult imagery and Stålvind doing his best King Diamond, this continues on I Am Pain which breaks into a Priest middle section, a band that Wolf share a lot of stylistic similarities with. Wolf again have produced an album full of horror fuelled, classic metal which is played with technicality and passion, the album is bolstered by great production and some superb playing form all involved. A great metal album from a band that have been thoroughly consistent throughout their career and Devil Seed maintains that great metal quality they have always been known for. 8/10 

Fury: The Lightning Dream (Self Released)

Worcester based metal band Fury have finally released their debut album after two well received EP's and a single. The band have always merged that old school thrash vibe with the more traditional fare of Priest or Maiden. Only two songs remain from their EP's, first is the epic Power Metal baiting Warrior's Prayer which just calls for some Grand Magus style chanting and the second is rapid fire album opener In To The Dark which is one of the bands best songs and brings them out of gates punching with its speedy riff, pace setting drums, and galloping bass all of which are the perfect backing for Julian Jenkins' unique, powerhouse vocals. Jenkins along with Jake Beesley also provide the six stringing with both men providing some furious riffage on the thrashier songs as well as some simply sublime solos, just check out the guitar work on the 7 minute Edge Of Time which starts out similar to Metallica's For Whom The Bell Tolls and explodes into some amazing axe work in the final part, right after the false ending and key change. In fact the spirit of the Bay Area's favourite sons looms large on this album with many of the tracks having the bands earlier thrash leanings but also the melody and song craft that they developed in their latter career. The furious Saviour is the second track and has a sound like Maiden on steroids, it's here and on the aforementioned Edge Of Time we see the powerhouse rhythm section of Alasdair Davies on drums and Martin Trail on bass both of whom provide the steel backbone to all the songs. The double blast beats of Prince Of Darkness are most welcome as they cause the move the track along at a furious pace. Prince Of Darkness also ends the shorter tracks with every track after this is seven minutes plus and mix the thrash/speed/trad metal riffs with a keen melodic ear and a progressive edge. The Sci-Fi influenced Out Beyond The Stars starts things off, then comes the percussive Kill The Light which shows off Davies' drums and Trail's bass in the intro and middle section, as well as the sublime guitars, Britannia is a folk influenced semi ballad that wouldn't sound out of place on the more recent Maiden albums, into the fist pumping Haul Away which again picks up the pace and leads into the awesome eleven minute plus title track that is a fitting finale to a truly excellent album. With great songwriting, superb musicianship, crystal clear production and fist full of hooks, you can tell that this is the sound of a band that have honed their craft carefully over constant touring and strong consistent releases. This has all culminated in this truly excellent debut, now I've been a supporter of this band for a while and as so I've had to be very diplomatic but I think this album is one of the strongest debuts of the year!! If you don't think so get the album and listen yourself! 10/10  

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