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Hammerfall: Chapter V-Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken

Five albums into it, Hammerfall has all but mastered the art of fantasy metal. Each record from the Swedish warriors especially from 2000's Renegade forward and culminating with the new Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken has taken the band's sound to greater over-the-top heights. Hammerfall's first couple albums are solid power metal platters and still appeal to traditionalists, but they lack the timelessness of the band's latter-period mid-tempo output that meticulously merges feel-good melodies, rousing gang choruses and arena riffs.

Metal hymns have become a Hammerfall specialty, and Chapter V's lone ballad, "Never, Ever," lives up to the band's reputation. Elsewhere, the German single "Blood Bound," lead-off track "Secrets," "Born to Rule" and "The Templar Flame" add to the band's expanding arsenal of anthems. Each song sounds polished (sometimes too polished), as vocalist Joacim Cans and Co. make it all seem so easy. Nary a musical misstep can be heard, thanks in part to the production of Charlie Bauerfeind, who also gives Blind Guardian its pristine sound.

The album climaxes with the 12-minute "Knights of the 21st Century," which features guest vocals by Venom's Cronos (yes, Venom's Cronos) and is the most ambitious, aggressive epic Hammerfall has ever attempted. In spite of that, though, the band still lacks originality. Everything on Chapter V has been done before just not necessarily better.

Track Listing:
1) Secrets
2) Blood Bound
3) Fury of the Wild
4) Hammer of Justice
5) Never, Ever
6) Born to Rule
7) The Templar Flame
8) Imperial
9) Take the Black
10) Knights of the 21st Century

Added: September 20th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Hammerfall Web Site
Hits: 6670
Language: english

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Hammerfall: Chapter V-Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-09-20 19:51:54
My Score:

The mighty Hammerfall are back and with a perfect follow-up to their live effort One Crimson Night. With Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken the band has delivered a rock solid piece of Metal. Steeped in heroism and loaded with songs about Knights and honor you will surely find most of it to be true raise your fist in the air head-banging anthems. Starting off with the song "Secrets" you get the layout of the release and it sets the stage for the rest of the record. One aspect that impressed me was that it reminded me of the things I enjoyed about early Helloween when they first started. Hammerfall is one of those bands that are clearly influenced by Maiden and Priest in some overall styles, yet the manner in which they follow is clearly Manowar based. This comes across in tunes like "Hammer Of Justice" and "Fury Of The Wild". I don't draw the comparison based on the overall music quality for while both are interesting there are differences. Magnus Rosen is a killer Metal bassist but he does not do what Joey DeMaio does. Joacim Cans holds the front man position in the same sense of honor and glory that Eric Adams does even though their vocal styles are drastically different. So far this premise has worked very well for Hammerfall and shows that History can often repeat itself even when it comes to Metal music.

The CD is pure Power Metal the way it should be played with solid drumming underneath killer guitar hooks all tied together by a great singer. It's easy to find enjoyment in several of the tunes and most of them come off as being very "live" in their sound. The dual guitar work of Oscar Dronjak and Stefan Elmgren show that the pair shred like the classic teams of Tipton and Downing or Murray and Smith (Judas Priest and Iron Maiden for those that forget for some reason). Add to this the drumming expertise of former Yngwie Malmsteen skin basher Anders Johanssen and you can see why this bands popularity grows with each release. This release is good for those that want to recall the glory of the early Power Metal sound and go in for great hooks and riffs. I found a lot of the songs getting replayed as I wrote this and after seeing them perform in concert can confirm that they carry well in the live setting. Check them out.

Hammerfall: Chapter V-Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
Posted by Jack Toledano, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-07-07 07:14:49
My Score:

Nuclear Blast's Hammerfall releases their fifth studio release (sixth CD overall) with Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken. Upon first listen, and immediately after the opening keyboards and fast guitar licks, it certainly appears that Hammerfall's approach with their new CD will be "Unbent, Unbowed, and Unbroken". Fortunately for the most part, Hammerfall's latest studio release is just that.

As usual, most of this release is a great example of Hammerfall's straight forward style of power and speed metal, akin to that of metal greats such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Hammerfall literally let's the hammer fall right from the beginning, with "Secrets" all the way to track number four with "Hammer of Justice". As is customary with all of Hammerfall's CDs, a metal ballad is included within in the form of track five, "Never Ever". Afterwards, the metal onslaught continues with "Born to Rule", and other than track number eight, "Imperial", which is an acoustic instrumental, continues to the end of the CD.

A couple of observations on Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken. As always, lead vocalist Joacim Cans sounds great with his straight forward and clear vocals against the backdrop of heavy guitar riffs. Guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Stefan Elmgren do a superb job delivering their twin axe attack, while Magnus Rosen and Anders Johansson do a great job laying the metal foundation with their bass and drums, respectively. Also, the vocal harmonies are excellent as they always are. As for the CD, I consider 7 of the 10 tracks to be very strong metal wise. My only minor critiques would be that I thought it was a bit unnecessary to have both a metal ballad and an acoustic instrumental on the same release, when their fans are used to banging their heads uncontrollably to Hammerfall's great riffs. One or the other would have sufficed. As for their CD finale "Knights of the 21st Century", which clocks out at 12 minutes, I thought that they labored the point a little bit, similar to Judas Priest's "Lochness" on Angel Of Retribution. Additionally, this song is dragged down a bit by the grunts and groans of guest vocalist Cronos of Venom, not to mention 2 minutes of silence at the end before ending with more groans by Cronos.

Overall, this is still a great release by the metal masters of Sweden. I look forward to their US tour, and would suggest that for their next release, they might consider doing something a little different, like maybe a concept album. Why not, as they already incorporate a lot of sword, sorcery, and fantasy into their metal?

Hammerfall: Chapter V-Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-05-04 15:28:27
My Score:

I've long come to understand that originality has never been Hammerfall's strong side. To this day, their first album, Glory to the Brave, and perhaps their second one, Legacy of Kings, are the only ones I consider essential listenings, and only for power metal fans that is. Nothing wrong with not being original or groundbreaking, I love many bands that repeat themselves, but with Hammerfall, I just can't get over the 'cheese' factor.

That said, Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (kinda cheesy title, even by Hammerfall standards, no?) is an okay album, and that's saying a lot. The music is exactly like what you'd expect to hear from them. Lots of melodic guitar lines with fast, double drum bass, high pitched vocals (sometimes too high though) and the typical victorious lyrics to round things up. As the band's previous studio release, Crimson Thunder, this one was also produced by Charlie Bauerfeind (Blind Guardian) and has a similar overall vibe. One exception is that the guitar work tends to go back to their Glory to the Brave days minus the speed; that's a shame because it's the speed on Glory what made that disc so powerful compared to their other releases.

Most of the songs are quite midtempo and rarely see the 5 minute mark. Vocalist Joacim Cans proved to me that he can make a killer singer with his solo disc and I still stand by the opinion that his solo album is a better effort than all Hammerfall discs combined. However, on this album, Cans tends to sing higher than his range allows and the outcome isn't all that impressive. The vocals in the beginning of "Fury of the Wild", especially in the verses, sung over childishly weak riffs is abysmal. I also can't stand some of the horrid backup vocals on tunes like "Hammer of Justice" and "Born to Rule", which are otherwise quite solid compositions. I especially like these pieces because Cans delivers the lyrics in a relatively more aggressive manner, rather than the happy-go generic Euro power tunes. As always, there is the mandatory ballad "Never, Ever" that, though good, doesn't do much for me. Hammerfall ballads have never appealed to me for some reason, but I find the chorus of this song particularly cheesy. The melancholy continues on the little instrumental piece "Imperial", which is just acoustic guitars that go slightly over two minutes.

The highlight of the album is the opening track "Secrets"; it's one of the fastest and most energetic tracks with tasty lead guitar work and memorable melodies. This album would have been more to my liking if they'd continued to write such songs that focus on heavy riffs, outstanding vocals, gripping choruses and somewhat more interesting drumming. I don't understand why they didn't make more use of Anders Johansson's abilities, since he has already proven everyone what a monster player he is. We still get to hear a little drum fury on "The Templar Flame", but it's not enough. I also highly anticipated the 12-minute 'epic', "Knights of the 21st Century", because of Venom frontman Cronos' contribution. Unfortunately I was terribly disappointed that the song is perhaps even slower than most of the midtempo tunes. Moreover, this is by no means a duet as some have claimed. Cans and Cronos hardly sing anything together. The song begins with groans from Cronos and after about three minutes Cans begins to sing. Somewhere in the middle, there's a brief melody they share and then it goes back to Cans doing more Euro power metal vocals, except less passionately. At around the 10-minute mark, we are offered a two minute silence before Cronos makes his way into the track one last time whispering something, and the album is over.

Hammerfall fans will dig Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken just fine. Also, I believe most power metal fans will find something that appeals to them. However, for those of you expecting something different, heavier, more energetic or simply a return to Glory to the Brave, you may want to look elsewhere.

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