Hammerfall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
If you expected something harder, rawer or darker - this will not be it. Hammerfall will always have a special place in my metal heart, since their debut, Glory To The Brave, was one of the reasons that I found my way back to the harder music. Also their second release, Legacy Of Kings, is one I keep in high regard. But on the latest three albums something has been missing, although it's hard to put your finger on what.
Sure the production on Renegade was too soft, although some of the songs were really good. With Crimson Thunder the sound was remarkably harder, but the great compositions were missing. Chapter V follows the same path as Crimson Thunder in that way. None of the songs is bad, but none of them really bears up the record either. Everything feels predictable and nothing reaches the heavy intros, melodies and choruses from Legacy Of Kings or the rawness and pure joy to play metal on Glory To The Brave.
But maybe it's unfair to compare with those classics. If any band that I may look upon with less expectation had made Chapter V, it would be a positive experience. Secrets is a bit power metal, a good starter. The first single, Blood Bound, has a heavy beat and a catchy chorus. Unlike the extremely repetitious Renegade and Hearts On Fire, this is a good choice as first representative of the album.
Fury Of The Wild makes you nervous at first. Joacim Cans falsetto has always been his Achilles heel and here he is trying to go higher than ever But it actually works, and the song gets more and more character for every listening. Perhaps the most fresh-sounding of all tracks.
The ballads are another thing that tend to be lamer for each record. From the mighty beautiful Glory To The Brave, to the soulless Dreams Come True. Never, Ever has a nice melody, but the lyrics are too misplaced (a metal heart is hard to tear apart, anyone?). Born To Rule is this record's answer to Hearts On Fire, a catchy chorus that tends to be repeated once too much.
Take The Black is a quite simple sing-along that is working great. On the epic piece Knights Of The 21st Century, a quite unexpected guest singer appears, Cronos from Venom. Next to him, Cans sounds perhaps even more harmless, although the mix works. But the song might not totally fill its 9.16.
I think Cans sings technically better and with more confident power than ever, but at the same time he lacks that extra 'evil', raw aggressiveness or (Sammet-) energy in his voice that would enhance the experience of listening to Hammerfall. Musically the band does a good job and it all melts together in a tight production. In spite of what their critics may say, they have found their own sound. Parts may be influenced by Priest, Maiden, Accept, Manowar and Helloween, but actually Hammerfall does not sound like copies of any of those bands.
The faster, more power metal-oriented tracks, like On The Edge Of Honour/Hero's Return are almost gone, which I personally welcome. Hammerfall were never really good at those. Chapter V is not bad at all, just not that exciting.