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Hammerfall - "Crimson Thunder"
Nuclear Blast 2002

A story about easy metal for the fourth time! Does it bring any improvement? Let us see. First of all I must congratulate C. Bauerfiend for his great production work. Hammerfall sounds a bit alive at last, even a bit angry. Bass lines are pushed more in front and this contributes to much heavier sound in comparison with previous low output of the band. Even Joacim's singing covers much wider vocal range. What we've got are also band's best background harmony vocal lines up to date. All thanks here goes to the production.

Opener "Riders Of The Storm" returns us straight on the beginning of the story. Yes, as if I would listen to some old "Glory To The Brave" forgotten track. A real nicely composed piece. Second track that blasts in more aggressive way, if you allow me to use this term here, is "Trailblazers", which opening (and fade out) riff slightly reminds of Grave Digger's ear splitting power drive riffing. And then the story ends.

Well, certain improvement in production and a nice front cover just aren't enough to ensure a high quality product. Music is still trapped in old school eighties frames consisting from two times repeated prechorus and chorus, followed by midtempo part, where sometimes even guitar solos are not added and this all finally ends with once more repeated chorus. Hammerfall are still using old frames that were popular in years of the revival, in the mid nineties, which are over. "Hearts On Fire" is for example a real "low I.Q." song. And it was also released as a single. There are also two covers on the new release. First Chastain's "Angel Of Mercy" and second Y.J. Malmsteen's "Rising Force" with great drum performance by Anders (pay attention to his great rollings in bridges and double bass footwork) accompanied by his brother Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) on keyboards to spice things up a bit. Both brothers used to work with Malmsteen, but this cover can't reach the quality of the original.

What else can we expect from such "full of ideas" band? Hmmm, of course a "new" ballad with nice arrangements included, fortunately not such sugar disaster as "Always Will Be" was. And next, a new instrumental song "In Memoriam", which is nothing special. Are Hammerfall too scared to run away from frames and take a further step in development of their musical expression? Or is "Crimson Thunder" just their musical limit?

Author:   Aleš

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