HAMMERFALL Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, UnbrokenNuclear Blast(2005)
For those who are unfamiliar with the name Hammerfall, it refers to one of the most successful and well-promoted European Power Metal bands.
Why are they successful? Because most of their previous albums like "Glory to the Brave", "Legacy of the Kings" and "Renegade" have done quite well in the music charts - especially in Germany where they're literally worshiped. Why well-promoted? Because, even though they have only released four studio albums so far, they have more than seventeen releases out in the market (CD singles, Video's, DVS's etc). Furthermore, the band's singer Joacim Cans was also asked to join the re-formed Warlord, of which he is now a permanent member. All pretty nice, don't you agree?
Well, the fans of the Swedish outfit will be very happy to hear that, three years after the release of their previous full-length album "Crimson Thunder", Hammerfall are ready to provide them with their latest musical proposition called "Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken".
When their debut album "Glory to the Brave" was first released back in 1997, everyone was saluting them as the new "saviours" of Heavy Metal. It is true that they did come at a time when Heavy Metal music was not that popular, but I always thought that such a characterisation should be used wisely.
I remember that Hammerfall failed to impress me back then, and the result was that I never again bothered to check the band's whereabouts. It was not the lack of musical abilities or the album's production that didn't make their music attractive enough for me, but the fact that passion and spontaneity were not part of the whole package.
Eight years later, I am given the chance to examine the band's progress and perhaps reconsider my attitude towards them and their music. Unfortunately, it seems like not a single day (in terms of musical progression) has passed since I was first introduced to them.
"Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" is a ten-track, well-arranged album with a damn good production that will definitely satisfy the people who have been following them for the last eight years, but one more case of lack of passion as far as I'm concerned. Joacim Cans is not a bad vocalist, but his vocals are too "posh" for me. When I think about Power Metal vocals, Joacim does not come to mind - I will normally think of artists like Geoff Tate (Queensryche), Warell Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore) or John Oliva (Savatage), all of which are passionate and very inspiring artists.
As far as the music is concerned, Hammerfall's compositions can be compared to how the expensive sport cars react on an English motorway: even though they have the potential to drive really fast, they are not "allowed" to go faster than 70mph. "Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" has a lot of ideas which would have developed into really good Heavy Metal songs, but it seems like the band is satisfied with that mediocre melodic Metal style that sells like crazy in countries like Germany and Holland.
With song titles like "Hammer of Justice", "Blood Bound" and "Knights of the 21st Century" I would have expected some sort of Epic atmosphere on this album, which I didn't find. There are a couple of songs though like "Fury of the Wild" and "Take the Black" that did manage to catch my attention for a while. The reason is because of the guitar riffs, which sound a lot like the ones that Wolf Hoffmann used to compose many years ago for the legendary Accept.
Overall, I think that Hammerfall's fans will be more than pleased with this release, simply because it is in the same "spirit" as all their previous efforts. As for the rest of us, I don't see how we can ever be convinced to invest in them. Still I suggest that you listen to this album and draw your own conclusions.
Review by John Stefanis