Review: Hammer King – Hammer King
Napalm Records (June 11th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
While I am into many different types of Hard Rock and Metal, one of the sub-genres I don’t follow too closely is Power Metal. There are a few bands that I enjoy (Hammerfall, Primal Fear), but I tend to find the sub-genre to be too restrictive and repetitive, limiting their musicality the way a Christian artist would by only addressing certain topics. Lyrics about fire, dragons, storms, blood and battle are fine, but when that’s the theme for an entire album’s worth of material, it can get stale. This makes it sound like I am ragging on the sub-genre, but I’m not. I just have to pick and choose from the massive amount of bands that are out there to select what I feel is the cream of the crop, and that’s what I believe I have found here.
Hammer King is a relatively new band to the genre (2015) and with their fourth release, they make all the right decisions on how to craft an exceptional power metal album. With the exception of the last track (which I will get to in a second), every other song on the album is a perfect blend of speed and groove, with traces of melodic overtones and the requisite (but still awesome) gang vocals. The track listing is very well done. Faster speed metal tracks are interspaced with tracks that have a mid-tempo, yet still powerful, approach. While the stronger songs are found on the first half of the album, the ordering of the songs allows you to appreciate the nuances of all of the tracks, with the slightly slower ones allowing you to catch your breath before being audibly assaulted again with the more rapid tempo material.
Everything I love and dislike about this genre can be found on two different tracks from this album. ‘Hammerschlag’ is a song I can’t stop listening to. The bridge and chorus with its infectious gang vocals and double bass time assault is the personification of power metal itself. Truly epic stuff. By contrast, there’s closing track ’King of Kings’. It starts off with a 35 second narration from someone with a medieval voice discussing the mythology of a King……of Kings. A folky, medieval musical break placed in the middle of the song, when things slow down a bit, followed by Gregorian chants, seal the deal for me. These are some of my least favorite aspects of Power Metal. I don’t mean to insult anyone who enjoys stuff like this, but I just find it to be pretentious.
Finally, it’s time to address the obvious. These guys are Hammerfall clones, and I don’t think they try to hide it. Just look at that album cover, they even ripped off Hammerfall’s mascot. If you played me this album without telling me who the band was, I would instantly think Hammerfall and argue with you if you tried to convince me otherwise. That being said, when you have tracks this powerful, it does not matter to me at all. I cannot see anyone who is into the genre passing up this tremendous collection of songs. Don’t dismiss this band as a cheap rip off. These songs need to be heard and played loud!