Review: HammerFall – Hammer of Dawn
Napalm Records (February 25th, 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Power metal titans HammerFall return with their 12th studio album ‘Hammer of Dawn‘. I first discovered the band with 1998’s ‘Legacy of Kings‘ and followed their career through to their best album, ‘Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken‘. I was very disappointed by the album that followed (2006’s ‘Threshold‘) and my interest in the band declined. Singles I heard from subsequent albums did not grab my attention until the release of the title track from this album…and what a single it is!
There are certain tropes that I always dig when it comes to power metal and the title track has it all. Thick, crunchy guitars, soaring lead vocals, powerful chant-like background vocals, and a groove that leaves you little choice but to bang your head. Yes, this album does have the other stalwarts that can become boring if used to excess (double bass drumming, speed metal riffing, Viking references) but the best type of power metal albums will balance between the two, and this album successfully does just that.
The album opens with ‘Brotherhood’. If you’re a fan of the band, look at that title and imagine what that song sounds like. Whatever you’re picturing, you are correct. Bonus points for guessing the song also includes the line, “Onward we march through the fires of Hell”. It sounds like I’m making fun of the song, but I’m not. It’s a very well-done metal track that is very reminiscent of everything they’ve done before, making the song a safe opener. The album closes in a similar fashion to the opening, with the heavy and fast ‘No Mercy’. Again, no surprises here, but I did enjoy the chorus to this, despite it being no more than four words (“No mercy for you!”). This will make the workout playlist for sure.
If the whole album was like this, it would quickly grow redundant, but they shake things up with interesting arrangements and even a few risks. The heavy, mid-tempo ‘Reveries’ opens with a choir chanting “Naaaaa na na naaaa naaaa…” that also serves as the chorus with singer Joacim Cans joining in. Simple, but catchy and I could see a song like this going over very well live.
‘Too Old to Die Young’ is another track with a chorus that’s my favorite on the album. I like how the songs starts off in typical pedal to the metal fashion for HammerFall before settling into a mid-tempo groove and then speeding up again towards the second half of the song. You think you know what to expect and then they change things up only to circle back and confirm your original expectations. That’s a big plus in my book.
The ballad ‘Not Today’ offers another welcomed change of pace and showcases Joacim Cans’ best vocal delivery. 25 years since their debut, Joacim still has the vocal chops to pull off equal parts passion and power.
While it doesn’t top my favorite album from them (Chapter V…), it is certainly up there with their best. There’s a reason these guys are as revered as they are nearly three decades after starting what as essentially a side project. Fans of the band surely have pre-ordered this already, but for others like me who may have fallen away from the band, I urge you to give this a go. There’s more to offer here than I was expecting, and it certainly will make me pay closer attention to the band on future releases.