Tag Archives: swedish

HammerFall – No Sacrifice, No Victory [Review]

No Sacrifice, No Victory is the seventh studio full-length from Swedish heavy metal band HammerFall. Set to be released February 20, 2009 on Nuclear Blast records.

hammerfall no sacrifice no victory cd album cover art

This album is another one I have been waiting on for quite some time, with high hopes that it would be another great release from HammerFall. Sadly, it did not live up to expectations. No Sacrifice, No Victory, huh? Well, maybe they should not have followed that mantra and parted ways with their old lead guitarist. That’s the only thing that the band has changed since their last album, but have somehow fallen very far into the depths of mediocrity that are modern heavy/power metal.

While the album is technically good, and has great productions values, the songwriting is not there — nor is the fire, passion and attitude that heavy metal needs to bring to the table. The first three tracks on the album (“Any Means Necessary”, “Life is Now”, and “Punish and Enslave” respectively) are an utter bore-fest. The songwriting is bland, the guitar solos are routine, and there seems to be no passion in the vocals. With moderate tempos and simple songwriting, the spot you absolutely need to excel in would be the sheer power of your sound, which HammerFall simply missed the memo for on this album. The first track with any balls at all is “Legion” – and even then the song is not all that great.

The first part of the album where I found myself interested was the organ piece in the beginning of “Between Two Worlds” – then as soon as the guitar chimed in I was instantly turned off. It sounds as though the guitar was recorded in a tin can, and is difficult to listen to. All the other elements to the song are over loaded with reverb and echo, and as a whole the song is a production mess.

“Hallowed Be My Name” (no, not a Maiden rip-off, though I wish it was) is yet another boring song, that happens to have a really nice solo in it. Usually, in slow heavy metal songs, a great solo can save you — not this time. The first good song on the album is “Something for the Ages” which, sadly, appears seven songs into the album. Oddly, this song has the least vocal presence of all the songs on the album (none, to be exact). Do I sense a trend here? Of course. Simply put, the vocals really hurt this album a lot. They are dry, boring, and without power or attitude. For a heavy metal album, this simply cannot do. If all the songs on the album had vocals like the title track, “No Sacrifice, No Victory” this might not be a problem.

The last three songs on the album are actually excellent, in almost all respects (this does not include the Knack cover, “My Sharona”). Sadly, the first 3/4 of the album was such a bore-fest, it doesn’t matter what the last songs were, they could not make this album good.

As I said before, most of this album is boring, dry, and uninspiring. While not difficult to listen to, I might not ever feel the need to put this album on — other HammerFall albums will quench your heavy metal thirst in a much better way. Now, before you all start yelling and screaming, I’m not saying the vocals are bad at any point, they just aren’t big, ass-kicking, and awesome as HammerFall (and heavy metal) vocals should be. After a couple listens, it grew on me, but still is nothing spectacular.

Track picks: “Something for the Ages”, and “Bring the Hammer Down”

Overall score: 6 out of 10 devil horns

In case you were wondering, they did to a pretty awesome rendition of “My Sharona” — why exactly is way beyond me…

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Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth [Review]

Twilight of the Thunder God is the seventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal giants Amon Amarth (I like to categorize them as the ever-popular Viking Metal genre). The set release date is September 30 here in North America, but is released in Sweden/Finland first on September 17.

Amon Amarth Twilight of the Thunder God

First off, I want to tell you that when I saw the album artwork, it kicked my ass. Then, when I got around to listening to the album it kicked my ass even harder.

The first track on the album, the title track, sets the pace wonderfully. It’s the same Amon Amarth riff we’ve heard a thousand times now, but it gets better every time. The drums are in full form, lots of pounding, driving rhythms – perfect for headbanging and hair-flailing. My neck still sort of hurts from rocking out too this song too hard. The thing is, the album does not get any worse from here on out. Most albums around these days (or what seems like it anyway) usually start off strong, then the tracks get a little weaker toward then end [e.g. All That Remains’ The Fall of Ideals – I loved the album, but the second half was lacking in comparison to the opening six tracks]. This album brutalizes you from start to finish. When it’s not brutalizing you, it’s making you feel like you want to wage war with something, or conquer some far off land – inspiring you for the next moment when it kicks in your face some more.

So, when hearing this album, the thought ‘Wow, this is just like every other Amon Amarth album!’ might very well pop into your head. Well, no one can fault you for that. They really haven’t changed their game for a long time, but why the hell would they need to? When you are this awesome, there is no point in changing. Instead, they took the Motörhead, AC/DC, etc. approach and just got really ridiculously good at what they do, and I think them for that. Each album of their last few releases has been better every time.

As far as the album production goes, it falls right in line with With Oden on Our Side, having a very unique, deep sound without being too muddy (slightly deeper this time around, though, and lsightly less booming/bass heavy). It is a little “distant” sounding, but I am almost positive it was meant that way. It gives a great feel to the album. Nothing is mixed to take command over anything, it’s not overly bass-heavy, or light and fluffy. The drums sound especially good on this album. By now, I think it would be fair to say that they really own their own sound, one in which provides great timbre to set the mood for the lyrics along with the pounding music that lies under the vocals. It is always an amazing feat to have as much going on in the same general tone range without having anything become buried.

After a few listens through, the only thing I can find about this album that is not near-perfect would be the fact that is does not stray too far at all from the Amon Amarth “thing”. Not a problem, but not a strength. People will argue either way, and I am pulling for an “Objection your honor, irrelevant” plea. No one would dare criticize the aforementioned bands for not changing their model, why point the finger at Amon Amarth? No one really praises the aforementioned bands for not changing, other than the “stayed true to their roots” ideal, which is neither here nor there.

An interesting fact about this album is that it is the first to feature guest musicians. The tracks “Twilight of the Thunder God”, “Guardians of Asgaard” and “Live For the Kill” all feature guest musicians. Before doing a small amount of research, I found out about the first two, since they are not very obvious. When I heard “Live For the Kill” however, I really assumed it was Apocalyptica, since they pretty much are the guest musicians for most metal tracks featuring cellos. It is a damn good thing, too. Those boys in Apocalyptica know their way around a cello, and in quite stellar metal fashion as well.

All in all, Twilight of the Thunder God is not much different than anything Amon Amarth has ever done, sans working with guest musicians, but it is simply better. Like an artisan honing their craft, they will only get better with time and practice.

Track picks: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” and “Live for the Kill”

Overall score: 10/10 devil Horns