Oh how the mighty hammer has fallen. Hammerfall apparently re-invented themselves, again, and want to attract a larger audience, hence the minimal songwriting, and a metal audience, hence all the clichéd metal stuff, at the same time. Ironically, in the end, they’ll be left with no audience at all. If you thought “No Sacrifice, No Victory” was an offensive bore of a record, you’ll find this one positively comatose.
Those that have heard – and survived – the single “One More Time”, have a good idea how mind-numbingly stupid most of the songs on here are, and the worst thing of all is: I CAN’T GET THE DAMNED SONG OUT OF MY HEAD. This is the meanest thing any metal band has ever done to me: making an awful song too catchy to forget. At least “One More Time” has some good melodies, which is more than I can say of such other abominations as “Bang Your Head” and “Let’s Get It On”. I love eighties nostalgia as much as any other metalhead, but if you have to do it, do it right, don’t end up with the least inspired metal hymn since “Metal Is Kind Of Great You Know”, by my garage band when I was twelve and knew one power chord on my crappy guitar.
It gets better: at some point Hammerfall is actually throwing some nice ideas around. “The Outlaw” opens with a nice ass-kicking riff and the chorus has an adequate hook. But they decide to follow that up with the ballad "Send Me A Sign" which is so loathsomely boring that locking yourself up with a cassette player playing “Always Will Be” in an endless loop seems like a better foresight than ever listening to it again. It's a cover from a Hungarian band named Pokolgép and this is hardly a commercial for them. You can get your head out of the toilet for a second with “Dia De Los Muertos”, which has a strong build-up and chorus. Unfortunately the next song “I Refuse” sends you diving into the bowl again, hurling up all your former love for Hammerfall and flushing it down the drain. Things briefly pick up again with “666 – The Enemy Within”, which is quite decent, but not even the 'epic' "Redemption" can redeem this album, even when it isn't all that bad in itself.
The shame with this thing is that at times you hear this band has some potential left, but it's hopelessly squandered on mediocre songs. All for the sake of sounding more accessible, mature, heavy or whatever. They've always been extremily accessible, have never been mature and aren't now and this isn't any less or more heavy than it used to be. So what is the point of relegating yourself to a bunch of brain-dead zombies as are on the cover? The absence of Hector is not only felt there, but in the music as well, because almost none of it packs a punch. If the fans pick up on this, they aren't any better than the hoards of the undead in the video for "One More Time Because You Can't Possibly Be Sick Of This Yet". Or maybe the symbolism here is that we'll be lusting for music with brains now, hanging out at shopping malls, while drooling and stuff. Whatever it is: Hammerfall, choke on it.
Arno Callens' rating: 2.25 out of 5