Hammerfall - Crimson Thunder
Nuclear Blast
True Metal
11 songs (47'29)
Release year: 2002
Hammerfall, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Chris

The 4th album of Hammerfall is finally in sight (the album will be released on October 28th). I was expecting that album more than anyone else this year, and though I was very excited when I first listened to it, I can't stop thinking that it could have been so much better in the end. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good album without any doubts, it's just a tad easy and for the first time I've got the impression that this album contains fillers... something I had never experienced before with any Hammerfall albums.

The album starts with the very epic song Riders Of The Storm, and this one is for sure a killer song. It ain't no Heading The Call, but is somehow very similar to Templars Of Steel, the previous album opener song. Very catchy chorus and incredible choirs. The choirs are actually where Hammerfall have progressed the most I think. One thing that strikes right away as well is Joacim's vocals, they are tuned higher than usual. While the technical progress from last album can be heard right away, I can't stop to feel that I preferred his vocals on the lower tone. He's approaching the Helloween (old days) like vocals and I'm not sure these are the way to go for Hammerfall. Though technically impressive, Joacim is less emotional here. After the very good opener comes the best track of this new album : Hearts On Fire ! If this isn't a time travel back to the best of the 80's then I don't know what it is. A very simple yet extremely effective and catchy chorus with once again magnificent choirs to back up Joacim and the square riffs ravaging that song. Simplicity is the word here, but damn effective ! Can't stop singing : "Hearts On Fire, Hearts On Fire..." on the streets, in the car, in the shower.... Hearts On Fire is simply one of Hammerfall's best song to date (amongst the absolute classics like Heading The Call, Steel Meet Steel, Dragon Lies Bleeding, Destined For Glory, Renegade... to name only my top of the list fav. songs). Excellent guitar solos, fast, more technical than usual, twin guitar melody... then again, sometimes simple, but very very enjoyable. The next song is also amongst the very good ones of the album and the 4th track Crimson Thunder is a true killer, the perfect mid-tempo song. Both Crimson Thunder and Hearts On Fire will break our necks and empty our lungs live : that I have no doubt. So far so good... but unfortunately that's where this album starts to loose speed... a very strange instrumental interlude (Lore Of The Arcane), that makes a psychological break and also announces more "fillers" songs, a concept unknown to Hammerfall until Crimson Thunder (are we arriving at a limit of the guys epic style ? I sure hope not !!!). Songs like Trailblazers, Angel Of Mercy (with it's Iced Earth touch, but no match for IE genius songwriting skills) and The Unforgiving Blade are really below the average level of what we've heard so far from the band. Even the ballad Dreams Come True is the weakest to date. Like Renegade before it, Crimson Thunder contains an instrumental track called In Memoriam. While not bad it tends to drag. Clearly the backing was made to make a song and would probably have been much more interesting with vocals than with the guitar replacing them... The album finishes on one of the killer tracks of the album : Hero's Return is a killer song, epic to the bones and a very nice breath of air after the succession of medium tracks.

Guitar wise the album is also very good, the duo Elmgren / Dronjak is always very effective here. Like I said before, I really think that the main problem is that Joacim's progression pushes him to sing higher than before, and while he does a good job technically (without any doubts) : the result is a drop in emotional peaks and no longer does his vocals send shivers down my spine like they did on Heading The Call or Steel Meet Steel. I therefore suggest that he gets back on his lower range, where he's got not only full control but also get back this originality of his, cause nowadays newcomers always tend to sing the highest they can and I prefer an emotional vocal on lower range than a technically correct but less emotional vocal. The production is very good (thanks to Charlie Bauerfeind) and so is the artwork. It seems that Marshall is out and honestly after the more than medium picture of the Renegade album : I'm not surprised. The album cover is fresh looking and I like the little effect on the logo too. The overall being more comic book oriented. The artist : Samwise Didier (another LOTR fan it would seem) sure knows how to draw ! And his style fits Hammerfall like a glove. I wasn't surprised when I learned that this artist is working at Blizzard Entertainment (which may I remind you delivers the best games on the PC Platform... to name only the 3 of the most incredible games : Starcraft, Diablo 2 and the latest and best ever game I had the chance to play : Warcraft III ! ... okay maybe on an equal level than Wing Commander III featuring Mark Hammil, the one and only jedi knight Luke Skywalker ! ... "May the force be with us all !" )

Musically speaking there is no real surprise, beside the vocals and choirs, this is the same Hammerfall that drains its inspiration from 80's acts like Pretty Maids, Judas Priest and Accept. No doubts there that they do a very good job with it. My only disappointment (slowly growing into a fear) is that every album since the debut is a tad inferior than the previous one. It may be only me as I believe lots of people will prefer this one than Renegade, which it seems wasn't as well received by everyone, though I love it (but I love all four albums !). They all contain true killer songs, and after 5-6 albums they'll have more than enough perfect songs to make an unbelievable best-of album...(that is if I select them.... just kidding LOL :) ) but I hope that they'll find more inspiration to deliver more emotionally driven tunes like they did with their unbelievable first two albums. Definitely a little step back from the previous albums, but nevertheless a great album to have in your collection : invest without fear !

Killing Songs :
Hearts On Fire, Riders Of The Storm, Crimson Thunder & Hero's Return .
Chris quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Hammerfall that we have reviewed:
Hammerfall - (R)Evolution reviewed by Joel and quoted 89 / 100
Hammerfall - Infected reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Hammerfall - No Sacrifice, No Victory reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Hammerfall - Threshold reviewed by Jeff and quoted 79 / 100
Hammerfall - Chapter V - Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken reviewed by Jeff and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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