|Review: Hammerfall - Crimson Thunder|
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2002
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: February 10, 2003
Reviewed by: Pierre Bégin
“Crimson Thunder” is the fourth HammerFall studio album since 1997. The more than 50 minutes CD begins strongly with the excellent thundering mid-tempo “Riders Of The Storm”. There is a huge and loud choir as back vocals in the catchy chorus à la Accept. Following up are the good mid-tempo “Hearts On Fire” from the first single, and the fast “On The Edge Of Honour” with excellent guitars harmonies.
After that song is the pinnacle of the album, the mid-tempo title-track “Crimson Thunder”. This is my favourite song with the heavy verse, the huge choir in the chorus and the excellent break in the middle of the song where the bass resounds loudly. Hell, many speakers and objects have some trouble with this short and loud low frequency interlude! (-: There are also some effective high power chords, which seem to cuts the riff like a knife! (-; Very efficient. Next is the short and fine instrumental “Lore Of The Arcane” which serves as an opener for “Trailblazers”; a good moderately fast song with a killer intro and outro riff.
“Dreams Come True” is the only ballad on “Crimson Thunder”. The track contains fine acoustic guitars and orchestration. Next is “Angel Of Mercy”, a very dark and intense atypical HammerFall song. This song differs a lot lyric-wise and riff-wise from what we usually hear on a HammerFall album and this is a must. Moreover, it has a brilliant performance on vocals by Joacim Cans. “The Unforgiving Blade” is a usual but always effective HammerFall song with again great vocals and choir in the chorus. It’s impossible not to headbang on this one! (-: “Memoriam” is a very good instrumental song that reminds me some Vinnie Moore approach. Finally, “Hero's Return” is a typical HammerFall moderately fast tune with good melodies. There is one bonus track at the end of the album, the Kiss cover “Detroit Rock City” which is very well played.
Overall, there is a specific change in the HammerFall formula: more mid-tempo oriented songs and less fast songs. In other words, “Crimson Thunder” is overall more heavy metal and less power metal. Singer Joacim said in an interview that the album is more like Accept and less like Helloween. Well, I agree and I am pleased with this decision. Anyway, I usually preferred HammerFall’s mid-tempo songs over the fast ones on the three other studio albums. Note however that this change is not drastic; it’s still HammerFall without a doubt.
All band members do an excellent work on this album. Oscar Dronjak wrote some very good catchy guitar riffs, Stefan Elmgren does some very good lead guitar breaks, drummer Anders Johansson and bassist Magnus Rosén are solid and tight on the rhythm section. Above all, Joacim Cans’ vocal performance is top notch. He pushes harder and higher with more intensity compared to previous albums. This is noticeable especially on “Angel Of Mercy” with some high-pitched vocals. This is one of the strong points of “Crimson Thunder” along with the use of great choir in many songs. On the other side, the weakest point is once again the lyrics. I have no trouble with warriors and related topics but the Swedish band seems trapped and locked inside these themes. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics are well written but it becomes a little bit redundant after a while.
Production-wise, the sound produced by Charlie Bauerfeind is once again impeccable. He’s really the hottest metal producer nowadays; at least, he’s my favourite one. He produced Rage, Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian’s latest opuses, among others. I must also point out the excellent quality of the artwork cover and the generous and good-looking booklet although I found the cover a little bit too cartoon-like.
Overall, an excellent and solid album. HammerFall is clearly inspired by some 80s metal bands like Judas Priest and especially Accept (I will not complain about this)! (-: Sure, this band is in the same style as their heroes (pure heavy metal), nevertheless, I believe they’ve established their own approach and distinctiveness. In my opinion, there is no weak track on “Crimson Thunder”. The songs are straightforward, effective and 100% pure heavy metal with excellent songwriting skills. This is without a doubt my favourite HammerFall album. If you like HammerFall’s previous works, you’ll also like this one.
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