HammerFall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: NB 1375
Format: CD
Total Time: 50:48:00

Well, you know what to expect from HammerFall, and on Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken they deliver. In fact, the album's title says it all (including that this is their fifth studio album). Don't expect lighthearted pop or even hair-metal melodies; this band gives no quarter. Oh, they aren't as brutal as many extreme metal bands, but then again, the music reflects a warrior ethic... a dark, bloody, and dirty milieu inspired Tolkien and other like fantasy writers, so it isn't soft and mushy either. Just look at the album artwork, an armor clad warrior striking a defiant and imposing pose. Chugging guitars (Oscar Drojak, Stefan Elmgren), booming bass (Magnus Ros?n), and pounding drums (Anders Johannson) rally their warrior song, and reflect the heat of battle, no less than in then anthemic "Fury Of The Wild," "Hammer Of Justice," and "Born To Rule." In around this basic structure we get soaring vocals (Joacim Cans), fiery guitar solos, and ... well, if I described their previous studio outing as consisting of drummer Johannson spending a lot of time bash-bashing without any variance, which may have been an exaggeration even if it was my impression, there seems to be a bit more dynamics in his playing on this outing.

"Hammer of Justice" is the shout along, fists in the air piece for this album... And the companionable "The Temple Flame" is the sing-a-long piece, with "warrior-choruses." But, reading the lyrics, we get another dynamic going on here, at least as I read it... Is some "big brother" suggested in such lyrics as "So where were you when darkness came to life?" (a monitor coming on?) or "The system mounted on the wall" or even more telling, "Do you believe surveillance is the cure? / The remedy for our insanity..." Could this be a peek behind the scenes, that all these warriors are actually the imaginations of one man, who's been imagining everything? Am I reading too much into this? Maybe...

Now, fans of HammerFall and of this style of music might be thinking I'm takin' a pound of flesh from the band. But you see, I like this kind of stuff, when it's done well and engagingly. And HammerFall fit into that category. They are deadly serious in their metal and although they come close a time or two, nothing here seems to get too close to comical, a caricature of metal. Okay, maybe the epic length "Knights Of The 21st Century" does a bit at the beginning; this piece includes guest Cronos of Venom. Non-fans of this type of music, if they are reading this review at all, probably would disagree, finding it silly and cartoonish. But you, know, it is and isn't; the band approach this with all seriousness and earnestness, but this whole style depends upon characters that are larger than life, "heroes" that are more "heroic" than found in the real world (not in act, but in stature ... I mean, you gotta count firefighters, for example, as real-life heroes, but aside from posing in cheesecake -- or cheesy -- calendars, they aren't idealized Teutonic warrior-heroes, and that's what I'm getting at). But that's why we like fantasy fiction, why it is such a big industry (pushing straight and hard sci-fi from bookshelves)... why Realms Of Fantasy endures when its older sister magazine Science Fiction Age age did not (though RoF doesn't just publish warrior-fantasies). So, yes, heroes here will be taller, stronger, more "manly" than can be believed (and warrior women more scantily dressed than seems practical... I mean, how popular was Xena?).

I digress; this is supposed to be a review of this CD, not the genre in whole (nor wondering why those buxom warrior women don't tip forward from being "top heavy," or have backaches like real buxom women do? Oh wait, they are "warrior-women" with unusually sturdy bone structure and steel-strong skin impervious to the slings and arrows of... some sarcastic reviewer).

"Born To Rule" is one of the heaviest of the heavy tracks here, and is one of those that does veer close to the "stereotype" for this kind of metal. But then, it's preceded by the "softest" track here, the power ballad "Never, Ever." And then there's the pastoral guitar instrumental "Imperial," a rather nice spotlight for Elmgren.

Unless you are decidedly not a fan of this kind of music, there's nothing to dislike about Chapter V. It sounds great, is well produced... I even like Cans vocal style here more than on the previous album, thus a fractionally higher score for this. But... don't expect to find anything really new here.

Secrets (6:06) / Blood Bound (3:49) / Fury Of The Wild (4:44) / Hammer Of Justice (4:37) / Never, Ever (4:05) / Born To Rule (4:08) / The Templar Flame (3:41) / Imperial (2:29 / Take The Black (4:46) / Knights Of The 21st Century (12:19)

Joacim Cans - vocals
Oscar Dronjak - guitar
Stefan Elmgren - guitar
Magnus Ros?n - bass
Anders Johannson - drums

Glory To The Brave (1997)
Legacy Of Kings (1998)
Renegade (2000)
Crimson Thunder (2002)
One Crimson Night (2004)
Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (2005)
Threshold (2006)
Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years Of Glory (2007)
Masterpieces (2008)
No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009)

The First Crusade (DVD/VHS) (1999)
The Templar Renegade Crusades (DVD/VHS)(2002)
Hearts On Fire (DVD) (2002)
One Crimson Night (DVD, box w/CD) (2003)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 5th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.hammerfall.net
Hits: 1067
Language: english


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