Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of ’80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, delivers an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.
If you judged explicitly by this album, you’d have no idea that these guys are approaching 50. In between each chanted, arena-sized anthem, Joacim Cans‘ sharp, impactful vocals ring as clean as ever. On top of that, the thundering riffs and immense face melters (I’d pick a favorite or two but they’re all incredible) of Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren keep the rhythm section firm yet emotive. Underneath this rugged musical force, the versatile drums are operated by the band’s newest member, David Wallin, who joined in 2014.
Dominion radiates more energy and passion than the band’s previous three releases combined, which is most easily seen in the amped-up speed and power in tracks like “Bloodline” and “Scars of a Generation” that hearken to the band’s earlier work. The driving force behind this revitalized sound is most likely due to the fact that the band took a far more relaxed approach to songwriting this time around, rather than worrying themselves with deadlines and schedules.
Another key part of Dominion‘s success lies in its variety. Where the previous album, Built to Last, treads safely in usual HammerFall territory, Dominion proves its boldness by exploring some (not a lot, mind you, but some) new ground. It’s still more-or-less what you’d expect from them, but tracks like “(We Make) Sweden Rock” and the opener, “Never Forgive, Never Forget” bring some freshness to the table. Additionally, there are two ballads on the record: the piano-driven “Second to One” and the closer, “And Yet I Smile”, which leaves the album hanging in a hopeful and bittersweet air.
All in all, this record is what we should all expect from HammerFall: refined heavy metal that’s been hammered in the forge for twenty-five years. If you want neck-breaking riffs, head-banging choruses, and face-melting solos, you’ve come to the right place. Their eleventh album to date, Dominion proves that, despite a few career hiccups, HammerFall are still capable of blowing heads off with no sign of hanging up their hammers any time soon.
(released August 16, 2019 on Napalm Records)
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Watch HammerFall – “Dominion” Video