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Hammerfall – Infected

Label: Nuclear Blast
Format: CD download
Released: 2011
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 8.5/ 10


What I heard in Nashville was 60% of a then unmixed album, still enough to know that Infected, with its somewhat controversial/toned down (anti?) artwork, would be the heaviest (and most far reaching) HammerFall platter in at a least a decade. The band wanted something different, to break free of the simple (restrictive) power metal conventions (lyrics/sounds). By embracing the Spanish language ('Dia De Los Muertos'), a meandering, bluesy guitar for 'I Refuse’ (with its chorus/mantra: "I refuse to be something I’m not". Seemingly the ideology/impetus behind this latest work.), the opening zombie tale ('Patient Zero') and a reworked/Anglicized Hungarian acoustic ballad ('Send Me A Sign'), the remainder serve as speedy, rejuvenated anthems closest to the Swedes' original vision. A refinement, rather than a complete overhaul.

 

OK, the Romero-inspired kick-off, with blood lusting undead, warning sirens and a cautionary voiceover, starts a bit slowly, but there's probably no other place for it on the album. My in-studio listening session was free of any specific running sequence, or such pre-recorded extras, but halfway through the appropriately plodding pace (the undead don't gallop!) the guitars kick in (reanimated?), some of the most spirited playing to ever grace a HammerFall record, including the double bass driven debut! 'Bang Your Head', the ode to the German festival of the same name, continues the lively run throughout its entirety. Beginning and ending with cannonading drums, ‘One More Time’ also employs piano, a little variety intermezzo before the fist-pumping, traditional HammerFall power metal of ‘The Outlaw.’ With just acoustic guitar and a wisp of synthesized strings, the aforementioned ballad (adapted from the Hungarian outfit ) is a vocal showcase for Joacim Cans.

The Spanish laced number, with fleet fingered, widdly guitar breaks ("Life is best enjoyed after death".) is another upbeat number, the third in the first half of the disc! ‘666 The Enemy Within’, despite the black metal title, is an epic journey into the underworld, via the river Styx. Another high pitched, mid-tempo standard, ‘Immortalized’, follows, Cans having complained to me in-studio about the vocal gymnastics required. ‘Let’s Get It On’ utilizes the parallel between mixed martial arts competitions (from whence the phrase was borrowed) and bands onstage. The call & response titular phrase is virtually the only lyrics, sung by Cans, or group chorus by the entire band. The ‘Redemption’ finale is introduced with a with mix of church pipe organ and keyboards. Down-shifting from the hectic start, and going almost a cappella minimalist, the 7:02 cut (album’s longest) briefly revs, before ending as a harpsichord solo. As the run down suggests, any experimentation never gets too far afield before returning to the Swedes’ bread and butter (or is that bröd & smör?).

Highly enjoyable!

 
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