After only about a years wait, HAMMERFALL returns with its sixth studio album, “Threshold”. If you’ve heard any of the band’s previous releases, then you should know exactly what to expect from a new album: sturdy, catchy, Heavy Metal tunes, with a large dose of 80s flair. Developing a sort of AC/DC syndrome (you’ve heard one release, you’ve heard them all), HAMMERFALL is quite predictable, but still good at what they do.
“Threshold” sits especially well with the last two HAMMERFALL releases, in that it’s not as strong as the band’s first three albums, but will still please fans. HAMMERFALL has firmly settled into its niche, and doesn’t seem likely to ever stray too far. The songs all hover somewhere within the realm of mid-paced, with even the faster numbers coming nowhere near the speedier Power and Heavy Metal bands out there. From start to finish it’s clear that HAMMERFALL focuses much attention on the mighty hook, each song possessing a chorus you’ll be hard pressed to get to leave your head. The musicianship, from guitars to bass to drums to vocals, is all very sturdy and cohesive. HAMMERFALL is undoubtedly a well-oiled machine, churning out this stuff almost effortlessly. It could almost be described as Heavy Metal-by-numbers, but HAMMERFALL somehow manage to pull it off convincingly album after album. That in itself is applaud-able.
The songs on “Threshold” range from very strong to a few near filler-like songs. The title track kicks things off with great fashion and a very catchy chorus. Other standouts are “The Fire Burns Forever”, “Natural High” “Carved In Stone” and “Genocide”. “Howlin’ With The ’Pac” and “Titan” are the two songs that don’t really hold their own and come off as filler. Of a particular note is that “Threshold” does not have any the traditional HAMMERFALL ballads. “Dark Wings, Dark Words” borders on balladry, but that’s as close as it gets.
The production on “Threshold” falls somewhere between the last two albums, as it’s not as polished as “Crimson Thunder”, but more so than “Chapter V”. The production and mix most closely resembles the production on “Renegade”, giving it that modern, but not too slick sound, with just a touch of rough around the edges.
To determine whether or not “Threshold” is for you, simply answer this question: Have you liked HAMMERFALL in the past? If yes, by all means give “Threshold” a listen. If no, “Threshold” will do nothing to change your mind. And if you’ve never heard HAMMERFALL before, where have you been for the last several years?
(Online December 11, 2006)