Listening to HAMMERFALL can be likened to a once a year celebration held at an old Scandinavian castle, though the general tendency has been to hold this party every other year. The only real thing that separates it from your average get-together is that the patrons arrive on motorcycles, horses, or even dragon longboats fully clad in either armor or leathers. The music has a smiling, drinking song quality to it, particularly when accounting for the extremely catchy chorus delivery and the continual drive for simplicity while avoiding self-plagiarism in the musical department.
“No Sacrifice, No Victory” is another in the continuing line of 80s JUDAS PRIEST meets ACCEPT with a slight helping of MANOWAR oriented Metal glorification parties, sporting the same plate armored and cloaked warrior with his lightning hammer of iron. The celebration sees a slight change in attendance as Magnus Rosén has been replaced by the old bassist from “Glory To The Brave”, Fredrik Larsson, and Pontus Norgren has taken over the guitar duties once held by longtime axe slinger Stefan Elmgren. But the party loses nothing for the latter’s absence and actually sees an upping in the technical intrigue of the band’s lead section in comparison to the last 3 studio offerings. The production is polished to a shimmering shine and mostly resembles the slower, heavier character of “Renegade”, with some of the fanfare qualities of “Crimson Thunder” but a much more consistent flow.
The consistency of style is naturally maintained with few interludes into newer territory, as this album aims on slaying the ears with formulaic, ballsy, Power Metal in the old fashioned vain. Songs like “Any Means Necessary” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” keep it short and fill the arrangement with classic ACCEPT style pounding mid-tempo riffs and raucous gang choruses. “Legion” refers back to the band’s older approach to fast songs, resembling heavily songs from the first two albums like “Dreamland” and “Steel Meets Steel”. Throughout these songs vocalist Joacim Cans shines pretty brightly, putting forth some of his strongest deliveries to date and bringing a little extra attitude to back up the overt Metalness that the lyrics portray.
Newer territory is hit on some songs, although it is not too far away from what the band had already achieved on albums prior. The closing original song “One Of A Kind” is among the more epic songs heard out of the band, and also has a fairly complex opening riff. The ballad “Between Two Worlds” bears a huge resemblance to what they did on “Always Will Be” and “Dreams Come True”, but is kicked off with a pretty solid Baroque church organ intro that screams “Kings Of Metal” and generally listens closer to a MANOWAR ballad than any of their ballads since their debut album. Things wrap up with the band taking one of the stronger elements off of “Crimson Thunder” and doing a cover of “My Sharona”, which has been sexed up with a much heavier production and vocal delivery. During the chorus you start to feel sorry for Sharona though as the HAMMERFALL styled bass/baritone gang chorus makes you wonder if maybe the poor woman is about to be gang raped by a bunch of Viking invaders, but otherwise it’s a faithful Metal rendition of a Classic Rock song.
HAMMERFALL is not, nor will they ever be about Progression, so if you’re looking for innovation this is not the place to go. But if you have liked any past albums by this band or if you like NWOBHM injected Power Metal with the unapologetic ideology espoused by the almighty MANOWAR, this is a pretty worthy pickup. There are a few lead guitar moments on here and a guest slot by former RISING FORCE and current STRATOVARIUS keyboardist Jens Johansson that will probably appeal to guitar shred fans as well. The hammer has been raised, it has come down, and the resulting thud signals the triumph of Metal over any and all forms of Soft Rock.
(Online April 17, 2009)