I have this love/hate relationship with the band. The music isn't all bad. There are a shitload of cheesy and happy moments, but on occasion Oscar will throw down some seriously tough riffs. Then, there's Joacim's vocals. I don't know why, but they are always wimpy and lame on a HAMMERFALL CD, but when he did his solo record, they were tough as nails and I loved them. I don't know! I give up.
Well, on album number five they prove that they are seasoned veterans of the game and they prove that they have staying power. 'Secrets" opens up the Pandora's Box and musically, it isn't all that bad. The drums are quite thunderous and there is some serious shredding going on, but the voice sounds very thin and I can't take it. The music is kicked up a notch and rightly so when you have a song called "Fury Of The Wild." It proves to be worthy of the Power Metal staple, but the high screams from Joacim once again just kill it for me. I know I have a problem, but I can't help it. The one thing that always drove me nuts were their ballads. They are just so weak and emotionless in my eyes And "Never, Ever" continues to prove that. "Born To Rule" shows a bit of a rawer side and that's cool because there is only so much super slick and polished music one can take. I like this track.
The one track I was looking forward to was the closer "Knights Of The 21st Century" because VENOM vocalist/screamer Cronos makes a guest appearance. This track opens up with rain coming down and a little narration is provided by the Black Metal God himself. You can tell it's him because he has this certain tone that is unmistakable. It's dark and it cool that the band is willing to try different things. It's slow, but it's powerful and the vibe is captured just right. Cronos' appearance here is an added plus.
Charlie Bauerfeind once again produced the record and did a phenomenal job capturing the band's mood and atmosphere. The music compositions are really good here except for what I mentioned many times before. This for me is a guilty pleasure. It's not all that bad. (Online August 21, 2005)