There’s a lot to take in for heavy metallers familiar with Hammerfall. Not many would have anticipated that the release of Infected would constitute such an extreme thematic move from a band accustomed to traipsing for glory on medieval battlefields to a one running from zombies. Yes Hammerfall fans you heard right. But that’s not the only shock here – good ol’ band mascot Hector is missing from the front cover for the first time ever!
Now that you lot who actually give a shit can recover from a minor cardiac attack, I will say that the zombie concept is, in reality, a loose concept that only surfaces on the first and last track of the album. After being informed that there’s been a sector breach, all ambiguity and curiosity is swished aside in opening track Patient Zero, with zombie themes oozing through pump-fisted traditional metal riffage. But don’t stop there to make your judgements – the beginning is somewhat a deceiving one.
In terms of production this is the first time the Swedes have ventured without usual producer Charlie Bauerfeind on a studio album since 2000. Instead, at the helm is James Michael of Sixx:AM fame, who worked with Motley Crue on New Tatoo and produced 2008′s Saints Of Los Angeles. The influence is undeniable. Hammerfall are developing a hard rock sound with the addition and it’s definitely going to piss off some fans. It’s far from cock rock or anything like that, but the obvious sticklers of Hammerfall’s traditional and power metal sounds will probably have huge reservations, especially with biggest culprit I Refuse.
Having said this, you only have to listen to Bang Your Head to sense that the quintet are still attempting to cement themselves to the heavy metal bedrock that they became renowned for. The song is about Joacim Cans discovering his beloved genre of music through the mighty Saxon album Strong Arm Of The Law, in the small Swedish town where he grew up. Hammerfall still loyally clutch their hands around that flag and force themselves to fly it every time, despite obvious differences from their classic Crimson Thunder sound. Through one medium or another, the band still clearly have an undying love to express.
Ridden with the power metal influence many came to love Hammerfall for, Send Me A Sign is the gentle ballad of the record that will appease some old school fans, alongside final track Redemption, which has an epic Halloween-theme keyboard beginning and sees Cans produce his best vocal performance on the album.
In all, Hammerfall might be gradually drifting away from their traditional metal/power metal sound and I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Whether you like it or not, Hector’s gone awol and the zombies are closing in.