Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 10/31/2006
posted on 2/2007 By:
Out of all of the many sub-genres of metal, power metal has got to be the undisputed leader in when it comes to recycling riffs, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that it has done very little to evolve over the course of its existence. But the old saying goes that if it ain’t broke, then don’t try and fix it. Sweden’s HammerFall is a band that has pretty much stayed on the same beaten path in their 14 year existence, and this record – the band’s sixth studio release – sees the five-piece carry on the tradition of creating music with a sound that brings to mind thoughts of fire breathing dragons, glimmering blades of steel, scarred battle armor, and dwarves sitting around a dimly lit campfire after a hard day’s work enjoying goblin shishkabob and cheese sticks. Why on earth would they ever think of changing things up now? Well, the good news for avid fans of the band is they haven’t.
Threshold contains all of the necessary ingredients that make up the perfect power metal recording. Ultimately the deciding factor on whether the music works these days or not is in the written vocal melodies, and the singing on hand here doesn’t disappoint, as every carefully manicured note is sung to perfection and with impressive range. For the most part this performance alone, not to mention the finely chanted back ups, should be enough to make the album work. One major complaint I’ve always had, however, is the thinly produced guitars this band employs, and this record sees that trend continue. With a bass guitar that is damn near non-existent, there is an absolute lack of oomph in this tinny sound that has seen bands like Evergrey, Symphony X and Jag Panzer, among others, thicken up that weakness and bring a new millennium metal chunk to the table. Don’t get me wrong, the mix is damn good on the album, but it just lacks the heft I think should be heard if the band is to contend with the millennium metal elite, and even though HammerFall has been around for awhile, they simply don’t match up in the balls n’ brawn department.
With that said, the music in the early stages of the album is certainly above mediocrity. From the sing along choruses of the album’s opening title track and follower "The Fire Burns Forever", to the Maiden-istic musings of "Natural High" and the lighter friendly, slower pieces like "Rebel Inside" and "Dark Wings Dark Words", the first half of the album comes out of the gate with flourishing promise. But the latter half of the album sees the same mixture of expired ingredients take center stage, with catchy numbers like "Shadow Empire" with its Priest-like opening riff, to the marching gait of "Carved in Stone" and closer "Titan" leading the way. I think the main problem that sees the album suffer is the repetitive nature of the riff arrangements and overall songwriting structure. And as impressively as the album starts out, there is just little on the album’s latter half to please the ear that’s looking for some flavorful zest to shake things up a bit. The flip side to that coin is it’s quite possible that if you were to start at track six and listen to the album’s latter half first, then make your way back to the beginning, one might have the exact opposite take than the one I’ve outlined above. Bottom line is it is a very hard album to sit through from start to finish.
At the end of the day there are fans of this band that believe they can do no wrong and will truly accept the album for what it is, even though the consensus is that they haven’t and won’t top the brilliance of their first two outings. Let’s face it folks, if you’re going to do little to change up your sound after 14 years of existence, then your albums and their songs are going to tend to sound similar. With that said there’s really no arguing that these guys are true professionals at their game, and any band that can stay in that game for as long as this band has and still make albums is obviously having a good time at it and living the dream. But as serious listeners of music that longevity and perseverance sometimes isn’t enough for the metal loving consumer. Unless you're a serious 'Hammer-head' and need this record to complete your collection, I highly recommend you save your cash.
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