Steel Meets Steel: 10 Years Of Glory
posted on 2/2008 By:
Has it been ten years already? Wow, I’m getting old. You see, I consider my introduction to Hammerfall in 1999 as something of a turning point in my metal evolution. I had spent a couple of years prior digging deeper down from Slayer, Sepultura, and Napalm Death into Entombed, Dismember, and Benediction. Delving into the extreme underground somehow eventually led me to Iced Earth and Nevermore. I loved that throwback sound with a modern twist. Hammerfall was a natural fit, and I was hooked from the start. Now (almost) ten years later, we get to celebrate this milestone together with the two-disc collection, Steel Meets Steel: Ten Years of Glory, which brings together some of the band’s best material and adds a handful of new and unreleased tracks.
First, we’ll look at the “best of” part of this set. Each of the band’s six studio albums are, technically, equally represented with four tracks each. I’m not sure I can fault the selections, as they do adequately represent who Hammerfall is as a band, but I will raise issue in two cases. For the selections from Renegade, I would have liked to have seen “The Way of the Warrior” included instead of “Templars of Steel” or the ballad “Always Will Be.” Likewise, from Crimson Thunder, I would have chosen “The Unforgiving Blade” over “Hero’s Return” or “Crimson Thunder.” I’ve always preferred the raised-fist, sword-wielding Hammerfall over the introspective, baladeering Hammerfall, so I’m a little annoyed that they felt the need to include one of the latter form each album (although I will admit that “Glory to the Brave” is one of their best songs, period.) Still there are plenty of metal anthems to go around: “Heeding the Call,” “Keep the Flame Burning,” “Hearts on Fire,” “The Fury of the Wild,” and “The Fire Burns Forever.” So despite my minor complaints, there are lots of great tracks here, and though I’m sure most Hammerfall fans will have their own opinion as to what should have and should not have been included (as I did), I think that most would agree that as-is, this set is a more than adequate primer for those unfamiliar with the band.
That being said, there really isn’t much here to entice any but the most die-hard Hammerfall fan. You know, the ones who will wage endless Internet campaigns proclaiming that Hammerfall is more true than Manowar. At the start of the first disc is “The Abyss,” a short instrumental that was recorded and used by a Swedish hockey team as their entrance music. This is followed by “Last Man Standing,” which is a mediocre track at best. The opening refrain shows promise as a fist-pumper, but it quickly dwindles into a standard, mid-tempo rocker. Not a new song but newly rerecorded is the signature “Hammerfall,” designated here as “Hammerfall v2.0.07” (get it?). Although it is nice to hear the track with an updated sound, that’s about it - little else has changed. Think of it more as the band restating their mission in honor of a new decade.
Over to disc two is another new track, “Restless Soul,” another by-the-numbers Hammerfall ballad, albeit with a symphonic backing that gives it a bit more punch than their usual fare. This disc also includes two previously unreleased live tracks from 1998 – “The Metal Age” and “Stone Cold” - with a more raw sound than was heard on 2004’s One Crimson Night, and it is kind of cool to hear the band when they were still in their infancy, but not much of a selling point.
Had I paid for this disc, I likely would have been disappointed, due as much to the lackluster track selection as my slowly waning enthusiasm for the band. As stated previously, if you’re still unfamiliar and curious about this whole Hammerfall thing, Steel Meets Steel will serve as a more than adequate primer and introduction to the band. The material may not always be their best, but it does represent them well, with a balance of fist-pumping anthems and over-the-top ballads. Here is to another ten years of glory – as long as they improve on the new material presented here.
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Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
One Crimson Night (Live)