Morning folks. So in listening to Nachtmystium’s new album, The World We Left Behind, for last week’s episode, I decided I liked the record, and wanted to see what everyone else thought of it. I was surprised to find, then, that a lot of people decidedly did not like the record–for a variety of reasons, some of which I understand and some of which I don’t. I won’t get into the details here, but at any rate, this noticeable difference between the establishment opinions and my own gave me the following idea for this week’s Stage Dive topic:
WHAT’S AN ALBUM YOU LIKE THAT EVERYONE ELSE HATES?
In case the above picture didn’t make it painfully obvious, the album I’m going with this week is HammerFall’s Legacy of Kings. To be fair, I don’t know if people really hate this album, so much as poke a fair amount of fun at both it and the band. So why have I chosen it here?
For starters, many view the power metal subgenre as metal’s redheaded stepchild–and frankly, I don’t entirely disagree. It’s certainly one of the cheesiest of the subgenre bunch, what with common tropes like fantasy-oriented lyrical content, overly melodic song composition and, in many cases, a balls-in-vice style among its vocalists. HammerFall certainly fits all of these bills, and then some. They take power metal’s most hilarious qualities to extremes. I mean, think about it: these guys named one of their albums after a family slogan from George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series. Their guitar player and co-founder Oscar Dronjak seems like one of those guys who just wants SO BADLY to be a badass, as evidenced by his dramatic image transition over the past several years. Shit, their first six albums yielded five songs containing the word “hammer” in the title: going chronologically–“HammerFall,” “Let the Hammer Fall,” “Raise the Hammer,” “Hammer of Justice,” and “Reign of the Hammer.” HammerFall are to hammers what Andrew W.K. is to partying.
And yet, none of it really matters on Legacy of Kings, because this thing is just that kick-ass. It’s one of those albums that has no business being any good, yet ends up inexplicably being AMAZING. (See also: in a non-metal example, Chumbawamba’s Tubthumper) The songs are short, simple and crisply produced. “Heeding the Call” might be the best power metal album opener I’ve ever heard, and sets the tone for the album off perfectly. From there, you get a killer title track, into the second of the aforementioned “hammer tracks,” into “Dreamland”–actually a pretty cool track despite having possibly the cheesiest chorus lyrics on the entire album…which is saying something. There are very few departures from that right-around-140-BPM sweet spot and generally upbeat feel, which really puts the band in its strongest element. HammerFall doing songs at tempos other than 140 BPM is like Tankard doing songs about topics other than beer, or Metallica doing songs without guitar solos–they can pull it off, but they’re rarely as good so why bother?
In light of that last point, I’d be remiss not to call out the album’s two ballads–“Remember Yesterday” and “The Fallen One”–as slight disappointments, relative to the rest of the album. (“At the End of the Rainbow” also slows things down a bit, but doesn’t lose quite as many points, because it’s anthemic as hell and the intro always reminded me of Iron Maiden’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.”) But aside from these few tracks, Legacy of Kings knows exactly what kind of album it wants to be, and for the most part, it pulls things off very nicely. So make fun of the album–or HammerFall, or power metal in general–all you want; in many cases I’ll agree with you. But as far as I’m concerned, this sucker’s damn near unimpeachable.
So that’s my choice, now tell me yours! Make sure to leave comments with your picks and explanations and keep the discussion going!
Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.