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HammerFall: Masterpieces

As Hammerfall moves into an new future with some personnel changes (most notably, Poodles guitarist Pontus Norgren replacing Stefan Elmgren), they have pulled together a compilation album. Essentially, 'Masterpieces' is a collection of all the cover songs that Hammerfall have recorded in the last ten years. They're all here, plus three new cover songs from Riot, Europe, and Skid Row. Though I'm a long time listener to these Swedish metallers, I can safely say I have not heard all these cover songs. So, it's great to have them all in one place because there is some fine stuff (and some amusing things) here.

I'm not going to bore with a list of all the bands Hammerfall covers. You can check it out on their web site. I simply want to point which songs were highlights for me. Most notable are the tributes to early influences: 'Child Of The Damned' (Warlord) and 'Ravenlord' (Stormwitch) are very good efforts. 'Back To Back,' a Pretty Maids song, is given an enthusiastic interpretation: vigorous and flattering. Another shining moment, though it will never (ever) replace the original, is Hammerfall's cover of Rainbow's 'Man On The Silver Mountain.' This is a quintessential metal song and they handle it with skill. Other songs are entertaining but they fall short of their original glory. This includes 'Detroit Rock City' (Kiss) and 'Crazy Nights' (Loudness). After listening to the Kiss cover, I wondered how Hammerfall would sound covering Kiss' neo-disco 'I Was Made For Loving You.' Don't think about that for too long, you'll probably throw up.

As for the three new covers, Hammerfall interprets Riot's 'Flight Of The Warrior' quite well. But I would have liked to hear them cover 'Swords And Tequila.' 'Youth Gone Wild' (Skid Row) is more than a little rigid and basically stale. On the other hand, 'Aphasia' (Europe) is crisp, lively, enjoyable, and possibly better than the original.

There are some very amusing moments on 'Masterpieces.' One is Hammerfall cover of 'We're Gonna Make It' where they shout out to Twisted Sister for some recognition. Another is their rendition of Judas Priest's 'Breaking The Law' where the band members switched instruments and Oscar Dronjak sang the lead (even donning the biker garb of Rob Halford). Overall, they pull it off. But Dronjak, though he tries his best to imitate Halford, simply sounds silly (though I can't discount his dithyrambic attempt).

All in all, 'Masterpieces' is a whole lot of fun. On every song, you can hear Hammerfall's passion to interpret the song with clarity and enthusiasm. Diehard fans will love having all these previously recorded covers (plus three) on one disc. I liked it. Very recommended.
   - Craig Hartranft

In Short

While biding time before their next project, Hammerfall has seen fit to compile their cover songs into one release. Some are better than others, but overall Hammerfall executes with class and enthusiasm.

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