Eighteen classics get a good hammering
Sweden's HammerFall are a band whose name I've seen around for years but have never checked out because power metal isn't my thing, but with that being said I did a little digging around and I'm a little confused about what's going on in the HammerFall camp. Masterpieces, which is a collection of eighteen cover songs that the band has recorded during their fifteen year history (including three newly recorded ones), is actually the band's second “best of” release in under a year. The cynic in me assumes that it's a way for the band to tide their fans over until the next full length release but I also think it would be valid to say that this is less of a HammerFall the band album and more of a HammerFall paying homage to their heroes type of album. When looked at in this light it's actually a pretty cool thing for the band to do.
When it comes to the album itself I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. Of the eighteen tracks and eighteen bands being represented on Masterpieces I recognise a couple of songs and less than half of the bands which makes approaching this album as the covers album that it is quite difficult without the ability to make a fair comparison to the original songs. All I've really got to go on is how the songs sound here and how the band performs them and from this perspective I can't really find anything bad to say about it. Sure I don't like power metal much, and Masterpieces hasn't done anything to change that, but I can't see why fans of this genre wouldn't find a lot to like about what I presume to be a collection of well known and popular songs from the genre.
From what I've gleaned from other coverage around the web HammerFall have taken the original tracks and played them as close as possible to how they were originally recorded and I'd have to say that that assessment falls into line with my own assumptions about this album. The band is tight and coherent, playing their instruments extremely well and demonstrating clearly the fact that they have, in one form or another, been together for one and a half decades. Of course there are some songs that work better than others but overall I think the band have put in a good performance with a solid selection of tracks.
I guess when it comes down to it Masterpieces is an album that is probably going to appeal to you if you are already a HammerFall fan (in which case you've probably already heard a lot of the material here) or if you like power metal in general. If you can place a tick in either of those boxes then I see little reason why Masterpieces wouldn't be right up your alley, but if you don't fit either of those criteria then there is a pretty good chance that this album will not be for you.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)