Collision Course (Magna Carta)
Collision Course is touted as Part II to the band's well-regarded Paradox album of '97, with a key change being vocalist D.C. Cooper having been replaced by this record's Mark Boals (Ring Of Fire, Yngwie; John West held the slot in the interim). The thespian and dramatic Boals is a perfect fit for Andre Andersen's blinding light show approach to stadium-bulging power metal. Indeed, the band's sound hasn't changed much, triumphantly galloping along or grooving but with hard, tight production, loads of keyboard textures and ear candy everywhere. The theme, like Paradox, is the nature of God, but this time it's an artful and universal look at western versus eastern dogma and values, quite the ambitious and creditable task in these times. Cathedrals (mosques?) of harmony vocals compete with the thrilling, energetic frilly sleeves metal at hand, and the results are interestingly both shrill and life-affirming. Ultimately, cannons stuffed with drums and cymbals win out - despite the loads of tones, the beats on this thing pound. It's an interesting franchise Royal Hunt have carved out for themselves - it's like they are outsiders in the biz, arriving with much the same baggage full of rules as other power metal bands, but with a considerable file folder of differences, assembled, one imagines, through the healthy method of not listening to other people's music.
Hammer Battalion (SPV)
Fortunately in the vein of '06's Midvinterblot, Hammer Battalion is an Unleashed that is all business, packing a lot of action into their old school Swedish death, offering an entertaining balance between complication and the slavering Viking punk rock attitude that makes this band so damn cuddly. Johnny Hedlund's vocals are always a big part of the charm, 'cos they are wrapped around catchy little metal clichˇs that always crack a smile. The production, I wouldn't say, stands out as anything special. Choices are made, frequencies covered, drums left a little wet, but that's about it - not bad to distraction, but not exactly bruising. Speed is balanced by guitar running melodies, double bass parts at half time, sludgy death and doom, chugging as part of the boiling blood and DNA of these slightly camp carry-onners. It's all as it should be, even if a little more flat-headed headbanging like 'Midsummer Solstice' would have done me some added damage.
Hard Reviews Page 5