On November 27, 2002, I had tickets to see Dio perform at Pop's in Sauget, Illinois. The opening band was a leatherclad powermetal outfit from Sweden called HammerFall, which was heretofore unknown to me, or most of America at the time.
I had already staked out a spot in the front row in anticipation of Dio when HammerFall hit the stage with such a ferocity, energy and quality of musicianship, they became my favorite band by their third song.
I have been greatly impressed by an unknown band on several occasions since, but never to this level. I remember singer Joacim Cans, noting my enthusiasm, and saluting the diehard fans up front. Joacim was right, I was a diehard, but what he did not know was I had only been one for 15 minutes.
They are now ten studio albums into their career and my enthusiasm for their music has not waned. Even though I had already received a promotional download of the album for the sake of this review, I still went ahead and confidently preordered the deluxe wooden box edition of the album with band mascot Hector resin figure.
Maybe, given the above, it is impossible for me to listen to Built To Last objectively. However, this review could have gone either way, with expectations so high any misstep would be considered a major disappointment. As I prepared to hit play on the first track I was reminded of walking into the theater to see Episode One back in 1999, when Star Wars still had a perfect track record. Fortunately, in the case of HammerFall, there are no midiclorians or Jar Jar Binks to be found on Built To Last.
The album is amazing. It is as good as anything they have ever released. Unlike Star Wars, HammerFall remains perfect.
If someone asked me to play for them the definitive HammerFall song, I could randomly pick any tune from their entire catalogue and be confident it would represent the band at their best. This is because, in my opinion, they have yet to release a single track which wasn’t excellent. This consistency remains true with Built To Last.