Monday, August 8, 2011

Infected - Hammerfall - 2011

InfectedHammerfall has been a part of my regular listening rotation for several years now. I started collecting their records around the same time I dove into Blind Guardian, just after the second Demons & Wizards record, Touched by the Crimson King, landed in 2005. I was really looking forward to Infected to see where the band would go from 2009's No Sacrifice, No Victory, their first with guitarist Pontus Norgren and a step further away from the Accept-style heavy rock of Threshold and closer to ultra-melodic (even for this band) power metal. Infected, despite its zombie plague-styled layout, continues down the same path, provides more of the same from Hammerfall and, if anything, circles back to the Accept/Priest/Scorpions arena. 

"Patient Zero" opens Infected and sets the zombie tone from the outset. It's an excellent big rock number with a slower, infectious beat and one that immediately hooks the listener:

From this point on, though, Infected is largely pleasantly generic power metal anthems served up in the same manner Hammerfall fans have come to expect over the last fifteen years. The zombie theme pops up here and again, notably in the lyric to "Dia de los Muertos" and, in the video at least, for "One More Time:"

The most remarkable aspect of Infected has to be the production: it's a large sound, immediate and vibrant. Credited to Norgren and fellow guitarist Oscar Dronjak, James Michael is also credited as co-producer and mixer.  Currently a member of Sixx:A.M., Michael also produced the Scorpions' blisteringly good latter-era masterpiece, Humanity: Hour I and has written several songs for Meat Loaf, so he knows more than a little about a big rock sound.

If Infected has a major fault to be found, it has to be the faux-live "Let's Get it On." Not an altogether horrible number, it nonetheless interrupts the record's flow with its fake crowd noise intro and shouted, brainless chorus of get - it - on...come on!...let's get - it - on... To be honest, this is about the level of material I would expect from Def Leppard on their ready-made-for-Wal-Mart product nowadays. "Redemption" is a strong close, though, with mighty, swirling keyboards and majestic riffs announcing this album's seven-minute epic which ultimately ends Infected quietly, whittled to the sound of a single harpsichord in its last minute which finally, abruptly, seems to stop mid-bar.

All in all, Infected is a good Hammerfall album. It's been noted elsewhere - and I agree - that Infected could have been a great Hammerfall EP ("Patient Zero," "One More Time," "Dia de los Muertos" and "Redemption" and/or maybe another zombie song, please). It suffers from a little too much filler and a theme that really isn't a theme (only two songs on zombies, guys?) and while it could have been a grand, new chapter for the band it really settles in as more of the same. It's a great first listen that, upon repeated visits, turns out to be only good.  Or maybe I've just built up an immunity.

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