|Hammerforce - 'Access Denied' (Metalism Records)|
|Written by Michael Anthony|
|Monday, 07 October 2013 03:20|
'Access Denied' is the second album from Russian band Hammerforce, who describe their music as power/progressive synth-driven metal. It’s the prominence of the keyboards that gives them their distinctive character and their music a rich, layered, symphonic feel.
Do not for a moment, though, imagine that Hammerforce are destined for a mid-bill slot at your favourite AOR festival. 'Access Denied' rocks hard and fast and is happy to break a few rules. As strong as the synths are, they do not eclipse Alexander Zhuchihin’s thunderous drumming or the vocal histrionics of Dmitriy Yanovskiy. For the most part, the mix also gives the guitars plenty of room to breathe – the album is not without its share of impressive solos, for example, courtesy of Ilya Kapralov and Ilya Mamaev. Imagine a more synth-led Dragonforce, and you’re not far off. (Fans of Maiden, Priest and Rainbow will be delighted at the influence those bands continue to have on European metal.)
Opener ‘I Am I’ drives straight to the heart of the matter, and across the album’s 9 core tracks there’s virtually no let-up. It rattles along at a breathtaking pace, with occasional tempo changes and daring hair-pin turns keeping things interesting.
Some personal highlights: ‘Wasted’ features some cool and melodic Maiden-esque riffing. ‘Mass Media’ kicks off with a nice synth riff, and also features some ripping guitar work, big culturally-tinged synth chords and a dramatic, roboticised spoken section. ‘Earth is on Trial’ features exceptional keyboard and guitar solos and has strong echoes of Rainbow at their most frenetic. Instrumental ‘Reflections’ adds a bit of variety and, in the context of the album, does what it says on the tin.
The lyrics on 'Access Denied' are “devoted to modern social problems,” and there is a clear intent to “make people think more about their lives.” “Why to sing about dragons or devil,” say the band, “when you can focus your efforts on helping real world to get better.” Quite, and well said. (Though in that light ‘No Place for the Old Men’ demands a closer look. I’m not getting any younger you know.) Bonus versions of ‘Wasted’ and ‘No Place for the Old Men’ are included with Russian titles and Russian lyrics - a nice touch.
'Access Denied' is a good, strong album. It’s also a real team effort, with several of the musicians doubling up across instruments. Ilya Kapralov, for example, contributes guitars (plural) and bass, while Nikita Merzlyakov is credited not just with synths and rhythm guitars, but also with production, mixing, mastering and band management.
Work on a follow-up has, it seems, already begun and I, for one, will look forward to hearing more from the band. May the (Hammer)force be with you!