Access Granted

"Dragons". Now that's out of the way, here's a band from Russia who play frantic, blistering power metal with more enthusiasm than a classroom full of kids with ADD, and there are no fantasy references in sight.

Not that the inclusion of certain stereotyped themes is necessarily a bad thing within the genre, but it appears to be a regular deterrent for the fence sitters. Hammerforce, in many ways, are a breath of fire, sorry, fresh air, within the power metal world. Their logo might reek of bargain bin fodder, but their music is far from it.

I Am I enters with a wash of symphonic synth and retro video game effects, and the frantic pace introduced from the off rarely wavers. Mass Media and Access Denied are definite winners in the no-holds-barred stakes and raise the energy levels to even loftier heights; the snare drum pounding upon every riff-caked beat amidst trance synths to create what would surely provide rollercoaster junkies with a salivating spin soundtrack.

At their best, Hammerforce are unwavering and resolute, delivering some of the most energetic power metal you're likely to hear this year, relentlessly bolstering their sound with uncharacteristic-yet-effective trance that becomes an integral part of their sound and identity, rather than any kind of half-baked attempt at experimentation. Wasted and Earth Is On Trial show off their songwriting ambition and progressive leanings, whilst instrumental penultimate number Reflections starts off with an acoustic whisper before launching into a electronic power metal powerhouse once again.

Access Denied checks every box I can think of when it comes to power metal; an animated, fast-paced ride with no ballad breaks or self-indulgent melodrama. The songwriting is solid, the vocals are equally strong, and the guitar and keyboard solos are sure to raise a satisfying grin. Hammerforce stand as ambassadors for the future of a genre that is far from expired; this is unadulterated power metal in its purest form; hard-hitting, ballsy and, most importantly of all, great fun to listen to. The retro keyboard synths combined with the consistently full-throttle pace might be a bit too much for some, but at least there's never a dull moment.

Despite what Hammerforce may sound like on paper, there are no gimmicks here. This is recklessly fun and energetic power metal with a twist, created by some incredibly talented musicians and songwriters. They might not be world-beaters, but they've certainly got the potential to become a dominating force within the genre.