A diluted best of...

Is there any more of a pointless album than a best of...? Who buys them? They add nothing of value to a band's discography and tend to be put together by a Monk who has been sealed in an empty vat for over 50 years. They're usually Christmas fodder for Grans and Aunties to buy thinking "Pete likes all that heavy metal so he'll like the 'Best of Meatloaf". Best of...discs are all subjective of course, but they tend to include a couple of token tracks from every album no matter how dire the album maybe. This tactic doesn't make for a Best of... in fact the opposite is true in some cases, and only sets to infuriate the fans. Metal fans are extremely devoted and tend to buy everything a band has done and this includes buying albums of this nature. In my experience they get one spin before being added to the collection unless they have a few extra bonus features added to them, which is what we have with HammerFall's 'Steel Meets Steel (Ten Years Of Glory)'.

One can't deny the legacy of HammerFall, they're perhaps one of the most prolific bands, in terms of official releases, around at the moment. I would go as far as saying they're far bigger in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe than the rest of the world. Their version of no frills power/classic metal is perhaps a little too generic for UK and USA markets. For those unaware of HammerFall, they can hold their Hammers high with the likes of Sonata Arctica, Dream Evil and, on occasions, even Helloween themselves. 'Steel Meets Steel' is two discs worth of HammerFall cheese coupled with 3 new songs, a re-recorded version of 'HammerFall' and two live bonus tracks from 1998. A fair selection of bonus material it could be said, but is it enough for the HammerFall fan to fork out for the extras plus a collection of songs he/she already owns?

The first 'new' song, 'The Abyss' is a two-minute instrumental used as an intro theme for Swedish Ice Hockey team Mora IK (what a treat). 'Last Man Standing' is a slow-ish stomping tune that fails to excite but nor does it disappoint. The new version of 'HammerFall' is excellent as is the last new track 'Restless Soul' and what a powerful anthem it turns out to be. The two 1998 live cuts are well produced and sound like something done in a studio but with a little more reverb on the vocals. (There's also an MPEG of HammerFall as well but for some reason it wouldn't work on my PC)

There are some great tunes on both disks, 'The Dragon Lies Bleeding', 'Let The Hammer Fall' and the fist pumping 'Riders Of The Storm' litter disc one. Whereas disc two contain the excellent 'Hearts On Fire', 'Fury Of The Wild' and 'Crimson Thunder'. Sadly the likes of the woeful ballad 'Glory To The Brave' and 'Always Will Be' mix on disc 1 with the ordinary 'At The End Of The Rainbow' and unspectacular 'Renegade'. The second CD fares slightly better however 'The Fire Burns Forever' and 'Never, Ever' seem to drag out this collection a little longer than it should.

HammerFall have never managed to swoon me musically speaking, and this collection has done little to sway me from that fact. There are some excellent moments even if they are Judas Priest and Helloween hand-me-downs. I feel this collection would be a lot stronger had it been one disc of their best of and a 2nd CD containing the bonus material. For the metal fan looking to check out HammerFall then 'Steel Meets Steel' is perhaps a decent place to start, but I think there's more to be said for getting advice from power metal forums about where to begin with this band. It's a collection for the hardcore to purchase and file away after making their own Best of... compilation.

Release date 15th October 2007