Hammerfall was formed in 1993 as the heavy metal side project of Jesper Stromblad and Oscar Dronjac. Dark Tranquillity’s vocalist Mikael Stanne and guitarist Nicke Sundin initially completed the line-up. Stanne withdrew from the band three years later due to availability issues and his commitment to his main act. His replacement, Cans, had not only spent time in multiple Swedish bands, but also spent time in the USA receiving singing lessons. With the main members increasingly concentrating on Hammerfall, due to the dissolution their other bands and the rise of metal in Europe, the band eventually signed with the Dutch Vic Records for an album. The label, in turn, sells the rights to the album, entitled Glory To The Brave, to the hitherto hardcore and death metal label Nuclear Blast which with new A&R point men was on the lookout for more commercial bands. Glory To The Brave would not disappoint. Striking a chord with heavy metal fans, the anthemic album went on to sell 70,000 copies. Hammerfall supported the album by playing an approximate seventy shows in the coming year. The album boasted backing vocals from future Dream Evil singer Niklas Isfeldt.
The band supported Tank and Raven in Europe. More dates with Gamma Ray followed. With the full support of Nuclear Blast now behind it, Hammerfall appeared at the Bang Your Head festival in the summer of 1997.
Legacy Of Kings followed a year later, essentially presenting more of the same winning formula. Long out of the band, Stromblad nonetheless continued penning material for Hammerfall here. The Swedes graced the stage at Dynamo and With Full Force festivals coming out glorious once again. Relocating momentarily from Gothenburg to Tennessee, the hard-line metallers sought out Accept/Ozzy Osbourne producer Michael Wagner for the recording of Renegade. The members had earlier disagreed with Nuclear Blast's other candidates to produce the album. Renegade saw the introduction of Anders Johansson as the band's new drummer. The result was more from the well of formula. At a record launch party in Paris, the members were faced, for the first time, with questions regarding the freshness of the band's material. The album, regardless, went on to sell well. With Nuclear Blast's support continuing, the band toured worldwide. It was later announced that the band's tour manager had been killed under mysterious circumstances!
With Renegade's formula not being the band's best received, the Swedes recorded album number four in Spain at Helloween singer Andi Deris' studio under the care of Blind Guardian producer Charlie Bauerfiend.
Shockingly, and before the album's release, in late 2002 Joacim Cans would suffer face injuries at a bar in Gothenburg reportedly when a black metal fanatic would attack the man in the presence of his girlfriend and band-mates. A video shoot just days later would continue, nonetheless, with the singer utilizing heavy make-up to mask the injury. Hammerfall would support Dio in North America and take the aforementioned Dream Evil, as well as Masterplan on the road in Europe. More dates with Nocturnal Rites followed in Japan. The band then hit South America, which were followed by a number of European festivals for the summer of 2003. Hammerfall is in the habit of covering songs by its heroes, namely Warlord, Accept, Helloween and many others. The band has become the focal point for a whole power metal movement in Europe. In late 2002 Cans would become the singer for a reformed Warlord. The influenced were now acting as influencers.
Hammerfall announced a live album for the autumn of 2003. In the meanwhile, the band had to cancel all previously announced summer dates after guitarist Oscar Dronjak crashed his motorcycle and was rushed to the hospital on Sunday August 10th.
The band reported that it had lost the approximately $45,000, proceeds from the band's latest USA tour, in one trek. Apparently, a tour employee managed to get away with the cash, which was earned through ticket and merchandise sales.
In late 2003/early 2004 drummer Anders Johansson was involved in a Stratovarius soap opera after initially agreeing to record with the Finnish band and later backtracking when faced with opposition from his Hammerfall band-mates and becoming embroiled in on-going commentary and differences with the Stratovarius camp. Joacim Cans signed a solo deal with Sanctuary Records. Beginning October 10th Magnus Rosèn began a solo bass tour hitting Sweden, Germany, England and South America. The South American dates were reportedly not for profit as all the revenue was to be donated to homeless children. In the meanwhile, the band decamped to Denmark in order to begin work on a new album. The band's 2006 market, entitled Threshold, hit the market in October. The group then extended its contract with Nuclear Blast Records for another six albums. The band lost its bassist Magnus Rosen however following the man's decision to concentrate on his own projects and creative processes. Rosen's replacement was former bassist Larsson. The group issued a compilation called Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years Of Glory on October 12th, 2007. The CD featured three new songs despite a cover sticker proclaiming only two! Guitarist Stefan Elmgren quit in 2008 in order to concentrate on his career as a pilot. Pontus Norgren (of Talisman and Great King Rat) had replaced him. Hammerfall’s album, No Sacrifice, No Victory, was out in March of 2009 through Nuclear Blast. Full Force was the name of a new band in 2009 featuring singer Mike Andersson (Silent Memorial, Cloudscape and Planet Alliance), guitarist Stefan Elmgren (Hammerfall) and bassist Magnus Rosén (Hammerfall and X-World/5). Current Hammerfall drummer Anders Johansson has also joined! The band had a demo. Echoes Of Eternity/Powerglove and Hammerfall were touring the USA in March and April of 2010. Echoes Of Eternity would take over for the second leg of the tour. After performing at the Sonisphere festival in Stockholm on August 7th, 2010 Hammerfall performed at the after party at Pub Anchor in Stockholm later that night. The band was working on a new album. The band released its eighth studio album, entitled Infected on May 20th of 2011 in Europe and on June 7th in North America. After laying down the foundation themselves in its own studio in Sweden, the band traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to put on the finishing touches on the album with producer James Michael (Mötley Crüe, Scorpions and Meat Loaf) who also mixed the album. Riot and Amaranthe would be the openers on the first leg of shows on Hammerfall’s October/November European Outbreak 2011 tour. Due to singer Tony Moore's unexpected dental surgery, Riot cancelled its support tour of Hammerfall in Europe. Hammerfall, which was booked for several festival appearances in the summer of 2012, announced it was taking the entire 2013 off. The band wanted to recharge its batteries and be back in 2014. Swedish heavy metal band Hammerfall would release a concert DVD/2CD package called, Gates Of Dalhalla, on November 30th through Nuclear Blast. The album featured the band's 135-minute 15th-anniversary show that took place on July 28. After taking time off in 2013 Hammerfall’s new album, (r)Evolution, will be released on August 29th, 2014 through Nuclear Blast. Hammerfall’s (r)Evolution album landed at position number 1 in Germany. It was also charting elsewhere in Europe. In the autumn of 2014, David Wallin of Pain replaced Anders Johansson in Hammerfall. Moreover, since bassist Fredrik Larsson was becoming a father again he was temporarily giving his place to former guitar player Stefan Elmgren. The NHL team Minnesota Wild announced that for its home games in St. Paul, Minnesota, they would be using Hammerfall’s song Fury Of The Wild. In late 2015, Brazilian female-fronted band Shadowside announced the addition of Swedish bassist Magnus Rosén to the group's ranks. Hammerfall released its next album, Built To Last, on November 4th through Austria's Napalm Records. Hammerfall lost another drummer to the very corporate “family life” and replaced him with former Therion man Johan Koleberg in late 2016.
HAMMERFALL - GLORY TO THE BRAVE - VIC/NUCLEAR BLAST
Germany's Nuclear Blast, in a surprising move, has removed itself from its long aversion to heavy and speed metal and signed Sweden's Hammerfall which makes no bones about its pure speed/heavy metal style. It must be the new A&R guy at Nuclear Blast who has asserted himself. The move perhaps is not as surprising given the label's reminder that the band was licensed through the advice of the label's current darlings In Flames. It is also self-evident that with Andy Siry doing A&R at the label grindcore won't exactly be the label's priority but I digress. Hammerfall is a very classy and talented band which is on the German charts for a reason. The mixture of strong vocals by Joacim Cans (who has had training at the vocal Institute in California), vibrant guitar dynamics (partially by Oscar of Crystal Age and Ceremonial Oath fame) and a clear sound make Glory To The Brave a powerful speed metal release the likes of which even Gamma Ray and Helloween cannot match. While a song like Steel Meets Steel comes out swinging with its early Queensryche-meets-Iron Maiden sound, the next track Stone Cold (featuring a fake live clip a la Helloween or Dio) showcases the strong multi-layered vocals. There are a couple of very commercial ballads and it is hence that Nuclear Blast has seen the green and has already prepared at least two other heavy metal releases for us. In the meanwhile, fans of King Diamond, Helloween, Queensrÿche and Manowar Iyricisms should waste little time In obtaining this album. - Ali "The Metallian"
HAMMERFALL - CRIMSON THUNDER - NUCLEAR BLAST
Crimson Thunder is Hammerfall's fourth album and the follow-up to the mildly-received Renegade. With reigning consensus being that Renegade had marked a point of stagnation for the band, the Swedish speed metal quintet has tweaked its approach here.
Fans do not have a cause for worry though. Crimson Thunder is still true to the band's original ideals. What they have done is enter, for the first time, Mi Sueno Studio with Blind Guardian producer Charlie Bauerfeind. The result is an album that undertakes a more controlled approach than had perhaps been the case in the past. The album booms out of the speakers with a patented Accept riff and it does not take long for the headbanger to notice that both the vocals and the music are slightly less extravagant and more compact than had been the case in the past. Hearts On Fire is probably the album's Coups de Grace with its catchy and infectious chorus. This one is the band's self-referential song and has guitars all over the place. On The Edge Of Honour is more reminiscent of the band's debut album Glory To The Brave, while Dreams Come True is a ballad. In Memoriam is an instrumental and the band has also deemed it necessary to record and include even more cover versions on the album. That particular idiotic trend is beyond silly by now of course.
If one criticism is to be levelled at the band's sound it would have to be how the rhythm guitar all but disappears during the faster passages. One only hears vocals and drums at those points. All in all though, Crimson Thunder has strong melodies, potent vocals, clear sound and is not so much a deviation for the band, per previous reports, as another successful saga in the band's adventures through the grand kingdom of metal - Ali "The Metallian"
HAMMERFALL - ONE CRIMSON NIGHT - NUCLEAR BLAST
No one has explained the significance of the colour 'crimson' to Hammerfall for this here writer. Nevertheless, the Swedish metal demigods follow up their late 2002 album Crimson Thunder with a double live album and video release called One Crimson Night.
The album is recorded mostly in front of a homeland audience and features the band's many good and many other songs. The playing is impressive and the vocals of Joacim Cans are equally evocative. Obviously the band's better songs - Hero's Return, Legacy Of Kings, Crimson Thunder, etc. - are the highlights of this CD. Unfortunately to get to these the listener has to sit through the band's weaker numbers and also endure several other miscellaneous material. Chief among these is the Swedish rap between the songs. As much as anyone with brains appreciates the country of Sweden, understands Hammerfall's proud display of the Swedish flag and desire to communicate with its countrymen in its native tongue, the constant banter is insincere in two ways. Firstly, Hammerfall can not truth-be-told be too proud a Swedish band. After all, the band's name, titles, lyrics, label, distributors, hell even bus driver are non-Swedes. Secondly, for an international audience to be subjected to the meaningless monologue is illogical. Then there are the less than amusing bass and guitar solos. Although, these are lesser issues and supposedly go with the arena rock atmosphere and sensibilities. In short, a one-CD set would have been better. It would have forced the quintet to omit the solos, speeches and the songs from the Renegade album.
All in all, Hammerfall is a good band with a heart which is set firmly in the right place. Nevertheless, releasing a live album in the age of video and peppering it with less-than-impressive miscellanea is another matter. - Ali "The Metallian"
HAMMERFALL - CHAPTER V: UNBENT, UNBOWED, UNBROKEN - NUCLEAR BLAST
Hammerfall is very much a love-it-or-hate-it band. The heavy metal of the Swedes can be repetitive to some and not offer anything new from one album to the next, except for the die-hard fan. On Chapter V the difference between the opener Secrets and what follows it, like Blood Bound and Fury Of The Wind, is basically only slight variations in style that take the listener from the likes of Manowar and Helloween to Judas Priest or Stratovarius, to name just a few bands. The sound is familiar to many and Hammer Of Justice, Never, Ever, Born To Rule and the rest don't really ambush anyone. The twelve minute closer Knights Of The 21st Century features Venom's Cronos contributing his vocals in what is in many ways the polar opposite of Joacim Cans' voice. Overall Hammerfall remains a fairly consistent heavy metal band, and that is almost always a good thing. - Anna Tergel
HAMMERFALL - THRESHOLD - NUCLEAR BLAST
For better or worse Hammerfall has become power metal's answer to Man-o-war, AC/DC or Motörhead. The album titles might change, the years might come and go and Hammerfall is tried and true, never changing its sound or stance. More power to the band. One cannot fault a dedication to true classic heavy metal.
Nevertheless, if a band is going to make Bolt Thrower sound varied and varying the quality of the songs must be high. This is not the case with Threshold. While the album, in typical Hammerfall fashion, is devoid of outright terrible songs, the ensemble here is below average and has a distinct by-the-numbers feel. The band is going through the motions, and with a couple of exceptions, churning out predictable songs with the usual themes and patterns.
Shadow Empire gives the band a self-referencing name check to hammer the point home, although there was hardly a need. Titan is a good example of this review's theme. The song is dull and goes nowhere. Genocide is, at least, based on a Classical theme and features a good lead, while Reign Of The Hammer finally shows some speed. The song also throws in the band's standard mention of "crimson" this and that. The backing vocals are obviously inspired by Accept. Dark Wings, Dark Words is a slow song with next to no emotion and a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu as the band goes through the motions. Rebel Inside ironically rips off a Def Leppard solo, while Natural High is almost adventurous in comparison to the rest of the album given its catchy refrain and melody.
Hammerfall has the potential to release more great albums, and has been of service to the heavy metal cause with its conviction and blue-blooded approach. Threshold though will go down as one of the band's weaker moments and soon be a footnote analogous to 2000's Renegade album.
As for the label's stupid "anti-piracy" voice-overs, there is little one can say other than recall how any industry or company that inconveniences its clientele or customers - in this case the media - will sooner or later pay the price. Of course, that is what the music industry does best: it acts as a cancer to itself. - Ali "The Metallian"
HAMMERFALL - STEEL MEETS STEEL - TEN YEARS OF GLORY - NUCLEAR BLAST
Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years Of Glory is a compilation of Hammerfall’s music representing each of the band’s six albums thus far and a couple of new songs and live tracks. As far as compilations go one can safely assign them to the 'contract fulfillment' category and move on. Most bigger labels insert language in their bands' contracts stipulating a live album and a compilation thus elongating the band’s years with the label and number of releases issued. These being of little value to the fans, compilations are regularly recommended either to diehard fans or newcomers who have not heard the group before. Both categories apply here.
Corporate contracts and albums being what they are the appropriately named Steel Meets Steel features two short introductions in its pages. The first is written by Götz Kühnemund of Rock Hard magazine, while the second is written by Andreas Schöwe of Metal Hammer Germany. Leaving Andreas alone - as by the time this review appears online the trend might have changed and the magazine might either have a new 'rock' name or be covering bluegrass or whatever - the text by Goetz, whose specialty has been pushing hard against new bands, promoting mallcore, Böhse Onkelz or mocking extreme forms of metals is especially telling. Forgetting that he is writing in English and thus capitalizing everything, good ol’ uncle Goetz gets amnesia and forgets his own promotion of alt rock and grunge in the '90s. Writing on behalf of Nuclear Blast Records, he also omits the name of Hammerfall’s first label (Vic Records) and rambles on corporate style. The band itself is thankfully not so obtuse and mentions Vic first in its thanks list.
The album though is full of Hammerfall hits, which is an appropriate way to describe the Swedes’ songs. With their simple and catchy nature and sing-along style the group has managed to corner the anthem metal market and to good effect. One can argue with the choice of tracks here and there - especially as regard to the Crimson Thunder album - but more important are the newer songs. The Metal Age and Stone Cold are represented live from 1998 in a fantastically raw form. The Abyss is a song written for a Swedish hockey team, while Hammerfall v2.0.07 is the newer version of the same. That leaves the two new songs Last Man Standing and Restless Soul. Ironically, while the former is lackluster and pedestrian, it is the latter which hits the spot despite being a semi-ballad. In fact, Restless Soul has a substantive guitar lead, which is quintessentially metal.
Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years Of Glory is both an accident of legal formality and an exercise in self-congratulation. Having said that, one expects no less from Hammerfall and does feature the band’s patented up-tempo metal stylings which everyone needs to experience at least once. - Ali “The Metallian”
The release of a new album, entitled Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, by heavy metal band Hammerfall is the impetus for several questions. Is the album any different, better or worse than its predecessors, why is the album called Chapter five, will the fans continuously embrace the metal purists, how serious is the band, etc. ensconced in the chamber of words high in Metallian Towers, Ali "The Metallian" spent part of a warm spring afternoon accepting a call from the band's friendly drummer Anders Johansson - the band is completed by singer Joacim Cans, guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Stefan Elmgren and bassist Magnus Rosén - who turned out to be unaffected, untutored and unperturbed. - 16.04.2005
METALLIAN: Anders, can you describe the band's mentality as you entered the studio to record the new album?
ANDERS: I was not the new guy and, unlike with the last album, I knew what was going to happen this time. This time everything was secure and I knew what was going to happen, I think. I was wondering which drums to use! We were recording somehow close to home and I brought two drum kits. I didn't try to play strange fills and so forth. I tried to be a team-player this time. I always thought I should play a fill here and something else there. This time I just played what they told me. It worked out because it is more song-oriented. They always had to tell me, but this time I did it voluntarily.
The band usually wants the simplest drumming possible. They don't dictate the fills because they don't know fills, but they want simplicity. There was one time in the studio when it was Oscar and I in the room and he went out to play football with a dog and I thought 'this is my chance to play something a little more complex.' It was for the song Secrets. He didn't say anything when he came back. He just said that it is cool. We have this thing that if Oscar can't play air drums to it then it's too complicated. He is a fan and if he likes it then everyone else will like it.
Oscar is wild. He is very physical. He jumps everywhere and...
METALLIAN: He is like a little child...
ANDERS:...yes, I didn't want to say that, but it is true. I have two kids myself - they are nine and eleven - and they find it strange sometimes too. They say, "Anders is like us. He is a child." Oscar is definitely their favourite band member.
METALLIAN: Going back to the drums...
ANDERS: I am endorsed by Premier drums. My cymbals are Meinl from Germany. In the studio I have an old Pearl drum kit that I like. It is from twenty years ago. It sounds better than other drum kits. I use the premier drums live. My snare drum is Pearl though. It is a habit. I am also worried because I tried to use the Premier snare drums, and recently it is getting better, but the sounds are different and I like my old ones better. I have Premier because our manager is a drummer. He used to drum for Running Wild and he used them. He set me up with premier and got me a deal.
METALLIAN: Stylistically, the band's approach is similar from album to album and from song to song. Is it the band's conscious decision to stick to what the fans want and respect?
ANDERS: One guy writes all the songs, namely Oscar. He wrote all the songs and gave us CDs played with drum machines on the songs. We went to rehearsals and played for no more than two hours and went into the studio to record. We more or less played what he wanted. I changed a little bit here and there, but not that much. In the beginning I was not so happy with it. I thought it was annoying. As the band gets bigger and bigger I thought to myself that it is strange, but people like this stuff. They buy the albums and I am not going to complain. The band is doing something right. In the end, Hammerfall is not a platform for people to show that they are good musicians or not. It is song-oriented. It is a heavy metal band. I am used to being in bands like Yngwie Malmsteen where musicians can like the music, but Hammerfall is more like rock music stars. They are not rock stars, but you know what I mean.
METALLIAN: This is not exactly the band's fifth album.
ANDERS: I think it is. I think it's the fifth studio album. There has been mini-albums and live albums, but this is the fifth real album. It must be otherwise it is a major fuck up! The live album One Crimson Night does not count.
The title refers to how you should not do what people tell you. Listen and believe in yourself. Hammerfall does not feel broken from people who said heavy metal is out. Now Hammerfall is one of the biggest bands in Sweden. The band members must have heard people saying they won't go far. I personally have not heard it. People sometimes ask me why I am playing with these guys. People know that I also play other music as well like with Yngwie Malmsteen or fusion or jazz. They think it is strange that I am in Hammerfall. I like heavy metal. It is also a good job.
METALLIAN: Is each and every song on the album self-referencing? The album's title and songs like Blood bound, Born To Rule, Knights Of The 21st Century and others seem to corroborate the notion.
ANDERS: Yes, it is true. I know that they also want to use words like 'hammer' and 'templar' on every album. I don't really know about each and every song though. Blood Bound is about heavy metal people in general. it is our Denim And Leather. I don't know what Imperial is about. Maybe it's about Star Wars. Who knows? Hammer Of Justice is probably there so they can have the word 'hammer' and I don't know about others. Take The Black is from some book somewhere. Knights Of The 21st Century features Cronos. He recorded his part at home and e-mailed it to us. None of us met Cronos. I didn't even know he will be on the album. I played my drums and went home. The band was there for five weeks. Later on we had a listening session and they played the song and I had no idea Cronos was on there! I thought it was Oscar at first growling. Oscar sounds like that when he gets drunk. We played live and Oscar sang some of those Cronos parts. That was funny. I am not really used to those vocals. The producer Charlie Bauerfiend had worked with Cronos before and contacted him. The producer probably told Cronos to sing here and not sing there. It was all done over e-mail.
METALLIAN: Speaking of the producer, the band worked with Charlie Bauerfiend again. Yet, you decided to try a new studio. The sound on the new album is not as big or heavy as the one on Crimson Thunder.
ANDERS: I don't really know. I have not compared them. I thought there was too much backing vocals. The studio was chosen so everybody can be in one place. Last time around we used a number of different studios. Who knows? I know that Renegade had a strange sound. There was little drums on that. At least, the drums are louder now. I haven't heard the album that much. I just listened to Crimson Thunder too because we have to play it live again. We have been working on not speeding up the tempo of the songs live. The better the musician becomes the more close the song becomes to the studio version. Oscar becomes excited sometimes and freaks out with the tempo. We are much better these days. We sound pretty bad sometimes, but last time was pretty good I must say. One Crimson Night was a half-assed show. This happens all the time. The day before recording a live album the sound is good. The day after it is really good. When you are recording people think about it too much. People are also tired, stressed and giving interviews earlier and that does not help.
METALLIAN: What is coming up next for the band?
ANDERS: We are going to do a long tour next. We will be doing shows in Germany and in Sweden. Then we go to Japan, Central America and South America. We will play North America for three weeks with Edguy. The tour begins August tenth. We will have a big show with pyros and an iceberg and stuff. Although things will be smaller in America. It will be the best stuff so far.
It really does not get much more pure in heavy metal than Hammerfall and Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken is not about to change that thankfully. As Anders said, the band is playing all over the world in the coming year so fans will have the chance to check it out up close. For more information visit www.hammerfall.net.