HAMMERFALL - Big Apple Smashed By The Hammer!

April 26, 2017, 7 months ago

Mark Gromen

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A far cry from this summer's European festival dates, which will see the Swedish institution (single-handedly created with the late ‘90s return of traditional metal) air their Glory To The Brave album, in its entirety. As part of a dual headlining package, with newcomers Delain (the Hammers going on first, so get there early!) Oscar Dronjak and Co. are celebrating two decades with a career retrospective that hits all the high points. In fact, just three tunes off last fall's Built To Last are included.

Sparse stage, no drum riser, lots of room for the band to roam, which they do frequently, especially Dronjak, the lanky, blonde "kid at heart" founder/guitarist. As always, partner in (musical) crime, Joacim Cans, in white vest (3 red stars either side of the zipper), looked healthy (lost weight), with salt & pepper beard, manipulating the adoring crowd throughout. "Hector's Hymn" is a welcoming blow to the packed Stage 48 floor, followed by slower "Riders Of The Storm", which sees Dronjak and guitarist Pontus Norgren criss-crossing the stage. Switching on and off throughout the night, Dronjak wielded a squared-off guitar, shaped like the hammer (band mascot) Hector sports on the '97 debut. The affable Swede Dronjak was a veritable clothes horse, switching shirts three times, before ending the night bare-chested! 

"Blood Bound" and "Any Means Necessary" fly by. Like most of the others, "Renegade" is almost entirely sun by the fans, a bit of reality karaoke. A kneeling Cans jokes around with the tall guitarist. Newbie "Dethrone And Defy" sees the six-string tandem invade Norgren's (right) side of the stage. Dronjak frequently takes a wide stance (or maybe it's just those splayed rail legs). During "Last Man Standing", he temporarily disappears through the stage door (visible to all). His third shirt is a sleeveless number. Cans asks "How many people are seeing us for the first time," cue a (somewhat surprising) huge response, although all the raised hands prompted the singer to joke, "We're not in school, so you don't have to (mimics outstretched arm)." 

"Let The Hammer Fall" is greeted like the old friend it is. White lights sweep the stage as the audience adds their collective voice to the titular chorus. "Built To Last" gives way to a medley of Glory To The Brave tracks, the night's highlight. Beginning with Pontus under green lights, laying down a Yngwie Malmsteen inspired (aren't all Swedish guitar players?) flourish for "Stone Cold", as Cans had the assembly singing the "oh, oh" emphasis. The guitars met, center stage, as the music takes on a vibrancy missing from some of the later material. Witness the pumping "Dragon Lies Bleeding". 

Now striped to the waist, Oscar begins "Hammer High", with Cans center stage, fist overhead. By the end, he's singing a cappella. Lots of old timers in attendance tonight, including longtime Roadrunner Records exec Monte Connor. "Heart On Fire" ends the evening, Oscar still employing the synchronized stage movements. Got the feeling they could have played another hour, if permitted. Guys just like to play metal. 

No offense to others on the bill, but once Hammerfall were done, a large portion of the crowd headed for the door. The Metal Age might be a little older, but there's still plenty of childlike enjoyment in the music, both sides of the barricade.

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