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Hammerfall – Live! Against the World

Hammerfall
Live! Against the World
by Eric Poulin at 01 December 2020, 7:23 AM

HAMMERFALL is a power metal based out of Gothenburg, Sweden and who have been around since 1993. This is their latest full-length double cd live album entitled “Live! Against the World” which was released through Napalm Records on October 23rd, 2020.

My history with this band goes very far as I discovered them right after their first album came out “Glory to the Brave” and while I know many people who do not consider the band a major innovative player in the power metal genre, they were one of the first bands I heard playing this style music, along side BLIND GUARDIAN, HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY and IRON SAVIOR. To be fair, I have loosely followed their later material, while hearing a few singles here and there so this live recording also allowed me to discover some of their more recent songs, as well as hearing some classic tracks from their early days in a live setting.

The double cd album clocks in at a bit under 2 hours and covers pretty much the entire history of the band. There are some licks from their 2019 album “Dominion” including the opener “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, that opens with a symphonic intro and tolling bells with Joacim Cans introducing the band, before the band goes into full-blown power / hard rock mode. The thing that really struck me is how strong Cans’ vocals are. Since I have never seen the band in concert, nor have I listened to any of their other live recordings, I was impressed by his skills. Some slower parts of the song are a nice tribute to the glory days of JUDAS PRIEST.

It is followed by “One Against the World” (also from the latest record) is a much slower and heavier number and shows how the band does not always need to go into overdrive to show off their musical skills. “Dominion”, “Second to One”, the rather comically titled “(We Make) Sweden Rock” (which is exactly what the band have been performing for over 2 decades) make up the new songs the band decided to include in their setlist.

It was nice to hear one of their early singles in “Heeding the Call”, a song I enjoyed singing quite a bit in my power metal phase. The chorus is perfectly performed here, with the back vocals fitting in nicely and the band manages to transpose the energy from the studio song to the live stage. A nice inclusion here is the “Renegade” portion, which includes a medley from that album, as well as “Keep the Flame Burning“, but they also play “The Way of the Warrior”, a more mid-tempo piece (if you exclude the shredding parts), but one that embodies the band’s perseverance over 23 years as Joacim Cans astutely points out to the crowd. Hard to believe that album was released 20 years ago, but the band does a great job with those songs here.

You get some tracks from 2009’s “No Sacrifice, No Victory” such as “Any Means Necessary” and “Hallowed Be My Name” which have more of a hard rock edge and while I am not familiar with the original versions, these are definitely delivered with a lot passion and commitment. The latter being one of Joacim’s personal favorites from their back catalogue. To a certain extend I find the song has that heavy DIO side to it and seems to fit well here (ironically the band do not usually play this one live). The somewhat IRON MAIDEN influenced “Blood Bound”  from 2005’s “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” with its catchy chorus and chugging guitars is a surprisingly strong point here (I do recall that album being well appreciated by the band’s fans after a few disappointing releases).

You get the final track “Redemption” which is a rather heavy / dark symphonic 7-minute epic from the “Infected” album, and this is what I wish the band tapped into a bit more. They are very capable of having energy and emotion in songs that are much slower in tempo. They also have the ability and creativity to control the buildup in its structure.

Obviously being a fan of their first 2 records, I highly appreciated the addition of “The Dragon Lies Bleeding”, “Let the Hammer Fall”, 2 songs that were instrumental in my discovery of this band, as well as the genre itself 20 years ago. I find a song like “Hector's Hymn” (released back in 2014) captures the essence of the band’s early days and meshes well with their older tracks. The highly melodic “Natural High” from 2006’s “Threshold” album is covered in JUDAS PRIEST flavors and packs a nice punch.

Considering this was the first time I have ever listened to a full live album from these guys, I was heavily impressed by their musicianship these guys show 23 years into their musical career. Joacim Cans is a good front man and knows how to add a little bit of humor before introducing the songs to the audience. It was nice to see the band add a fair dose of nostalgia into the set, with the 20th anniversary of the “Renegade” cd and I found that the medley was one of the greater parts of this live set. The production is on point and the sound really is amazing, so if you are in dire need of some high energy power metal, this one should meet your standards.

Songwriting:  8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Never Forgive, Never Forget
2. One Against the World
3. Heeding the Call
4. The Way of the Warrior
5. Any Means Necessary
6. Hallowed Be My Name
7. Blood Bound
8. Redemption
9. Hector's Hymn
10. Natural High
11. Second to One
12. Renegade Medley
13. Keep the Flame Burning
14. Dominion
15. The Dragon Lies Bleeding
16. Last Man Standing
17. Let the Hammer Fall
18. Hammer High
19.(We Make) Sweden Rock
20. Hearts on Fire
Lineup:
Oscar Dronjak - Guitars
Fredrik Larsson  - Bass
Joacim Cans - Vocals
Pontus Norgren - Guitars
David Wallin - Drums
Record Label: Napalm Records
     


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