By Matty Hume
CALGARY – As long as time passes, metal will endure — a thought proven by the decades-long success of now-legendary champions of melodic power metal, HammerFall. Forged in the hostile fires of a popular demand for alternative rock in the primeval days of old (1993) by guitarist Oscar Dronjak, HammerFall quickly proved to an unsure Gothenburg, Sweden, that heavy metal is the past, present, and future.
“That’s when I started fiddling around with the idea of forming a heavy metal band, and in 1993 heavy metal was out of date and unappreciated by people,” Dronjak says, laughing. “I just wanted to play the music that I loved to listen to because nobody else was doing it.”
Initially, vocal duties fell to a teenage Mikael Stanne, now of Dark Tranquility fame. Despite his talent, HammerFall became mighty when current vocalist Joacim Cans took control of the mic in 1996, giving them a vocalist with a soaring dynamic range reminiscent of metal’s high-note bards of the ‘80s.
“When Joacim came into the picture it was like the whole world opened up for me,” Dronjak says. “Most people didn’t want to admit it or really just didn’t like heavy metal anymore, but we were on the same page right away.”
Undeterred by early shows where audience disrespect for melodic metal ran rampant, HammerFall persevered and received a record deal after footage surfaced of the band’s 15-minute set at a battle of the bands in Gothenburg — and our heroes have been gloriously triumphant ever since.
“Somebody filmed one-and-a-half songs of our performance on video. In ‘96 you couldn’t just pull up your phone, it was very difficult,” Dronjak chuckles. “You had to like rent a nuclear power plant to carry around on your shoulder.”
Captured in the footage was a distillation of Dronjak’s original plan for HammerFall’s sonics, which hold true today. Across their discography, HammerFall blends the more extended symphonic style of heavy metal with the uplifting optimism of modern power metal. Quick guitar licks repeat with speed behind Cans’ stadium-worthy high octaves, adding further grandeur to clear, almost theatrical choruses backed by Dronjak..
HammerFall continued to bring the best of heavy metal this side of 2000 by developing their famed mascot, Hector. He’s much like Iron Maiden’s Eddie, but with a massive hammer and a knack for slaying dragons. Featured on most of HammerFall’s discography, Hector has been illustrated by longtime Blizzard Entertainment artist Samwise Didier since 2002’s Crimson Thunder.
“His first game [for Blizzard] is one of my favourite games of all time, The Lost Vikings. He just wrote us mail and said ‘I’m listening to your guys’ music when I create my stuff and I really love it.’ We were like, ‘Let’s try having him do the next album cover.’ It was brilliant,” booms an excited Dronjak.
“He’s a very down to earth cool guy who’s been with us for a long time. Our plan is for him to do the cover for the next album as well.”
While a release date is yet to be locked down, Dronjak says HammerFall’s next album may land by the end of summer 2019. Until then, the band is excited to keep touring and bring their power to every fan possible.
“We had a vision for what you could expect when you saw HammerFall live. We kept true to that since day one. It’s supposed to be special to go on stage,” Dronjak says proudly. “If you like heavy metal performed with an infinite amount of love for the music, and a show where we give you a hundred percent, we’ll have a great time together.”
For Dronjak, Calgary is an extra special stop thanks to power metal’s cousin, the power bomb.
“I always feel great being in Calgary because I’m a big wrestling fan. It’s hallowed ground basically, so it’s always fun just to be in the city.”
See HammerFall perform on June 7 at Dickens Pub (Calgary), on June 8 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton) and on June 9 at the the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver).Dark Tranquility, Dickens Pub, Hammerfall, metal age, Rickshaw Theatre, Starlite Room