The HammerFall History - Chapter I HAMMERFALL GENRES
After quitting the death metal act Ceremonial Oath in 1993, guitarist Oscar Dronjak formed HammerFall and soon asked his friend Jesper Strömblad to join him. Since this idea had existed in Oscar's mind for a while, the name, general direction and some music (such as the song "Steel Meets Steel") were already there. It was decided that HammerFall had to be forwarded on a project level, since both wanted to keep on with their other, freshly started, bands, Crystal Age and In Flames respectively. They enlisted the help of fellow metallers Niklas Sundin (guitar) and Mikael Stanne (vocals) of Dark Tranquillity, and Johan Larsson (bass guitar) from In Flames.
The formative years
The aim was to get together a couple of times each year, rehearsing to particitpate in a local music competition called "Rockslaget". Time went on, and Niklas and Johan were replaced by Glenn Ljungström (In Flames) and Fredrik Larsson (Crystal Age). Apart from the HammerFall tunes "Steel Meets Steel" and "HammerFall", the band performed the Pretty Maids classic "Red, Hot And Heavy" as well as the Alice Cooper 1987 metal icon "Freedom".
The turning point
Fast forward to 1996. For the first time, HammerFall advanced to the semi-finals of "Rockslaget" with "Steel Meets Steel", "Unchained" and the Judas Priest anthem "Breaking The Law". Amidst the celebration, it was discovered that vocalist Mikael was going to be unavailable at the time of the semi-finals. Hence, a new singer had to be brought in for this gig. After a bit of research, the name Joacim Cans came up. A phone call later, and they were in business. The cooperation with Joacim proved to be a success, and he was immediately sworn in as a permanent member of the HF clan. Though entering a strong performance in the competition, HammerFall never reached the finals; the band was edged out in the last minute by the judges, who perhaps feared the imminent and unavoidable rise of Heavy Metal once again to international prominence. However, a two-track live performance was recorded and sent on videotape to Roel van Reijmersdal of the Dutch label Vic Records. He marvelled over its contents and immediately offered HammerFall a deal. Consequently, the summer and fall of this, the Olympic year, was spent writing, rehearsing and perfecting the soon-to-be debut album, already entitled "Glory To The Brave".
The recording session
The songs recorded during sixteen fabulous November days were: "The Metal Age", "Unchained", "HammerFall", "Child Of The Damned", "Steel Meets Steel", "The Dragon Lies Bleeding", "I Believe", "Stone Cold" and "Glory To The Brave". All are original HammerFall tracks except "Child Of The Damned", which was the band's tribute to the far too unnoticed metal masters Warlord. The lyrics deal with topics ranging from sword wielding warriors and the travelling of dimensions, to paying homage to Heavy Metal and the losing of beloved ones. They are designed to complement the music and at the same time tell a story; quite simply to entertain the listener.
The rollercoaster ride begins
In January 1997, Oscar and Joacim decided that, in order to be able to give HammerFall no less than 100 %, a few line-up changes were necessary. Jesper and Glenn decided to continue full time with In Flames, and they were replaced by Patrik Räfling (who actually plays drums on the album) and Stefan Elmgren, both members of Joacim's previous band Highlander. Oscar and Fredrik's Crystal Age had ceased to exist a long time ago, but Fredrik also had another commitment: the thrash metal group Beyond, now called None, which he was reluctant to give up. He decided to stick around long enough for HammerFall to find a replacement, though. Shortly thereafter, the German label Nuclear Blast approached Vic Records and HammerFall, showing great interest. This encounter resulted in a licensed release of their debut CD and a four-album deal for the band, starting with the next record.
The HammerFall History - Chapter II
The release preparations
Nuclear Blast wanted to launch HammerFall heavily onto the world, and in order to do that, they needed a visual aspect beside the musical. Therefore, two videos were recorded in the beginning of May 1997, to the songs "HammerFall" and "Glory To The Brave". The making of the videos took place in and outside the small Swedish town Mora, and was realized and supervised by Alfen Productions.
A promotion single with the tracks "Glory To The Brave" (radio/video edit), "HammerFall", "I Believe" and "The Dragon Lies Bleeding" was printed and distributed throughout the world. On the sleeve, it was falsely printed "Stone Cold" as the fourth song. This was a mistake, as the song appearing on the CD is in fact "The Dragon Lies Bleeding".
To do the music contained on the album justice, the legendary great Andreas Marschall (Running Wild, Blind Guardian, U.D.O.) was asked to paint the full-length album cover. He came up with the finished version a little over a week after his initial contact with the band, giving the HammerFall concept its finishing touches.
The month of May also saw the HammerFall line-up completed when Magnus Rosén joined on bass guitar. He is most famous for his work with Billionaires Boys Club and Keegan. Magnus is an extremely skilled bass bender and has proven to be a valuable addition to the rhythm section. As hard as it seemed to be to replace Fredrik, the HammerFall line-up finally was complete!
The initial response
Neither Nuclear Blast nor the band themselves could expect that a heavy metal band could get such exposure and raving reviews in the nineties, but it happened! "Glory To The Brave" was awarded Album Of The Month in both Rock Hard and Heavy Oder Was?, two of Germany's leading metal magazines, earning 10 out of 10 and 11 out of 12 respectively. The album entered the German Music Chart at position no. 38, the highest for a debut heavy metal album ever! All of Europe's major metal press almost unanimously praised the album, and the sales figures showed that the fans, too, loved HammerFall.
The first outings
In August, the band co-headlined an eight-show tour of Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands together with rock legends Raven, with Tank as opening act. The tour was hilariously dubbed Glory To Everything Louder, a spoof on "Glory To The Brave" and "Everything Louder Than Everything Else". The first HammerFall concert outside Swedish borders was at Wacken Open Air, in front of 12-14,000 fans. The tour was completed in at the Pop Komm festival in Cologne, at the Luxor. In front of a jam-packed house, the tour package got assistance from Virgin Steele and Lake Of Tears.
After spending three weeks at home, it was time to hit the road again, this time with long time hero Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray and the American band Jag Panzer. The tour package travelled through most Western European countries, and it was a complete success, from start to finish! On the second night, at the Heavy Oder Was? Festival (Bang Your Head II) in Tübingen, Germany, Andy Mück, formerly of Stormwitch, joined HammerFall in a rendition of the German cult band's "Ravenlord", to a rabid crowd reaction. The ending in Greece was also a memorable one, as the first show in Athens was sold out beforehand. The promotor decided to book another show the next day, and all in all 2,500 people saw HammerFall and Gamma Ray tear down the house two nights in a row! A great conclusion to a great tour!
The winter months
A new video of the song "Glory To The Brave" was made in August, and a CD-single was released. The release featured a radio version of the title track, a studio version of Stormwitch's "Ravenlord" - the first material ever recorded with this line up - and was supposed to include a remixed and remastered version of "I Believe", recorded at the Wacken Open Air. As it happens, Nuclear Blast made the tragic and unforgivable mistake of pressing the record with a rough mix of "The Metal Age" from Wacken. The second pressing of the CD-single featured the originally scheduled "I Believe", but the harm was already done.
During the fall, the album was also released in U.S.A. and Japan. Before long, the sales figure of "Glory To The Brave" was approaching 100,000 records worldwide! Who would have thought this a year ago? This capped off an unusually eventful year in the life of HammerFall.
The band got an early Christmas gift when the nominees for the annual Swedish Grammis Awards were announced. The impact of the band had not gone unnoticed, as HammerFall was nominated in Best Hard Rock Act. Although the award went to another band, the meaning of the all this is not to be overlooked: another victory for heavy metal was one simply by being nominated, once again bringing the music back to the forefront.
The HammerFall History - Chapter III
The New Year
The year of 1998 was kicked off with a short headline tour, supported by Belgian cult act Double Diamond. Five gigs were played in Belgium - a country not visited by HammerFall before - and the Netherlands. Shortly thereafter, the first HammerFall concert in Göteborg in six months was scheduled. It was organised by Rock Scene, and the 400+ tickets were sold out over a week before the show. The concert was recorded live to be used on an upcoming single. Before starting to concentrate on the follow up to "Glory To The Brave", a handful of Swedish shows were made, to overwhelming response.
The pressure is on…and delt with
The last couple of months had been sporadically used for song writing, but in February the real work started. The recording was sheduled to begin on April 27th, and the expectations would be sky high for the second full-length album from these guys. Once again written by Oscar, Joacim and Jesper, "Legacy Of Kings" lived up to every one of those expectations. On a side note, due to Jesper no longer being an active part of the band, his input in this album is considerably smaller, often reduced to just a riff or a melody. But all three wanted to continue writing together, to preserve the magic that made "Glory To The Brave" what is was.
Around 40 days was spent in Studio Fredman perfecting "Legacy Of Kings". It was hard work, but it paid off in the end. The result is a much more mature album than the first, both playing wise and in the structure of the songs. A large attention to detail was paid, from the overall sound to every little part of every song. The album was produced by Fredrik Nordström and Oscar Dronjak, with assistance from Joacim Cans on some vocal parts.
Festival frenzy I
Beginning with Dynamo Open Air (Holland) in May and ending with the Rock Hard Festival (Germany) in August, HammerFall made appearances on several festivals. Apart from the already mentioned, Karlshamns Rock Festival (Sweden) and Monsters Of Rock (Italy) in June, and Mind Over Matter (Austria) and With Full Force (Germany) in July are among worth mentioning. Bands that appeared at these festivals were: Rammstein, Dee Snider's S.M.F.'s, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Dream Theatre, Saxon, Stratovarius and countless others.
The second chart entry
On August 3rd, the first sample of what "Legacy Of Kings" would sound like was unleashed upon the world in the form of a single. The songs on the release were "Heeding The Call", a classic heavy metal track, "Eternal Dark", a Picture cover, and three of the live tracks recorded in Göteborg in January, showing the pure strength and power of a heavy metal concert. The single entered the German Singles Charts on position 48 and stayed on for three weeks, selling almost 20,000 copies in the process. Compare this with the Blind Guardian - one of the leading German bands - single "Mirror, Mirror", which entered the chart on pos. 44 but was nowhere to be found the next week, and you will begin to understand what an incredible breakthrough this was for HammerFall and Nuclear Blast!
More dreams come true
Like "Glory To The Brave", "Legacy Of Kings" was launched with a release party. This took place at Kåren, Göteborg, on September 19th, in conjunction with the Swedish Music Fair also happening that same weekend. In order to make this a very special night, some guest artists were invited. First up was AC, the former drummer of Running Wild and current Lacrimosa beat master, with whom the band performed the Rainbow anthem "Man On The Silver Mountain". For lifelong Accept fans - like the band themselves, for example - the next guest was truly unbelieveable; Mr. Udo Dirkschneider himself made an appearance, taking the mike on two Accept hymns, the fantastic "Head Over Heels" and the immortal "Balls To The Wall"! On the latter, Motörhead's Mikkey Dee on drums joined the ensemble. The party was concluded with a very special version of Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law", where all band members switched instruments with each other.
A flair for tributes
During the summer, the band was asked to participate on three different tribute albums, to three of their childhood heroes. Rock Hard and Century Media Records wanted to follow up their success with the "Judas Priest: Legends Of Metal" tribute albums from last year with one revering the great Ronnie James Dio. HammerFall recorded "Man On The Silver Mountain" from the first Rainbow album. Nuclear Blast will hit the world with two tribute albums, one for Accept and one for Helloween. "Head Over Heels" from "Balls To The Wall" and "I Want Out" from Keeper Of The Seven Keys part 2" was chosen for these releases. What better way to record a Helloween song, than in Hansen Studios? The session was booked for the beginning of October, and all three songs were recorded at the same time. To make their contribution something special, the band wanted to have a special appearance on each song. Being a major Cozy Powell fan, AC was once again asked to join the band for "Man On The Silver Mountain". Kai Hansen helped make "I Want Out" a very memorable version by singing a duet with Joacim and playing a little guitar, and "Head Over Heels" was recorded partly with Udo Dirkschneider on vocals, uniting the old and the new in heavy metal. Needless to say, this was an unforgettable experience for the five HammerFall members, and a great way of preparing for the upcoming tour.
The HammerFall History - Chapter IV
The Templar World Crusade Part One
On October 15th, the band began their first world tour. The band had jumped the gun two weeks earlier, supporting Deep Purple in Copenhagen and Stockholm, but the 'real' premiere took place at die Markthalle in Hamburg, together with Primal Fear, Labyrinth and Pegazus. Not so surprisingly, the band were joined by Kain Hansen and Dirk Schlächter for an encore of "I Want Out", the first of only two times HammerFall has played the song live. This first leg of the tour went through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Holland and Belgium. After the last show, at the Longhorn in Stuttgart, it was off to the United States of America, for a five week, twenty-eight-show tour with labelmates Death. Judging from the amount of e-mails the band recieved from North America afterwards, and the sales figures in said territory, this tour was a huge success. It served its purpose; to expose the US citizens to what heavy metal is all about and how it is supposed to be performed.
The Templar World Crusade Part Two
After a short break for Christmas, it was Japan's turn, as HammerFall made four very well recieved shows in the Land of the Rising Sun in January. Going there was a rearkable experience for the band members, as the Japanese organisation was impeccable and the fans were very educated to the band's music. The cultural differences were huge but interesting, to say the least! The day after returning to Swedish shore, the band was scheduled to perform at a party held by Shure Brothers in Göteborg. Shortly before The Templar World Cusade began, HammerFall had agreed to an endorsement deal with the world famous company, who supplies its artists with microphones, among other things. The purpose of the party was to initiate the only two Swedish bands endorsed by Shure: HammerFall and Arvingarna, a very popular dance band.
No rest for the wicked they say, and so, with only three days passing since HammerFall returned from the Japanese shows, it was off on tour again. Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, as well as the parts of Europe that was never visited in October/November, was up next. Countries such as Spain and France would definately not be forgotten on this Crusade for Heavy Metal, which was joined by Edguy and, for four selected swedish shows, the legendary U.D.O.! Unfourtunately, disaster struck at the end of the Swedish leg: Joacim caught a serious throat infection and was sidelined, unable to speak - let alone sing! To make matters worse, Magnus immediately caught the infection, and before the trip was over, most people on the bus had caught at least a minor version of the illness! During the second sold out show at Die Hafenbahn in Offenbach - thanks a lot, people, you rule! - half the crew were bedridden with the disease, hence no pyrotechnics. As is custom in this venue from hell, the temperature was at least 50° C, and Stefan, the latest casualty, valiantly defied common sense and performed that night. Sure, he had to go and throw up in the middle of the set, but no price is too big to pay in the name of heavy metal! The affected shows had to be postponed or, where that was impossible, cancelled. As it turned out, all but one gig was rescheduled at a later date. See you next time, Malmö, sorry for any inconvenience!
Inexplicably and highly regretfully, Greece was left out this time. The band still has no idea why it didn't materialise, but it might have something to do with local promotors not wanting to bring them over. If you want to see HammerFall in Greece on the next tour - rest assured that the band desperately want to return - tell your local promotor so at the next metal show you attend.
The South American Adventure; The Templar World Crusade Part Three
As March neared its end, Magnus, Joacim, Oscar and tour manager AC allowed themselves four short days of vacation on the beautiful brazilian west coast, before the rendevouz with the rest of the crew in Sao Paolo. Two regular shows and one acoustic were scheduled, and all that had been said about South American audiences proved to be true! The fans were absolutely crazy and the atmosphere was fantastic! This continued in the other two countries visied on this continent, Chile - where HammerFall headlined a festival in front of over two thousand fans, after Deicide had cancelled - and Argentina - where the stage was a good three metres high and created the feeling the band was playing for a bunch of hungry lions - and HammerFall went home after yet another successful crusade.
The HammerFall History - Chapter V
Domestic difficulties are overcome
The touring before the festival season was almost over when HammerFall sat down and discussed the future commitments and attitudes within the band. It was mutually agreed that, since Patrik no longer had the drive and desire that burned so bright inside the others, he should step down and let someone else accept the responsibility of being a member of a Heavy Metal Force such as this. Anders Johansson, a good friend of Magnus', was asked to fill the void left by Patrik, first only as a temporary replacement over the summer. As it turned out, the atmosphere with Anders in the band was exceptional and all parties wanted a continuation. In August 1999, Anders was offered a permanent position and promptly accepted. His professionalism, easy going and humorous attitude is a welcome addition to the HammerFall ranks. The HF Family was whole again.
Anders is most famous for the work he did in Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force during the latter half of the Eighties, but Anders has participated on over 100 albums throughout his illustrious career. One of them was Billionaires Boys' Club (1993), where the other members were Magnus Rosén, Jörg Fischer and Marc Boals. Along with his brother Jens (of Stratovarius fame), Anders has released many records on their label Heptagon Records, mainly focusing on the fusion side of things, a trait inherited to them by their father, Jan Johansson, a very famous swedish jazz pianist.
The last of the tributes
After doing only two shows with Anders behind the drums, it was time to record yet another tribute song. A Swedish label that was planning a tribute album to Swedish heavy metal had approached the band. Now, how could anyone pass on that opportunity? The choice was easy and would fit HammerFall like a glove: "Run With The Devil" from the 1983 Heavy Load classic "Stronger Than Evil". As now is par for HammerFall and tribute recordings, some of the members of the covered band were asked to do guest appearances. The track was recorded in Thunderload Studio - owned and operated by the Wahlquist brothers (Heavy Load strongmen) - the very same studio "Run With The Devil" was originally recorded in back in 1983. Talk about nostalgia!
Festival Frenzy II, The Templar World Crusade Part Four
For three months, HammerFall made festival appearances virtually every weekend. It started off weird, with a gig in the very north of Sweden, where it still was extremely cold at night. When the band arrived, the ceiling in the tent they were supposed to be playing in was too low for explosives. At this stage, pyrotechnics is an essential part of the bands live performance, wherefore the desicion to remove the ceiling directly above the stage was taken. This had two effects: first, the pyros could be used, and secondly, it was well below the freezing point.The band all had their difficulties in keeping the hands and feet warm enough to move, few things are as hard as playing when you can't feel your fingers! In Offenbach it was too hot, now too cold. Will they ever be satisfied?
Countries such as Spain (Eurometal '99), Italy (Gods Of Metal), Sweden (Sweden Rock Festival, Hultsfredsfestivalen), Denmark (Roskildefestivalen) and Germany (Bang Your Head IV) were visited by HammerFall during the warmer months of the year, culminating with Wacken Open Air in August. The Templar World Crusade was celebrated with an end-of-tour party in Göteborg together with local fun favourites Jävlar Anamma. This concluded ten hectic but fun-filled months of almost non-stop travelling, taking the band through almost twenty countries on four different continents.
Video and single
Nuclear Blast - for reasons unexplained - decided to nix the idea of a Helloween tribute album, but HammerFall already had their version recorded and ready. The band felt that this cooperation between the old and the new in heavy metal was too interesting for the fans to be left forgotten, and so the single "I Want Out" came about. Featuring "At The End Of The Rainbow", "Man On The Silver Mountain" and a multimedia track (the first video of "Glory To The Brave"), the single was intended to be low priced as thanks to the fans for sticking with the band. That was not always the case, however, as middlemen everywhere often saw a way of making some easy cash and priced the single as a mini-CD. Despite that, "I Want Out" did well and got a favourable reception from most who heard it. A HammerFall home video had been in the works for the last six months, and was now finally ready. It was dubbed "The First Crusade", dealing with the period between May 1996 and September 1998. The segments between the video clips were shot on location at the release party for "Legacy Of Kings, which was the last clip featured on the tape. The release has been met with nothing but great reviews and is destined to be followed by a sequel.
The HammerFall History - Chapter VI
The catching-your-breath period
As things settled down, the members ejoyed spending time with their families, while the song writing for the next album began. During fall and winter, such tracks as "Living In Victory" and "Destined For Glory" was churned out, but it wasn't until a creative/vacation trip to the Canary Islands when the process was sped up. Down there, such soon-to-be HammerFall classics as "Templars Of Steel" and "Renegade" were finished. A preproduction in JM Studio, where Stefan used to work, was recorded to get a better grip on how the tracks should be laid out in the studio.
The all-important third album
Meanwhile, arrangements had been made to work with legendary producer Michael Wagener (Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row, Alice Cooper and many, many more) for the next recording session, to keep continuing to improve the band's sound. Working with Fredrik Nordström had been a great experience, but there was an unspoken mutual feeling that both sides had reached as far in their working relationship as they would come at this point in time. In order to shake things up and avoid taking the easy and familiar way out, the band opted to venture new pastures in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of Wagner and his WireWorld Studios. Some amazing eight weeks later, "Renegade" was finshed and ready to be unleashed onto the world. The recordings in Nashville went exceptionally smooth and due to the awesome atmosphere in the studio this was a very non-stressed recording.
Doubts from the outside
"Renegade" was met with some unwarranted sceptisism because of Michael's Wagener's involvement and the mistrust of people within the industry who obviously didn't believe in the band's ability to deliver. Even Nuclear Blast, who had stood so firmly behind HammerFall ever since the first recording, displayed a certain amount of initial sceptisism towards the new release. That didn't affect the promotion going into the launch, as it was the biggest so far for both band and label. Granted, "Renegade" didn't sound like a carbon copy of the previous outings, but that was the whole point: to break away from the established mold and create something new. Hopefully better, definitely not worse - but decidedly different.
Video clip, TV break-through
During the summer months, HammerFall and director Roger Johansson together with brilliant video production company Tussilago, had recorded a promotional clip for what had been altered at the last second into the first single from "Renegade", the song with the same title (previously, "Templars Of Steel" was peged as the single). It had a major effect on TV-audiences all over Sweden when aired on the chart show Voxpop. Beating out Eminem, Madonna, Magnus Uggla (legendary Swedish pop phenomenom selling over 100,000 albums regularly), "Renegade" was voted #1 an ultimate three weeks in a row. Iron Maiden had done the same thing with "Out Of The Silent Planet" about six months before, but it still came as a surprise to virtually everyone - the band included - when HammerFall repeated that metal triumph. This whole incident clearly showed that there was a need for metal on TV since the charts were 100% decided by fans phoning in. Despite this it would take several years before producers would really take notice. Not even the season finale of Voxpop, where HammerFall and Iron Maiden cleaned house by occupying spots #1 and 2, served as a wake up call to those in charge. The people had spoken, but it would take a while before those in charge would listen.
Launch is spelled s-u-c-c-e-s-s
Early rumblings were that "Renegade" would chart high in Sweden, potentially as high as Top 3. This belief manifested itself quickly in the Swedish distributors' minds, but was a bit harder for the band to evnision, choosing the pessimistic route rather than the optimistic so as not to be disappointed. The signing tour through Sweden helped facilitate this dream a little, however, as it was a resounding success with lines of fans stretching around the corners of the building in every city. Sure enough, as the chart positions for week 42 were released by GLF, HammerFall trounced on top of that list with Madonna, Mark Knopfler, Eminem and all others safely underneath. To celebrate this monumental and historic event for band and label alike, the Swedish distributors MNW wanted to release another single, "Always Will Be". A video was quickly recorded one November night in an industrial area in Göteborg, using mainly the same crew as last time. Directed by Roger Johansson, this clip featured the band performing and acting as vampires with a beautiful computer animated intro signed Tussilago of a bat majestically sweeping in over the New York skyline. As good as the video was, everything was a bit rushed to get the record out before Christmas, resulting in a somewhat forgettable release.
The HammerFall History - Chapter VII
On the road at last
January 10th, 2001, marked the beginning of the band's second world tour, with a sold-out show in Lisebergshallen, Göteborg. A proposed U.S. tour in the autumn had fallen through, so this would be the first show since the end-of-tour party in August 1999, not counting a secret warp-up gig at Torarica in Lerum a few days before. The effects of the TV success were evident, as the show was close to being sold out beforehand. This was especially cool considering this venue held more than double the capacity of any venue HammerFall had previously played in Göteborg. Drawing from the album artwork of a castle in ruins, the stage was set up as one, complete with draw bridge and destroyed pillars. Entering the stage to the low, pulsating hum of "Templars Of Steel", the band members could only be vaguely made out in the moving lights as the drawbridge slowly lowered itself, until the front of the stage exploded in a wall of fireworks. A seven week-long tour with Virgin Steele and Freedom Call followed, as well as two weeks in South America in March and lots of festivals in the summer, totalling around 60 shows.
The Crusade ends in gold
All accounted for, despite the mentioned early hesitation, "Renegade" was a resounding success. Earning HammerFall its first gold album (selling over 40,000 copies in Sweden alone) and firmly establishing the band's legacy as the most popular metal act since the glory days of Europe, there's no denying the impact of "Renegade". The gold album was celebrated with a rare acoustic appearance at CD-Specialisten in Göteborg in October and a big Halloween party a couple of days later, finishing off the Crusade for now.
Further chronicling the career
Almost immediately afterwards, preparations for the sequel to "The First Crusade" was initiated. During the course of the many recording sessions and tours the band had undertaken in the last couple of years, a huge collection of video footage had been accumulated. An early outline of the contents quickly showed that this would be an immense project. The home footage was divided chronologically beginning with the recordings in Hansen Studios in October 1998 and ending with the gold album party in November 2001, with the flagship of the release being four songs recorded at Wacken Open Air the same year. The real gems lie in the personal archive of the band, though. Events and persons such as a Japanese kimono-party, crazy Brazilians at a signing session, Chuck Schuldiner (R.I.P.) and Michael Wagener makes this release a unique look into the band's life on the road as well as in the studio creating another chapter in the ongoing saga of the Templars of Steel.
Back to the drawing board
This peroid was not only marked by the video chronicles which would later get the name "The Templar Renegade Crusades", but also of intense song-writing. As is the case after any longer period of time without gigs, Oscar and Joacim had already put together a couple of songs for the next album. Among the early ones were "Trailblazers", Hero's Return" and "Riders Of The Storm", but within the first couple of months of 2002 the full eleven tracks were completed. Some of these, such as "Hearts On Fire" dated all the way back to '99, whereas for example "Crimson Thunder" were written at the very last minute. In fact, Magnus, Anders and Stefan hadn't even heard the song before going into the studio to record! Another preproduction in JM Studio took place in April, and the producer of the upcoming album recordings even put in a little visit, getting to know the guys he would be working with. His name was Charlie Bauerfeind, responsible for such well-produced albums as Blind Guardian's "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" and "A Night At The Opera", Heaven's Gate's "Living In Hysteria", Gamma Ray's "Land Of The Free" and Helloween's "The Dark Ride", but he has also worked with such different artists as Sisters Of Mercy and Alannah Myles. A versatile guy to say the least, but also one who knows his metal.
This proved to be a split recording session, with the drums recorded in Holland, the bass in Germany and the rest to be done on Tenerife. The reason for this was that Charlie wanted to use Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum near Amsterdam to get a great drum sound. He had been there before, and was confident that these studios could get the job done. After all, if they worked for Queensrüche, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, they most likely would be adequate for HammerFall! Five expensive but highly productive May days were spent there, with exceptional result. Three days in the Blind Guardian studio in Krefeld, Germany, was all it took to lay down the bass. Then, it was off to Tenerife. Thanks to Charlies work ethic, the well prepared musicians and the tremendous reception and welcome everyone received from the owners of the studio, Mr. and Mrs. Deris, this session was both the easiest, smoothest and the most relaxed so far. The band even finished ahead of schedule, something previously unheard of in this business! The result was "Crimson Thunder", the fourth studio album from HammerFall.
The HammerFall History - Chapter VIII
At the very end of the recordings but before the mix and mastering, a listening session for the press was held. Accompanying everyone in the studio was also the winner of the Name-the-Warrior contest held on www.hammefall.net, Christoph Lutz, who came up with a well-fitting name for HammerFall's mascot and defender of heavy metal: Hector.
The people who were in attendance all seemed to enjoy what they heard, and some even expressed relief over the production not being similar to "Renegade", oddly enough. Charlie had managed to come up with a much heavier sound better adjusted to the songs written for this album, which were all more powerful and catchy than ever before. And this sentiment seemed to be shared by reviewers everywhere, as "Crimson Thunder" got favourable reviews in magazine after magazine. As is now par for the course, a single was released some six weeks before the album, and chosen for this was "Hearts On Fire". A good selection, it would turn out, as the video - once again masterfully done by Roger Johansson and Tussilago - dominated the chart program replacing Voxpop, Spin, again occupying the no. #1 spot for the maximum three weeks.
In early August, the plan was to record the video for "Hearts On Fire". The weekend before the recordings, Joacim was in a well-known rock club in Göteborg having a drink with his girlfriend, just like he has on so many occasions during the past seven or eight years. For no other reason than the fact that Joacim represented the music of HammerFall, he was viciously attacked - ambushed, cowardly enough - with a beer glass to the side of the skull. The perpetrator immediately fled the scene, leaving Joacim lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. A master plastic surgeon sowed him up so well that the physical scars are barely visible today. But they are definitely showing in the video, which was postponed only a week. There is no stopping the metal force!
The updated art of Blizzard
The band had returned with a new flavour, a new album and a new cover artist: Samwise Didier. Another collaboration with Andreas Marshall, while a given to be great, would feel like falling back on the safe and obvious at a time when the band wanted to explore new avenues. Samwise, who is one of the people responsible for the art in the million-selling PC game series Diablo and Warcraft, was the man to help them with that. He created two paintings, one for the single and one for the full-length album. Both featured a new character in the HammerFall pantheon, a yet nameless adversary to Hector. The single sees this foe being born out of a lake of fire, the album displays the two in full combat. Samwise had come through in a big way, and the refreshing aura of the whole release helped propel the band to before-unseen levels.
Crusading America once more
Setting sails even before "Crimson Thunder" was released in the U.S., a five-week tour with Dio and King's X was undertaken in November/December 2002. The experience proved to be a most valuable one, despite the fact that the tour manager disappeared afterwards with all the band's money, adding losses of over $25,000 to the touring account.
Many were the times when fans, after watching HammerFall play, waited outside the tour bus - which frequently served as the band's dressing room - proclaiming: "Dio's great, but I have seen him a million times. It was you I came to see!". Such a response was evident throughout the majority of the gigs, where the audience really seemed to appreciate what they saw and heard in spite of not having heard the music before. All in all, a tremendous victory for heavy metal in the U.S.A. and for HammerFall, having gone throught the fire and prevailed yet again.
On stage effects in Europe
After a well-deserved and much needed Christmas break, the European leg of the Crimson Crusades was scheduled to begin, on January 11th. The place was Halle Gartlage in Osnabrück and the excitement was clearly in the air, for fans and the band alike. This would be HammerFall's biggest tour to date, both in terms of stage show and number of people in attendance. To top the drawbridge used last time, the band and booking agency had come up with a special drumriser, moving up and down using hydraulic tenchniques. When in its highest position, two doors would create a way out on stage for the band members to come through in a carefully planned entrance. First, "Lore Of The Arcane" would set the tone for the intro, with Hector coming out holding his hammer high and slamming it down on an anvil right in the front of the stage. This set off a series of explosions in the ceiling, causing the black front drop to fall to the floor and reveal the landcape from the "Hearts On Fire" single, complete with actual spiked skulls on poles throughout the stage. When Magnus, Stefan and Oscar - Anders was already several meters in the air - had made their separate entrances through the doors in the drum riser, the whole stage virtually exploded when twelve pyrotechnical devices went off simultaneously at the first note of "Riders Of The Storm".
The machinery for the drum riser was heavy as shit - two lifters weighing in excess of 100 kg each! - but well worth it (for the band, at least, seeing as how they never had to lift it…); it worked perfectly, creating a great introduction to the guys and the show. Which apart from the natural energy and audience participation, also featured snow (in "Glory To The Brave") and pyro-shooting guitars ("HammerFall") to end the evening. All of this was captured on film for a live-album and -DVD release, but more on that later on.
The HammerFall History - Chapter IX
The Crimson Crusades continues…
A two-week break followed, then it was off to Japan for four shows with friends and metal mates Nocturnal Rites. An exhausting but fantastic week featuring a heralded return to Japanese shores, as people seemed to be anxious to see the bands perform. Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico was next. Coming back to South America on every tour is something the band looks forward to very much, and this proved to be their best outing in that territory so far. Bigger crowds, better venues and more extatic fans than ever before gave this tour a Grade-A stamp. Summer time was spent doing festivals, as usual, among them The Bang Your Head festival in Balingen, Germany, the Masters Of Rock in Vizovice, Czech Republic and Metal Mania in Villarrobledo Albacete, Spain. Playing with bands such as Iron Maiden, Slayer, Dio, Twisted Sister, Stratovarius and U.D.O., the summer was spent with like-minded holding the metal rebel banners high.
… and concludes prematurely
The plan was to end the Crimson Crusades - now ten months in the making - with two shows in Sweden and one in England (only the band's second ever). Especially the first Swedish one was highly anticipated, as it was during a street-festival in the band's hometown Göteborg and 15,000 people were expected. Then, disaster struck. Oscar was enjoying the beautiful summer waether on his motorcycle, when he suddenly crashed into a non-moving left-turning vehicle in the road. Breaking his left arm and sustaining several minor injuries, it is still felt that he was very lucky, as these sort of crashes more often than not lead to significally worse results. Needless to say, the remaining three shows booked had to be cancelled, much to the chagrin of fans everywhere and the band, who hates to disappoint, hates it with a vengeance. But the severity of the incident gave no one a choice, unfortunately.
Involuntary liesure time
A previously discussed two-week Christmas tour also had to be scrapped, and everyone found themselves turning to other matters while Oscar recovered. Joacim started working on his solo album and had a baby in the process, Stefan concentrated on getting that pilot license he had coveted for so long and Magnus and Anders continued working on their different projects. Meanwhile, Oscar focused on getting back in playing-shape again, something which wasn't a given immediately after the ten-hour operation. Great doctors and physical rehab instructors together with a lot of rest and later hard work proved successful, however, and he was able to pick up the guitar again in November. Just in time for the 20th anniversary for the legendary Rockfabrik in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in fact. Anders, Joacim and Oscar went down to join the celebration. Together with guys from Helloween, Gamma Ray, Pretty Maids and a host of others, HammerFall helped wish the rock club a happy anniversary, may it be followed by at least another 20 years!
One Crimson Night
The Göteborg show on February 20th, 2003, was forever immortalized when "One Crimson Night" was launched after the end of the tour. Released as a CD and DVD, there were small but vital changes to the products. Besides the obvious, the DVD featured translations of Joacim's in-between-songs talks to seven different languages and a 15-minute bonus feature documentary called "On The Road". In order to make also the CD more attractive, three songs recorded on the South American adventure on the Crimson Crusades were included as bonus tracks. The cover for the CD was again masterfully drawn
HAMMERFALL LYRICAL THEMES
Medieval Battles, Fantasy
Sweden (Gothenburg), formed in 1993
HAMMERFALL CURRENT RECORD LABEL
HAMMERFALL CURRENT LINE-UP
Joacim Cans - Vocals (1996-) (ex-Warlord (US), ex-Lost Horizon (Swe), Mrs. Hippie)
Oscar Dronjak - Guitars, Backing Vocals (1993-) (ex-Desecrator (Swe), ex-Ceremonial Oath, Crystal Age)
Stefan Elmgren - Guitars, Backing Vocals (1997-) (Full Strike, Cans, ex-Lost Horizon (Swe))
Fredrik Larsson - Bass (1994-97, 2007-) (ex-Crystal Age, ex-Evergrey, None, Cans, Death Destruction)
Anders Johansson - Drums (1999-) (ex-Silver Mountain, ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen, ex-Empire (Ger), ex-Winterlong, Jens Johansson, The Johansson Brothers, ex-Keegan , Planet Alliance)
HAMMERFALL PREVIOUS LINE-UP
Mikael Stanne (1993-96) (Septic Broiler/Dark Tranquillity, ex-In Flames)
Niklas Sundin (1993-95) (Septic Broiler/Dark Tranquillity, Laethora)
Glenn Ljungström (1995-97) (ex-Dimension Zero, ex-In Flames)
Johan Larsson (1993-94) (Carrion Carnage, Purgamentum, Seance (Swe), ex-In Flames, ex-Carnal Grief)
Magnus Rosén - Bass (1997-2007) (ex-Jørn, Keegan, Planet Alliance)
Jesper Strömblad (1993-97) (In Flames, Dimension Zero, ex-Sinergy, ex-Ceremonial Oath)
Patrik Rafling (1997-99) (Jaggernaut, Full Strike, Megaslaughter, ex-Lost Horizon (Swe))