Live at The Whisky A Go Go
West Hollywood, CA
May 9th, 2017
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
HammerFall are a melodic metal band hailing from Sweden. They have been putting out music for over twenty years that fully epitomizes the power metal genre.
Weaving tales of the fantastical, they build hymns that embolden the listener and rally the inner strength of mind. This is what power metal does, makes the listener feel powerful and ready to take on anything in their way. Whether it be slaying a dragon like in their stories, or persevering in this ever changing world.
I have listened to HammerFall for many years now but this was the first chance I had to see them live and they totally blew me away. The band consists of Joacim Cans front and center as the spinner of the stories that are central to the HammerFall legend. Around him are his trusty band of stalwart heroes; founding father Oscar Dronjak on guitar, Fredrik Larsson on bass guitar, Pontus Norgren on guitar, and Johan Kullberg on drums.
The Whisky was packed to the rafters with fans and they started chanting "HammerFall" way before they were due to start. The band descended the stair case to the stage and the crowd literally erupted.
They opened the set with "Hector's Hymn" which incorporates all of their signature motifs such as dragons, heroes, righteous justice, and of course hammers. "Riders of the Storm" was up next and continued the powerful anthems of champions performing legendary deeds and unbridled heroism.
They did one of my favorite songs next with "Blood Bound" which had the crowd singing along. One of the powerful defining attributes of their sound is that both of the guitarists join their voices with Joacim's for the chorus sections which makes for a male choir effect that is very moving.
They played "Any Means Necessary" which has a different story to tell in terms of a more criminal or desperate element that lives by their own code of conduct which involves getting what they desire any way they can.
Moving all over their storied history, they did "Renegade" from days past before moving to a great song off of their latest release with "Dethrone and Defy". Another instant classic, this song once again deals with hammers, anvils, and dragons forging weapons with their fiery breath.
Hitting another one of my all time favorite songs of theirs, they gave us the awesome "Last Man Standing". The audience was singing along to every song but the next one brought out the loudest resounds from the fans with "Let the Hammer Fall".
Returning to the latest release they did the title track, "Built To Last" which prompted Joacim to ask how many people had never seen HammerFall before. Way over half of the audience raised their hands and he was surprised. He said that they would not wait seven years to return to North America next time.
He also asked how many people were not even born yet when their debut album came out in 1997 which also prompted quite a few hands in the air. He said "Do not let this fool you" as he stroked his greying beard. "I am forever young in here" he said while gesturing towards his heart. They played a "Medley to the Brave" which incorporated several of their old favorites woven together.
Joacim once again addressed the crowd saying that despite it being the 20 year anniversary of their first release that they were not focusing on just their old material but they wanted to share their entire history with us.
They played one of my favorite songs from their latest album with "Hammer High". This song is definitely an anthem of self empowerment and a rally cry to stand up for your self in all cases. Everyone sang along with the chorus,"Hammer high this is a freedom cry! Hammer high, no one should ask me why! It's my life - tell me I will defy! Hammer high until I die!"
At this point they left the stage but were soon called back out by all of the chanting, clapping, and roaring fans. They gave us "Bushido" for the first encore song and then finished the set with the amazing "Hearts on Fire" before taking a collective bow and waving good night.
It was an awesome show to say the least and I was really glad I finally got to see these guys perform in the flesh. They sound even better live and there is a lot of energy and power that cannot be conveyed in any form of recording as the room was electric with the rapport between the crowd and HammerFall.
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