Live at The Whisky A Go Go
West Hollywood, CA
June 14th, 2018
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
Hammerfall make a triumphant return to the city of angels on thier "ReBuilt to Tour" excursion throughout North America. This is their 20th anniversary since their debut album, and they brought the fire within to the stage at the Whisky.
I am a big fan of Hammerfall, and there are a number of songs that I always want them to play. Not only did they play literally everything on my wishlist, they brought plenty of other great songs to the mix that made an amazing show, even better than the last time they came!
Hammerfall was founded in 1997 by guitarist extraordinare, Oscar Dronjak and vocalist Joacim Cans. These Swedish visionaries are joined by long time bassist Fredrik Larsson, guitarist Pontus Norgren, and beat-meister, David Wallin, who has returned to the fold after a short absensce.
This quintet brings a flavor of heavy metal like no other. Drenched in power metal motiffs, bathed in blazing guitar work, vocals that soar beyond other endeavors... this is what heroic metal is all about.
They kicked off the set with the amazing and anthemic "Hector's Hymn", which encapsulates so much about this sub-genre in one song it cannot be expressed.
From hammers being held high, to standing up for what you believe in and what is right, to empowering the ever-living soul that is in each of us, this song embodies all that fans of this music seek out.
Songs ranged from their newest material going back two decades to what started it all. Their second song brought it back to this earlier era with "Riders of the Storm" from their "Crimson Thunder" album. This song is a frequent part of the set because, once again, it exemplifies what these guys are about, both musically and lyrically.
"Renegade", from the album of the same name, pushes into their more conventional metal fare by lyrical standards - but is very much in vein with their amazing guitar work and driving rhythms that fantasy based metal-heads will feel right at home.
"Dethrone and Defy", from their latest album "Built to Last", is absolutely one of my favorite songs from throughout their storied history. Dragons, Wizards of Fire, Protectors of Steel... this is what it's all about. An absolute favorite.
"Blood Bound" projects empowerment and encourages standing your ground for all eternity. The sing-along qualities of their songs are nearly unsurpassable and the crowded Whisky a Go Go did not dissapoint with audience participation on this fan favorite.
Another wish-list song that was shared by the audience (as they again, all sang along) was "Any Means Necessary". This is another one of those, "You have to check this one out" songs that you share with friends who don't know the band yet.
They followed that up with "B.Y.H." from the "Infected" album. This album was a bit of an anomaly for them subject-matter wise, but upon repeat listenings it really provides some gems. While it may not be initially apparent, this song is a tribute to Quiet Riot (Bang. Your. Head.) and even sites the date, 1981 in the lyrics. I love this song so much more years later and live than I did when released, I am really glad they included this.
The truth is, this was Hammerfall just getting started. They did the title track from "Crimson Thunder" followed by the namesake for their "Threshold" album and brought it full circle with the title track from their latest album, "Built To Last". This is how it is done! Name call all those great albums in a trio of songs and then bring it all back to bare for what is potentially my all-time favortie Hammerfall song, "Last Man Standing"!
There are Hammerfall songs that resonate more with me lyrically. There are Hammerfall songs that I jam out more to when they come on. None of their songs have stuck in my head as strongly as "Last Man Standing". I find myself singing it in the shower, in the car, at work, while drunk. It is ridiculous. This song might be a cure for depression. They should prescribe this!
The remainder of the main set was made up entirely of songs from their 1998 album "Legacy of Kings". We got the title track as well as "Heading the Call" and the anthemic "Let The Hammer Fall" which required precision crowd particpation to make it the amazing song it was.
The band took a short recess from the stage, prompted back by the incessant chanting of the crowd. Upon their return they kicked off the encore with "Hammer High" from their latest album: "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!"
Taking "Bushido" beyond the samurai realm and applying it to anyone who lives by honor and fights for it even upon threat of death, they did the warrior's code justice in this song from "(r)Evolution".
The time had come, their seventeeth song upon us, and the clock pushing far into the next morn. They gave us one final song to sing along to, to lift our spirits, and to emblazen our path upon this earth.
"Hearts on Fire" brought out the voices of the entire crowd at this late hour and envigorated all those present. Whether it be the band on stage, the singers in the audience, or the new-comer feeling the power of Hammerfall for the very first time - This was a powerful and special moment.
A gentleman next to me happened to be a tourist from Brazil visting Los Angeles for the first time and wanted to visit an iconic Sunset Strip venue. He lucked upon one of the last tickets available at the door and he told me he was absolutely blown away.
I was too, and I have seen them before! Absolutely amazing! Hammerfall are just brilliant live and I cannot recommend seeing them enough.
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