Hammering Out the Details
CoC chats with HammerFall's Oscar
by: Drew Snow
When HammerFall's debut album, _Glory to the Brave_, is released this June, no one will be prepared to experience the epic masterpiece of melodic, powerful, emotional, inspirational, magnificent pure -metal- which will grace their ears. After almost four years in embrionic form, with constant member changes and little advancement, the band have suddenly gotten their act together and released one of the best albums I have ever had the privilege of hearing. Seriously, people, once you start listening to this album you will not be able to stop. OK, I believe that I should stop raving about the band right now, and just say that Chronicles of Chaos was lucky enough to do the first ever interview with HammerFall. Here is what transpired.

CoC: Why did you and Jesper form HammerFall?

Oscar: It was back in 1993, when I began writing some heavy metal songs and came up with the name. I had asked Jesper Stromblad to join me, and we decided to go ahead, on a project level. For the next three years we continued on that level, with various members coming and going. But when we were offered a record contract, we decided to bring the seriousness up a notch or two. Today, Jesper is a passive member, in that he only takes part in the song writing process. The current line up is as follows: Joacim Cans (vocals), Stefan Elmgren (guitars), Fredrik Larsson (bass guitar), Patrik Rafling (drums), and myself on guitar as well.

CoC: What other bands are members of HammerFall currently in?

O: HammerFall is the number one priority for us all. In fact, it is the -only- priority. That is why we have had so many member changes over the years, because the involvement got more and more serious by the day. Since it started out as a project, everyone had another "main band" which came first, and had to drop HammerFall when the wheels started rolling on their other thing. Finally, it is our turn to head out to the highway.

CoC: How important is HammerFall to you guys? How serious are you about it?

O: Everything has gone fast this year, and more is yet to come. I have a feeling we only scratched the surface so far. We are all dead serious to make this thing work, and are prepared to really give it our all!

CoC: Right now, the whole retro-metal trend is going strong, with 'new' bands like Bewitched and Inferno popping up all over the place. However, HammerFall formed in '93, before all of this. What do you think of this new trend, and what is HammerFall's place in it?

O: I think that a band such as Paradise Lost, that evolves from being a death metal act to a heavy metal act, have a small chance of surviving in the long run. They are so limited as to what their singer can do that they may burn out. That's where HammerFall is different. I am the only one who has had any death metal experience, so basically HammerFall is a genuine heavy metal band. True enough, we started out as a project, but the lineup has been changed so much that it isn't even remotely the same as in the beginning. As for the trend; metal has never been dead! Those who think that had better think again. All these years, heavy metal has been like an outcast form of music, practiced only by the 'old' legends like Manowar, Helloween, Accept, etc. No new bands true to form have popped up. HammerFall is on the frontline in this battle, and will lead the troops to victory when the time comes to march off to war!

CoC: Are you pretty satisfied with the album you've recorded?

O: When we entered the studio, we had an idea as to how we wanted the result to be like. The finished product, though, far exceeds even our biggest expectations! Sometimes, I can't believe how satisfied I am with the result! And what's even better, people around the world seem to appreciate our music as much as we do, and that is an absolutely fantastic feeling!

CoC: You must be pretty happy to be signed to Nuclear Blast, eh?

O: We have just signed a four-album deal with Nuclear Blast, and they are also releasing our debut album "Glory to the Brave" on license from the Dutch label Vic Records. It will be out in early June, and there is talk that we will function as an opening act for Noise Records touring package Gamma Ray and Stratovarius! This is so exciting! We are happy to be signed to Nuclear Blast, to say the least. It means that our albums will be released worldwide, which is the most important thing for -any- band. Also, they have promised us extensive promotion, and judging by the success of the latest In Flames album (also released on license, from Wrong Again Records), that means -extensive- promotion!

CoC: Any plans for touring in the near future?

O: Apart from the planned Gamma Ray/Stratovarius tour, we have discussed going as support for a major tour this autumn, but the details are sketchy at best. It will probably be only Europe, though. But we would love to go to U.S.A. and Japan sometime, too!

CoC: You've got to be aware of how cheesy the lyrics on your album are... was this a conscious effort? Or did it just come out that way?

O: I'm sorry, but I really don't understand this question. We are aware of how the lyrics sound, and I think, to a large extent, it was a conscious effort on Joacim's part (he wrote most of it). The lyrics should reflect the music, entertain, and be about something interesting, and I feel that feat was accomplished [definitely! - Drew]. The topics might be considering somewhat 'cheesy', but on a whole, I think it complements the music beautifully. [I couldn't agree more - Drew]

CoC: Did you have any problems writing the material?

O: No, actually I am surprised at how easy things worked out when me and Jesper sat down with our guitars. Of course, a lot of the riffs have been around for quite a while, but songs like "Stone Cold", "Glory to the Brave" and "The Dragon Lies Bleeding" are all freshly written during last summer. Sometimes we created the vocal harmonies, sometimes we just gave a tape to Joacim, who then added his part plus the lyrics. I think it was a very free flowing process, and probably the most fun I have ever had writing music!

CoC: What are your main inspirations and influences for HammerFall?

O: We usually consider Helloween, Accept, Judas Priest, Warlord, and Stormwitch as our main influences, but Gamma Ray, Dio, Riot, Iron Maiden, and Running Wild deserve to be mentioned as well.

CoC: Have you written any material for the next album?

O: We are constantly working on new material, but with all that has been going on over the last few months, the song writing has suffered a bit. Two new titles are "Heeding the Call" and "Let the Hammer Fall".

CoC: Has Joacim ever had any formal vocal training? His singing is amazing.

Joacim: I started singing seriously at the age of 21, and two years later enrolled in the vocal program at Musician's Institute in Hollywood, California. The program lasted a year, and was very beneficiary to me, as it helped me put the pieces together and improve my vocal abilities. However, the program felt a little bit underdeveloped to last an entire year. I think they need more qualified teachers and a better thought out curriculum. They also have to require more previous knowledge on the part of the applying students, and not accept people solely based on the fact that the more students graduating, the more money they make. I mean, they have to take more responsibility for their students, spending almost their lifetime savings on attending the school. They need to make sure that the students actually can benefit from the program -before- they start. Even though the MI really helped me a lot, I think the real foundation was built the classical way, at home. There, I spent a large amount of time singing along with my favorite albums with a pillow mounted on my face. Plus, of course, hours and hours of hard work during rehearsals.

CoC: What does the future hold for HammerFall?

O: I hope the future holds great things for us, but you never know. Right now, we're waiting for _Glory to the Brave_ to be released in June, hopefully followed by the Gamma Ray/Stratovarius deal. We are really anxious to see how the album will be received by the metal media. I am being told that we will be getting good reviews in two of the largest metal magazines in Germany (Rock Hard and Heavy...oder was?), and we will be featured with one track on the Rock Hard free compilation CD enclosed with every copy of their new edition. The mag has a circulation of almost 90,000 copies, so it means great exposure for every band featured!

CoC: Is there anything you think those who haven't heard HammerFall should know?

O: This is all you need to know: HammerFall plays metal the way it was supposed to be played and the way you (and we) like it. Fast and furious at times, soft and tender at others, but true heavy metal through and through. And, in the end, that is all that matters!

CoC: It's good to see a new metal band not relying on an 'evil' or otherwise 'shocking' image, or a whole lot of hype to cover up musical deficiencies. How do you feel about this issue?

O: I think image is a very important part of the music business. There is nothing worse than a band who simply goes on stage and play in their street clothes, without realizing that playing live is something special. If a band is nothing special on stage, only those who really like it will stay interested during the gig. If, on the other hand, you give the audience something to look at every once in a while - such as explosions, fire breathing, scene costumes, etc. - their attention will constantly be recaptured, resulting in a better show, thus the paying crowd will get their money's worth. That having been said, I on the hand think that playing down the musical or instrumental bit for the sake of effects is atrocious. Therefore, we try to find the middle ground between the two sides, and combine musical skills with something to watch during the shows.

CoC: HammerFall is one type of metal that can go a long way in terms of popularity (not that it's meant to be popular, it's just more accessible than black metal, et al.). How large do you want to see HammerFall get?

O: As any band, I imagine, we would like to be able to lead a comfortable life, living off of what we are making on the music. But that requires a major hit and a large number of records sold, and it is not realistic to expect that. But, as you said, heavy metal has a better chance of getting through to the mainstream audience than, for example, black or death. I really feel that heavy metal is once again becoming popular with the average listener. HammerFall might be right on time to ride the wave of success, who knows? Anyway, we would like to see this go as far as it can. You know, shoot for the stars and land on the moon!

CoC: What was the deal with the crowd noise in "Stone Cold"? Not that I minded it, but why did you put that in there?

O: We thought it would be a cool idea to insert that somewhere. The part of the song is designed for a live audience, as it expects them to sing along, so we just went ahead and did it. I figured that if Ronnie James Dio could have crowd noise on a whole song ("King of Rock 'n' Roll" on _Sacred Heart_), we wouldn't be lynched for half a minute. Besides, I have always wanted to do that!

CoC: Alright Oscar, that is all my questions for now... end the interview as you wish!

O: Thank you for the interview, Drew, it truly was a pleasure! This was our first interview, and I hope it will be followed by many more! Watch out for the imminent and unavoidable return of heavy metal to national prominence! THE HAMMER WILL FALL ON YOU!!!

(article submitted 7/6/1997)


CHATS
1/10/2001 A Bromley HammerFall: Renegades Reliving the Glory Days
ALBUMS
4/15/2009 A Erickson 7 HammerFall - No Sacrifice, No Victory
10/14/2006 Y Stefanis 6.5 HammerFall - Threshold
4/19/2005 J Smit 5 HammerFall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
10/1/1998 A Bromley 9 HammerFall - Legacy of Kings
3/16/1997 D Schinzel 10 Hammerfall - Glory to the Brave
GIGS
1/16/1999 A Cantwell Death / HammerFall Dying Under the Hammer
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