Dying Under the Hammer
Death and HammerFall at the Launchpad in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on December 8, 1998
by: Alex Cantwell
I counted it a privilege to actually see in person Sweden's HammerFall play on my home soil. They played to a few hundred people as they would to thousands, putting on a killer show and drawing in the barely receptive crowd as much as possible. Basically, only a few people in the whole place even knew who they were, let alone the words to the songs, so the sing-along parts that vocalist Joacim Cans tried to get the crowd to participate in didn't achieve the desired affect. It was amazing how many people left the room when they discovered, 30 seconds into their set, that Joacim doesn't growl. A typical, stupid, fickle Albuquerque crowd, for sure. The sound was good, and it was rad to hear them nail those killer leads. HammerFall are definitely leaders in the metal revival, and their set was complete with a bit of "metal choreography", and ended with "Breaking the Law", for which they all traded instruments.

Death, on the other hand, successfully engaged the entire crowd with their incredibly technical catalog of material. Seeing Chuck Schuldiner and the boys up close and live is amazing, especially when they play so flawlessly. "The Philosopher" started things out, and their masterful set included much new material alongside highpoints such as "Suicide Machine" and "Flattening of Emotions" from the speedy _Human_ album, as well as "Crystal Mountain", from _Symbolic_. I would imagine that there has never been a crowd that would let Death, in all of their many incarnations, get off the stage without playing "Zombie Ritual", and indeed they fulfilled that duty. Sadly, they played -nothing- from _Spiritual Healing_, despite me yelling for "Genetic Reconstruction" after every song. I was also very disappointed that they left out "Lack of Comprehension", since it is such a killer song and is so interesting musically. Are Death at the musical highpoint of their existence? It's debatable, but one thing is for sure -- the brilliant music that they continue to churn out is sure to inspire many, myself included, and they simply must be one of the best live bands ever.

(article submitted 16/1/1999)

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