In the end of February HammerFall will play in Kyiv, Ukraine for the first time in ten years – their first show was in 2010 at Global East Festival. We talked to the band’s founder and guitarist Oskar Dronjak before the highly anticipated show from Ukrainian Heavy Metal fans. So, a short conversation about HammerFall‘s latest album Dominion, Heavy Metal and memories from the first show in Ukraine (spoiler: very few of it).
As I remember, this is the second time you come to Ukraine. Do you remember your first visit here? How did you like your stay and the show?
I remember very little from that show, to be honest. We travelled by train to get there, it was a festival and Venom played. That’s about it, really. But I’m really looking forward to making new memories in a couple of weeks!
In couple of interviews you mentioned that you tried a different approach when you worked on Dominion, for example you wrote the songs on the road. How hard it was for you to work on the album?
The whole song writing process this time was very enjoyable! For Built To Last there was a lot of stress, particularly towards the end, so I started early and gained momentum as we tried to challenge ourselves. One thing I am very surprised at is how easy it became to channel the adrenaline from being on tour and playing live almost every night into writing songs. I would estimate that I wrote at least 50% of the stuff outside of my studio, where I normally write 100%. It worked really well, and I feel the result speaks for itself.
In the album’s booklet and in every video there is a line, a few words before every song. Are these your own words or those are quotes?
As Joacim writes most of the lyrics, he felt a short line to sum up every song would be in order. It’s up to the listener to form his/her own opinion on the content of the lyrics, but this is kind of a guide to Joacim’s intentions.
You have a song “Second To One” with Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast. Can you tell a little more about this duo? Who had an idea to record it with Noora? How was it to work with her?
Joacim had the idea to make this song into a duet, but for the album we recorded it with just him on vocals. When the idea to have Battle Beast as special guests on our European tour came about, it was a no-brainer to ask Noora if she wanted to make the song into a duet. She was terrific to work with, very responsive and attentive, and her voice really is out of this world! It meshes really, really well with Joacim’s, and we play it live with her every night on the tour.
In your opinion, can be something definitely new done and said in Heavy/Power Metal in 2020? Can it bring us some surprises in future? Or vice versa: has it turned to pretty formed, predictable and conservative genre?
I don’t know and I don’t care. I love Heavy Metal music and I never put any thoughts into why or any other existential reason. Heavy Metal is in my blood, as simple as that.
Few years ago, you toured with Sabaton, who accompanied you as special guests. In the end of 2019, it was contrariwise and it was HammerFall played as special guests at Sabaton’s North American tour. Was it hard for you to be a support act, especially for, let’s say, “younger” band?
The success of Sabaton is undeniable, and we are a much different band now than ten years ago when the roles were reversed. As are they, of course. But to answer your question, no, it wasn’t hard at all. They are all tremendous guys and we get along really well, and for us it was an opportunity to show their fans what HammerFall is all about. It was a really – pardon the pun – Great Tour!
You have a reach discography. Is there a song or even songs that people still want to hear, but you are already tired or bored from them because you played it too much?
I know there are certain expectations of what songs we “should” play, and there are a handful that we absolutely “have to” play. But a headline set is long, and we have taken the opportunity to sprinkle in a few gems that we wither have never played before or not in a very long time. It’s for our own mental health, but also so we won’t be too predictable. Plus, I firmly believe we have many, many songs on our conscience that easily could garner a place in the setlist. If I go to see Judas Priest, for example, they could play virtually any song of any of their albums and I would love it. I’m counting on our fans feeling the same way.
Your mascot, paladin Hector, did you ever had an idea to make a comic book with him or maybe a video game? HammerFall’s music sounds very cinematic, and seems like it could serve as a great soundtrack!
We did a comic book version of Crimson Thunder when it was released back in ’02, but that’s as close as we have gotten. A video game has also been discussed several times over the years, and I agree with you that there is a lot of untapped stuff you could do with our songs and iconography. But so far nothing has come out of it.
Metal is changing and developing nowadays. With this, people still listen to 80s metal and many bands want to make their sound similar to the 80s sound. How do you think, why does this happen?
Because people are inherently nostalgic and Heavy Metal was a large part of people’s childhood. You go back to what sounds familiar and what makes you feel good, I think it’s as simple as that. A lot of things concerning the Eighties have been glorified, but the music deservedly so. But Heavy Metal as a genre is also extremely powerful and you usually are in or out. Meaning, you either love it or don’t care for it at all. And once you’re in, you more often than not don’t seek to get out.
And the last one, trivial question: what should Ukrainian fans expect from the show?
You can expect one hell of an energetic performance, a show that we guarantee will leave no Heavy Metal fan untouched or disappointed. We play songs from our entire career and we sound a thousand times better live than we have ever done. So brace yourself, Templars of Ukraine, we will come hard and fast and it will be glorious!
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