PopLurker Reviews: HammerFall at the Whisky A Go Go

By Loryn Stone

 

hammerfall2018usatourposter.jpgHere at PopLurker, we are huge celebrators of the arts. And that means when we attend an event that we’re enormously enthusiastic about, we make sure to give that convention, party, event, band, or concert gets the recognition it deserves. I went to see HammerFall ReBuilt to Tour show at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, California on June 14th, 2018. Being that they are my favorite in the entire world, it’s only correct that the mind-blowing/face wrecking concert gets its own PopLurker review.  We already discussed the opening band Hazardous Terror, which thrashed us so hard we had to give them a PopLurker blurb. But now, let’s focus on the rest of the show.

This was the second time in a year that HammerFall made it back to the states. After the release of their 2016 album Built to Last, HammerFall did a 2017 North American toured paired up with Delain, a Dutch symphonic metal band which formed in 2002. The pairing, to be straightforward, was odd. At that show (which was riddled with technical and soundcheck issues), the opening band was stiff and out of place. And while HammerFall performed an amazing set and sounded incredible, they seemed almost unsure of how they were going to be received at the Whisky. After all, it had been nearly ten years since their last US show. Would fans in Hollywood, California embrace them? Were we truly ready to rock?

Well, duh, of course we were.

But HammerFall had competition- fellow Swedish power metal band Sabaton was playing the very next day in Anaheim, California. Did this small detail affect concert attendance? Plus, in 2017, HammerFall opened for Delain that night. HammerFall…opened for Delain.

It was all together a little disjointed. Even my spot on the floor wasn’t optimal.

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HammerFall’s Built to Tour show at The Whisky, 2017

But in 2018, the stakes were raised. There were three opening bands leading up to Flotsam and Jetsam, a thrash/progressive metal band formed in 1981 in Arizona, and everyone was just incredible. One negative point to address- other than the first opening band Hazardous Terror, no other opening bands made efforts to make sure that the audience walked away with their name on our tongues. Really, I didn’t even catch the band names. Which sadly means that the second two opening bands will go nameless, which is upsetting.

The second band was a trio, lead by a gentleman who truly embraced the 80s cock-rock aesthetic. But the stand-out band member in this group was the bassist. I watched other ladies in the audience watching this handsome man playing his bass, pickles with fingers only. It’s fair to say that panties dropped; there was a noticeable hitch in the room’s breathing.

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Hoowah. Yowza. Yummy. Cool.

Oh, and their music was good. They had a classic sound that I’d compare to old Judas Priest.

The second opening band had a stronger doom metal vibe, which I appreciated leading up to Flotsam and Jetsam. While I again, didn’t catch their name, the lead singer reminded me of Keanu Reeves and his energy and singing style perfectly encompassed the beach grunge trench coat aesthetic the band had. In this group, the stand out member was the drummer. He even played and sang at the same time, and his intensity blew me away.

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As for Flotsam and Jetsam themselves…what an amazing performance. From the opening note, it was clear these guys had been playing bad ass metal for a very long time. Comically, they superficially resemble HammerFall, which only added to my delight and happiness. The lead singer, Eric “A.K.” Knutson is the longest lasting and founding band member, but these guys have been playing together forever.

While many fans of Metallica might come at me, Knutson is what James Hetfield thinks/wishes he sounds like. Their thrash/progressive sound just penetrated my heavy metal/power metal loving ears and sailed me into a new world that I just don’t want to leave. My eyes are open and my ears are in a happier place.

Onto the opening act: HammerFall.

Holy stars in the vortex of space…what an amazing show.

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The band exploded onto the small stage with swaggering confidence. The only difference in the lineup was the return of David Wallin on drums versus Johan Koleberg in 2017. Otherwise, we had bassist Fredrik Larsson, lead guitarist Pontus Norgren, guitarist and founding member Oscar Dronjak, and lead singer Joacim Cans. While in 2017 I was overwhelmed upon seeing the band, in 2018 it was like being in a room of old friends. And they rocked that room like only HammerFall does.

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Their set list was pretty similar to their last tour except more refined. Many of the hits were played, as well as songs from the recent Built to Last and (R)Evolution albums. One big difference was getting to hear the song Threshold, which is a favorite of mine, as well as getting to indulge in four encore songs, ending with “Hearts on Fire” (which is the HammerFall end-of-show version of KISS’ “Rock and Roll All Night”).

Whoever did the booking that night was amazing. Every band played like a seamless strung together narrative. I was introduced to incredible new music that night. The house was packed and everyone was happy. Plus…I was right up on the stage. You can’t beat this spot I had.

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Here’s to seeing HammerFall again in 2019…or as soon as we get them.

HammerFall had originally agreed to a PopLurker.com interview, but due to scheduling it was unable to transpire.

 

You can find Loryn on Twitter.

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