Hammerfall live in Athens 2018

Hearing and heeding the call to be @ Piraeus Academy, despite being just over a pretty nasty cold and having my driving license revoked for a week (breaking the law baby and not giving a flying toss about it) due to a broken bulb in the car, I drove down to Piraeus Ave, for a night of power metal. I did find out that due to some bizarre flight arrangement of their singer/mainguy Cederick Forsberg, whose passport had expired, Running Wild, ripoff merchants Blazon Stone had canceled their performance. Pretty lame, but surely giving me a bit more time to clean up and more time for the bands remaining to perform.
Hammerfall Athens Show 2018 poster
Going in the club just a shy few minutes after seven, Armored Dawn were already on stage, numerous as they are, a sextet blasting out some pretty standard shouty power metal that might have had the best of intentions, but didn’t quite seem to resonate with most of the fans that were there by this point. Their frontman Eduardo Parras was trying hard to turn the tides, but I am guessing that despite their best intentions and efforts, it all seemed to be a little in vain.
Refuge is basically the historically most productive and popular line up of multinational, German based, Power Metallers Rage, featuring Manni Schmidt and Chris Efthimiadis along with the band’s stalwart and indisputable leader, Peavy Wagner.
In good spirits and with an air of authority, despite being several years older than when they played Greece last with one of the olden lineups, “Rage” under another name stormed onto the stage with the fan favorite “Don’t Fear the Winter” that suffered slightly, being the opener, due to the sound levels being predictably a little all over the place, a fact that seemed to do little to deter the fans from having fan and joining the band for the chorus. A zig zag between songs from older albums and the new Refuge album “Solitary Men”, which saw it being represented by the back to back performance of “Summer’s Winter”, “The Man in the Ivory Tower”, seemed as a logical enough move, although the whole causes a bit of a fragmentation of the entire “Rage/Refuge” catalog and a compartmentalization – depending on the lineup – that leaves a number of good songs unaired, or I dunno, seldom aired. Obviously something to expect, when between all the lineups you got some 24 or so albums. What to include and what to leave out… trapped! Seemed to be more than well represented with “Shame on You”, “Enough is Enough”, “Baby, I’m Your Nightmare”, “Power and Greed” and “Solitary Man” being aired from it. Also a couple form the “The Missing Link” including the title track along with “Nevermore” were performed, “Invisible Horizons” from “Secrets”, then for another three from the recent album “Mind Over Matter”, “Hell Freeze Over”, “From the Ashes” to be included. “Solitary Man” sort of finished the show, but the band took the stage once more to close their show with “Refuge” (another piece from the “Missing Link”), as an encore.
They were good, if not a little too pre-occupied with certain albums and not exactly trying to give all some equal representation, but enjoyable to watch despite, having a sound that initially was not all that defined. Once the band warmed up – after the first few songs – the vibe was there to make it a highly enjoyable affair.
Hammerfall had done a show, maybe a couple of years ago, and their latest album “Build to Last” didn’t exactly set the world on fire; in fact, it saw them moving from Nuclear Blast to the kinda smaller Napalm Records. True to form however, they did take the stage after 20 or so minutes that took their crew to tear down Refuge’s set and put up the various stage props ie “printed gargoyles” and such that gave an air of grandeur with the use of appropriate lightning and smoke effects. The crowd by now was significantly more in numbers, but still a far cry from last time, with a couple of hundred seeming to snub the rich and rewarding line up this time around. Joacim Cans was vocally good, not really as edgy as the last time, but pretty faithful to the songs. He looked somewhat gaunt and at least 10 kilos lighter than last time they played here. Oscar Dronjak, ever the “poser”, would go on to play his parts with aplomb, on his hammer shaped guitar and strike heroic poses, while Pontus Norgren on the other side of the stage would really be taking care of business, handling the solos and rocking like a hurricane in a teacup! The original bassist for the band, Frederic Larsson,who was however replaced by Magnus Roesen for the debut, along with relative newcomer David Wallin on drums, sure sounded solid, allowing the rest of the band to steadily assault on top of their tightly locked rhythms.
Starting off with “Hectors Hymn”, going into “Riders of the Storm” and then going into the far past with “Renegade”, the Swedes showed their intentions early on. “Dethrone and Defy” from their latest effort is, I suppose OK, but all in all, “Build to Last” wasn’t an album that really took me by storm. “Blood Bound” seemed to do the trick of getting things back on track and while I’ve always thought that “Any Means Necessary” was a little cringy, it’s persistent percussion translated well live. Cans gave a whole little speech, about how the first album he ever bought was by Saxon as an intro to “B(ang).Y(our).H(ead). A song from the maligned era when Hammerfall fancied becoming the next Rammstein, which didn’t quite pan out. It’s actually one of two songs from that album that I can stand listening to, cause let’s face it, when your own company presses half the albums, they usually do, it’s a telltale sign of trouble. “Crimson Thunder” and “Threshold” came as worthy representatives of the mid-era, only to be brought back forward, by “Built to Last”, which was fine, I suppose. “Last Man Standing”, a track only present at a “best of” compilation, seemed like a bit of an odd choice, but so be it. At this point Pontus did a rather neat guitar solo that segued into a “Legacy of Kings Medley”, which was a way to try and cover quite a bit from that album that sees its 20th anniversary, and then a one-two from the same album with “Heeding the Call” and “Let the Hammer Fall”.
The band took of the stage with a bow only to release with their most recent, highly rhythmical “Hammer High” the leadoff single from their latest album, “Bushido” from “rEvolution” and probably the worst song as a closer with “Hearts on Fire”, which is almost something like cheerleader metal. Any-hooow.
The band was built to perform and having done that for more than 20 odd years has given them a superb stage confidence, which translates in very good showmanship. A little more on the safe side, than last time and with the only possible qualm being the band seemingly snubbing their own debut, it was an otherwise, enjoyable night, for all who chose to come out.