Live review and photo credit: Adrian Hextall (Writer / Photographer / Contributor MyGlobalMind Webzine)
A headlining show from Hammerfall is somewhat a rarity. Previous trips to the UK have seen great sets at Bloodstock (before it become the outdoor festival) and also the KOKO in London to name just two. Every time the band sell well and are well received. Quite why, therefore, the visits are so infrequent is unclear. Even tonight sees a solitary UK date. As such the venue is full with an eager crowd waiting join the party.
They are supported by two up and coming British acts Skarlet Riot and Neonfly.
One of my colleagues once said Neonfly were the product of a drunken night out between Dream Theater, Magnum and Dragonforce. I can see where he was coming from. I’ve never heard the band before so when they first came on stage their look, feel and very metal posturing made me think power metal was the order of the day. Certainly, given the headliners, it wouldn’t have been out of place.
Instead what we get is a band that plays energetic melodic rock that does indeed stray somewhere in-between Magnum and Dragonforce. The musicianship is solid, the shapes that they throw are pure metal entertainment and the song content fits the world of Dragonforce for sure. What makes them unique are the vocals of Willy Norton who’s voice brings an almost AORish tinge to the music and pushes the overall sound back towards classic bands like Magnum.
As such this unusual blend leaves me wondering what’s coming next and all the more interested in the band to find out more. ‘Better Angels’ from latest album ‘Strangers in Paradise’ precedes ‘Highways to Nowhere’ which is also from the same release. Both are perfect examples of what Neonfly are capable of. The former starts with crunching guitar work and makes way for layered acoustic and keyboard work. With a melodic chorus that perfectly breaks up the light with the heavy it become clear what Neonfly’s mission statement is. The latter track works in a similar way. ‘Highways To Nowhere’ performs the same feat but almost in reverse. An acoustic intro then segues into a heavy riff with Willy’s signature vocals sitting comfortably over the top.
A short set but one that further reminds us that the UK can turn out some quality rock bands.
Highways to Nowhere,
Heart Of The Sun,
Skarlett Riot are rapidly becoming the go to support band for big names in London at the moment. This must be the fourth time I’ve seen them in the last six months in a major support role in London. Energised and fun, the only criticism I’d levelled at the band previously is the need for additional backing vocals to support Skarlett to give the songs some additional depth. It felt like the same thoughts would prevail during this set but when the band reached the mid point in their set, a change became quite noticeable. Vocal effects and possibly a backing track of her vocals are added to the sound and the effect is excellent. A huge improvement in the sound and feel of the songs and it transforms Cascade, Rising and What We’ve Become into real crowd-pleasers.
A definite step up in the way Skarlett Riot play and something that will see them attract bigger and better slots going forward.
What We’ve Become,
Are You Alive,
Skarlett Riot & Neonfly Gallery
Touring on the back of their last album (r)Evolution, there is a definite feeling of “it’s about time” as we wait for Hammerfall to reach the stage. When they do, the smiles are wide from both band and crowd. As the band take their places with David Wallin, now the new boy in the band, on drums, Joacim Cans bounds on and we are off on a roller-coaster ride through old and new tracks much to the delight of the crowd.
‘Hectors Hymn’ sounds fantastic and is a great way to start the show. It’s rapidly followed by anthem after anthem as Hammerfall dig deep into their catalogue. ‘Blood Bound’, ‘Heeding The Call’ are great work outs and it’s a pleasure to watch seasoned musicians playing with the energy and passion of bands half their age.
Audience interaction is of course a given and Joacim leads the crowd in a chant along prior to ‘Let The Hammer Fall’ and ‘Life Life Loud’ which pretty much sums up the evening.
There are so many classic songs that Hammerfall can call on but, of course, cannot fit into their set unless they play for 6 hours straight, the band perform an instrumental medley whilst Cans goes off-stage, covering ‘Hero’s Return / The Dragon Lies Bleeding / Trailblazers / Riders of the Storm / Fury of the Wild‘. If only a snippet, the inclusion of ‘Riders..’ for me is an absolute highlight.
Given the strength in Cans voice, even 18 years into his Hammerfall career (one that commenced when no one and I mean ‘no one’ was prepared to put any faith in Power Metal), it’s clear that the band will be around for at least as long again. He really has an amazing set of pipes and support from the likes of Oscar Dronjak ensure the show is never anything less than spectacular. The audience certainly agree and every word during the set is sung en-masse back to the band.
Proof positive that as ever, promoters need to appreciate that bands like Hammerfall could easily have a successful UK tour instead of occasionally playing one random (normally London) date.
Joacim Cans: Lead Vocals,
Oscar Dronjak: Lead & Rhythm Guitars,
Pontus Norgren: Lead & Rhythm Guitars,
Fredrik Larsson: Bass Guitar,
David Wallin : Drums,
Hector’s Hymn ,
Any Means Necessary ,
Blood Bound ,
Heeding the Call ,
Let the Hammer Fall ,
Live Life Loud ,
400 Meter Medley (Hero’s Return / The Dragon Lies Bleeding / Trailblazers / Riders of the Storm / Fury of the Wild) ,
Last Man Standing,
Glory To The Brave ,
Templars of Steel,
Hearts on Fire,