This is my fourth time going in Ljubljana this year to see a concert of a metal band that for some reason is not happening in Croatia. After Fates Warning in January, Scorpions in June, Primal Fear in the middle of October, time has come to see the mighty HammerFall. If we look back the last two years, the club-sized concerts (let’s say for up to 1500 people) of heavy/power metal bands are almost non-existent in Croatia. Yes, we do get arena-sized concerts here and there, but our neighbors in Slovenia are far better in getting the bands. I am not sure what the problem is, I can only say “hats off” to the neighbors for getting all the concerts that we’re failing to.
Not so much “hats off” to their border police, because crossing of the border was too long that we barely got in time for the first band, Armored Dawn. Actually, we got in the middle of the first song. Armored Dawn, opening act for HammerFall throughout reBuilt to Tour 2018, is a Brazilian heavy/power metal band that I’ve never heard of before this tour. There were 6 members on the stage – that means 3 guitarist, but one of the occasionally plays the keyboards, and one of the guitarist is from Finland if I got it right from the concert. Weird combination by itself and I’m curious how that happened. Anyway, Armored Dawn was an enjoyable experience, but nothing too original, nothing groundbreaking, just an opening act to get you in the mood. Sound was decent, although on some parts guitars were really turned down for some reason. Crowd was supportive and was gathered in the more-than-a-decent number. More people saw them than Primal Fear (headliner!) 10 days before.
I have to give props to the organizers once again, because the concerts in Kino Šiška always start on time. HammerFall was no exception. Before the concert even started, the sold out venue was chanting: HammerFall, HammerFall, HammerFall very loudly, and that’s not a case often last few years. Is it me, or the crowd is getting softer year by year?
The concert opened with “Hector’s Hymn” off the “(r)Evolution” album. With that song they opened back the World Wide Revolution tour. It’s clear that not all of the fans are familiar with the last few albums. From the first song it was clear that the sound was perfect. Every tone was clear, both clean and distorted parts of the songs, both rhythm and lead sections. Next one is one of my favorite tracks of all time – “Riders of the Storm”. Perfect execution of the song. Crowd came alive with that one and especially with the next one. That one being “Renegade”. Well-known and well-loved song by the fans, the concert really came to a high point that the band managed to keep through most of the night. They played three songs from the latest album: “Dethrone and Defy”, the title-track “Built to Last” and “Hammer High” in the encore. All three songs were so well incorporated into the set list that the crowd didn’t stop even for them, which happens often when the bands play the new stuff (cough, Primal Fear, cough). The set got most of the band’s hits: “Blood Bound”, “Any Means Necessary”, “B.Y.H.”, “Threshold”, “Last Man Standing”… The one song that really surprised me is “Crimson Thunder” – one of the concert’s peak moments. It was obvious that all the members were really enjoying themselves, especially very talkative Joacim Cans which had many quips during the breaks between the songs. After he introduced guitarist Pontus Norgren in a rather funny story, and Pontus did his 80-seconds solo, Joacim talked about the legacy of the Legacy of Kings album (I, too, have quips. Bad ones, that is). Next came up Medley which was made from the parts of the songs from the mentioned album which included “Legacy of Kings”, “Dreamland”, “At the End of the Rainbow” and “Stronger than All” if I’m not mistaken. And then two full songs off the same album – “Heeding the Call” and “Let the Hammer Fall” – which is the second peak moment of the concert.
After a very loud call back for the band, they came back and played three more tracks – before mentioned “Hammer High”, “Bushido” and their greatest hit “Hearts on Fire” after which we all know that is the definitive end of the concert. Thus ended an A+ concert from the Swedish (not Swiss!) band. Not a single song from the first album, but I’ll give them a pass this time, because everything else was top notch.
Also, I’ve would like to add my two cents out here. I urge the bands to play some lesser known songs here and there. One great example is the band Gamma Ray with their Skeletons in the Closet and Skeletons & Majesties tours where they played only songs that are rarely or never played before. You don’t have to go to that extremes doing the whole set of that songs (but that also would be fine). You can add three or four songs to your set list. For HammerFall great examples would be “Unchained”, “Warriors of Faith”, “Destined for Glory”, “On the Edge of Honour”, “Hammer of Justice”, “Carved in Stone” and many others. I hope that on next tours they every time add some lesser known tracks for the older fans which saw them many times live.