Interview: HAMMERFALL – Built To Last

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Metal is a worldwide community. Music, itself, is a universal, healing phenomenon.

But, Power Metal, unlike any other genre, sets out to purposely meet that aim. Whereas extreme genres express dissent and defiance from the perspective of the lone wolf, Power Metal expresses defiance and hope through the pack.

And HammerFall are masters at this.

For over 23 years, the former and current members of this Swedish outfit set out to create empowering escapism through fantasy and memorable energy. This year, Joacim Cans (vox), Oscar Dronjak (guitar), Fredrik Larsson (bass), David Wallin (drums), and Pontus Norgren (guitar) released their most honest and heartfelt project yet, Built To Last, on November 4th on Napalm Records, and the name, alone, could be a testament to the band, itself. 

Larsson was kind enough to set some time aside and share his thoughts on this latest achievement and the Metal world at large.

Fredrik Larsson

Fredrik Larsson

TBS — In a recent article it was stated: “Power metal has more in common with extreme metal than one might think.” Could you expound more on this a bit, please, maybe give an example?

I have no idea what article you’re referring to and what they had in mind, but as I see it, we all have evolved from early rock/heavy metal and just taken small steps in different directions. So of course we have a lot in common.

There’s so many sub genres out there it’s hard to keep track, and I actually don’t care. If it’s good, it’s good. We prefer to call our music Heavy Metal, that’s what we grew up with and that’s the kind of music we want to play.

TBS — Power Metal is an interesting term because Metal, in all forms, is always about power. Yet, it has become synonymous with fantasy and history. How do you think that happened?

I think it’s as simple as the bands that got a little popular in the beginning had those lyric themes and many bands after that just got inspired then it took off.

TBS — Tell us a bit about Built to Last and what this project provides that the others do not. What do you wish your fans to take away from your songs?

This time we really tried to capture the energy in the songs. Not that we didn’t try that before but we really made an effort to make it shine through. It’s hard to get that energy on tape, the one that you could only feel on stage pretty much. Also, we didn’t aim for that perfect take, the perfect pitch and where everything is polished and nice.

We wanted the raw feeling and as long as it sounded good and the energy was there we didn’t care about small “mistakes.”

And we tried to keep it simple, not a thousand layers with guitars and keyboards, just drums, bass, two guitars and vocals. Of course we had to have our choirs, it’s not HammerFall without some mighty choir choruses. I look at this record as a continuation from ‘r(Evolution)’. Before that album we had a break for over a year and when we came back we all felt that this is what we want to do, we want to show the world that we still have a lot to give and that we are hungry. I think we showed that on ‘r(Evolution)’ and now it was much easier to follow on that path.

TBS — Hammerfall’s sound has pretty much kept up with itself since, say, Hearts on Fire in 2002. How did you manage to maintain your energy and signature sound in a world – and an industry – that has changed so much around you since then?

We don’t try to be something that we’re not. We always look back to our roots to remind us what’s good and then we try to update that sound to be fresh.

pontus-norgren

Pontus Norgren

Pontus is a guitar geek and always comes up with gears to get a better sound and as long as it sounds better, go for it! And since we play Heavy Metal, we don’t want to look at trends that comes and goes. We have some boundaries that we don’t take too many steps outside and have worked really well for us so far. The fans knows what they get and I still think it sounds really heavy and fresh.

TBS — How much do you allow the outside world to affect your work?

Nothing, pretty much. But at the same time, we are here because of our fans. Without them we would be nothing. And we know that, but it’s important for us to write and play stuff that we love in the first place. And hopefully our fans will love it too.

If we write something that we think our fans would want, then it’s not going to be honest and I think it would show.

TBS — Geezer Butler just made a statement that he believes that “Metal is here to stay.” Do you agree with this? What do you see Metal evolving into?

Of course I agree with Geezer. That’s not a very bold statement to make, I mean Metal has been around for quite some time now and it’s definitely not a trend that will be gone tomorrow. We did our best to make Heavy Metal big again when we released ‘Glory to the Brave’ back in -97 and that’s almost 20 years ago. And the Metal scene is still growing, there’s a lot of sub genres, that we talked about earlier, and they will come and go as small “trends” but Metal is definitely here to stay.

TBS  — How is Hammerfall planning to support “Built to Last” in regards to new media and tour schedules? What would you like your fans to know?

We will make our biggest tour ever. First off is an European tour in January and then a South American tour and a North American tour will follow. And that’s all before the summer festivals will begin so we will be quite busy. And we have some plans for next fall as well but nothing is ready yet so I will have to get back on the details.

I really hope you enjoy the album and that I will see you all somewhere out on our ‘Built to Tour’.

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