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Formed in 1993 Hammerfall is a functioning example and a reconfirmation of why Sweden is one of the leading countries in metal. The group was founded in Gothenburg and is headed by it’s only consistent member Oscar Dronjak (the former guitarist and singer of melodic death metal band Ceremonial Oath).
Dronjak conceived of the project Hammerfall while he was still in Ceremonial Oath, having already written songs before the group’s official formation. After he left Ceremonial Oath he recruited his friend and bass player of Ceremonial Oath, Jesper Stromblad, to play drums for the band.
Stromblad is a multi-faceted instrumentalist and apart from playing drums and bass he is also a founding member of In Flames, contributing keyboards and guitars. The two members later added guitarist Niklas Sundin, bassist Johan Larson and vocalist Mikael Stanne to complete the lineup. However within a year Sundin and Larson both left the group and were replaced respectively by Glenn Ljungstrom of In Flames and Fredrick Larsson of Dispatched.
In a sense it seemed like Hammerfall was a Swedish metal supergroup. All the members played in pioneering melodic death metal bands that were more widely recognized than Hammerfall. The group was initially seen as a side project and many of Hammerfall’s first performances were confined to local venues and contests, in particular “Rockslaget”. During one of their performances at Rockslaget lead singer Stanne was not able to perform and was consequently replaced by vocalist Joacim Cans who later became an official member. Though Hammerfall composed their own music, a majority of their setlist consisted of covers of Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and Pretty Maids.
The band sought out a recording contract with Dutch label Vic Records, sending them a recording of one of their live performances. The label took the bait and signed them on; however the group was on the label for only a short time. Before the group put out their first album they once again experienced a dramatic shift in their lineup as Stromblad, Ljungstrom, and Larsson left the group. The band later reconsolidated and marked their change of lineup by signing a contract with German label Nuclear Blast.
The group has been on this label for the majority of their career. In 1997 the band issued their debut album “Glory to the Brave” and supported it with two music videos. The marketing strategies of Nuclear Blast seemed to pay off as the album reached No. 38 on the German Music Chart making it the first heavy metal album to do so. Additionally the album was garnered with critical praise and was ranked by Rock Hard magazine at number 295 on their list of 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. The album was also nominated for the Swedish Grammy award in the hard rock category.
The group supported the album with a 5 gig tour. It was not until after the release of their second album “Legacy of Kings” that the band started to tour more heavily. This release saw them playing festivals alongside Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, and Dream Theater to name a few.
Hammerfall released two more albums “Renegade” and “Crimson Thunder” before taking an 18 month break. The group took a more commercially acceptable approach with their album “Renegade” and supported it with a large scale tour that consisted of nearly 60 dates. The group also heavily promoted “Crimson Thunder” making several music videos from their singles and playing alongside heavy metal legends like Dio, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Twisted Sister.
After the group’s brief hiatus they put out “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” and “Threshold” (the later album shot straight to No.1 on the Swedish charts). Hamerfall’s next release “No Sacrifice, No Victory” did very well both commercially and critically. It was not only a hit in Europe but also one in America, rising all the way to No. 38 on the Billboard Heatseakers Chart. Two years later Hammerfall put out their 8th studio album “Infected” before taking another 18 month hiatus and eventually ended with the release of their 2014 album, “(r)Evolution”.