At the very start of the sold-out show the Swedish heavy metal warriors HAMMERFALL held in Novi Sad, Serbia it was obvious that singer Joacim Cans is going to have a hard time trying to outsing the thundering audience.
Singing from the bottom of their lungs and hearts were their die-hard fans, now old enough to have kids, as well as those same kids who inherited their passion for heavy metal from their parents. Both the old and the young were jumping, pumping their fists and moshing to the well-known tracks of a bend that’s well into their third decade. “How are you so crazy, it’s only Tuesday,” Cans wondered.
Even though the official reason for their visit was promoting their latest release titled “Built to Last” published two years ago, HammerFall did not forget about other fan-favorites from their rich catalog spanning ten other albums.
With so many songs to choose from, it was obvious from the start that not everyone will be happy with the set-list. Despite the fact that there were no songs from their debut album on the list, no one showed any visible signs of protest. What’s more, their younger fans were quite loud as the band played through their recent opus.
Mixing the moshpit gasoline in “Hector’s Hymn” and “Renegade” with the highly flammable “Riders of the Storm” created an explosive concoction that got the crowd going from the very start. The band quickly turned to their recent works and played through songs like “Dethrone and Defy”, “Any Means Necessary” and “Bang Your Head”, a clear nod to Saxon as Cans explained.
“When I first heard Biff Byford, I knew he was singing to my heart” he reminisced. What makes this band so popular are catchy songs built to make you pump your fist and sing your heart out to the 80s-inspired choruses many other bands forgot how to craft.
As always, Oscar Dronjak got his fair share of love he has grown accustomed to whenever he visits these parts. Being part Serbian, the crowd did not miss its chance to chant “Oscar, you’re a Serbian” as he was trying to make out the words with a Serbian flag for the cape on his back. “I’m sure he’s grateful, whatever it is you’re telling him” Cans jokingly remarked.
Dronjak himself took a moment to address the crowd: “The first time I ever was in Serbia was in 2007. I’m sorry it took me that long but that’s the truth. And up until now, that was my absolute favorite moment up on stage ever. But you guys, you topped that!”
Even though for a moment it seemed the band was going to wrap things up after “Last Man Standing”, the band went into full gear and performed a medley of songs from their sophomore album “Legacy of Kings” which marks its 20th anniversary this year. Personally, I would appreciate it if the band dedicated a larger part of their playtime celebrating the album that established them as the heavy metal saviors they were.
However, the medley along with “Heeding the Call” and “Let the Hammer Fall” was enough to take us back to another time, a time when heavy metal was considered a dead genre. Even now, some say that rock is dead, but last night I met at least 500 people willing to claim otherwise.
Let’s not forget about the band that got the crowd warmed up for the headliners, Brazilian act Armored Dawn. I wish I could say their performance made me want to give them a chance and listen to them at home, but the fact is that they didn’t leave too much of an impression, especially after the headliners’ show.
Still, tracks like “Gods of Metal” or “Beware of the Dragon” managed to get the crowd going and the band members were doing their best to animate the crowd and keep them entertained with jokes. It seems they succeeded, as the crowd joined them in singing songs they very obviously haven’t heard before.
“It took us 21 years to come here, and one thing’s for sure – we’re coming back,” Joacim said as he was about to introduce the absolute highlight of the show in “Hearts of Fire” that got even the inert ones jumping. The band is about to continue their crusade in Slovenia and beyond. As we wait for their next album and the tour cycle, we’re left with maybe the best and certainly the loudest show they ever held in Serbia.
Written by Jovan Ristić
Photos by Marko Ristić