In a backlash against the hair metal of the 80s, the 90s opened up with the explosion of grunge in America and death metal in Europe. The impact all but obliterated Aquanet and spandex and almost drove a stake through the heart of melodic metal altogether. In Gothenberg, Sweden young guitarist, Oscar Dronjak, was trying his hand with death metal, but it was not long before his passion for traditional, melodic metal pushed him to create Hammerfall.
Hammerfall was born in 1993 with In Flames drummer Jesper Stromblad. The latter would only appear on the 1997 debut album Glory to the Brave, but he would contribute to the songwriting of the band’s first four albums. Vocalist Joacim Cans and bassist Fredrik Larsson both joined prior to the debut album. Drummer Anders Johansson joined in 1999. The current line-up is rounded out by lead guitarist, Pontus Norgren, who joined in 2008.
In a recent interview with Metalholic, Dronjak admitted that he did not believe the band would be anything more than a labor of love with a small following of fans. However, the band’s first two albums helped set the standard for the rebirth of melodic metal.
After the release of the band’s eighth album, Infected, in 2011, the group opted to take a hiatus to follow other pursuits and find a renewed passion for Hammerfall. As Dronjak shared, the short break had the desired result:
“When we decided to take this break, the fun of it had been lost a little bit. not completely, obviously, but the passion for the touring and everything that comes with it–we were lacking in that department. We could have written and recorded another record right after Infected and that tour, but I think that might have been the death of the band. It was an absolute necessity for us to take a little break and recharge the batteries.”
In keeping with the renewed sense of commitment, Hammerfall released its ninth studio effort, (r)Evolution this summer. It is easily the group’s best effort since its early days. Dronjak and the band managed to channel the energy and enthusiasm of their first two records and blended that with the maturity and growth of their songwriting over the years. Oscar agreed with this assessment.
During the band’s downtime, Dronjak, not surprisingly, remained the most focused on Hammerfall, and after a brief break began not only writing for the new record but penning his autobiography.
“I spent 2013 writing a biography about Hammerfall. It’s actually a biography about my like but Hammerfall has been my life since 1993. So it’s basically about the band but it also includes my musical history. That meant that I got to relive the past a lot. Quite vividly actually, because I wrote about every tour, every recording, everything that we have ever done that I could remember. I talked to more or less, everybody involved including old band members, producers, and just people who have been around Hammerfall for parts, or all or our career.”
Part of that walk through Hammerfall history included longtime friend and producer Fredrik Nordstrom, who returned for the first time since the band’s first two albums to produce (r)Evolution. Dronjak shared that it has been a plan for a long time to get back in the studio with Nordstrom, and this record seemed the perfect time.
During our 25 minute interview below, Oscar talks about how Hammerfall came to be born, making the first two records, the new record, as well as his favorite Accept riffs.