HAMMERFALL / FLOTSAM AND JETSAM / WRATH / ACRACY
Date: 04th June, 2018
Venue: The Forge
It has been a really long time since the last time I’ve seen HAMMERFALL live so getting to this gig was a no-brainer for me. On top of this, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM was the direct support for this North US tour so this deal had become sweeter. However, pairing the two bands seemed a bit odd because it is kind of hard to attract an audience following at the same time the Swedes’ Power Metal and the Americans’ old-school Thrash... I mean, the audience’s age gap could be an issue in this case right?
One more question mark I had floating in my mind while driving to The Forge was the well-known ‘Monday issue’. It is a given that Mondays fall always hard on people and it is difficult to get one’s but off the couch and into a venue for a Metal show. However, once you’ve entered the venue and you hear the loud music blasting off the speakers then you know you made the right choice. And this is exactly what happened to me because seeing a nice crowd watching Progressive metallers ACRACY wrapping up their set made me forget that it was another sluggish Monday. Yeah, and it was about to get steamy since Thrash was next on the menu with WRATH being the perfect hosts.
I have seen this band quite a few times and each time feels better than the last one. This instance was no exception as WRATH stormed the stage with “Conflict” putting the pedal to the Metal being determined to take full advantage of the time given. There was a tight time schedule to follow and this became obvious during the stage preparations with the urgency to get things done leading the way. I guess HAMMERFALL had a long setlist planned so there were complaints about this. A brief ‘hi’ was the only break we got after the first three tracks of the set and the energy of WRATH seemed to start having an effect on the rather young and a bit lazy crowd during “R.I.P.”. Getting some Thrash before FLOTSAM AND JETSAM’s Thrash felt like the right thing to do. “Thank you, this is the title track of our new album” said singer Gary Golwitzer before “Rage” and I believe he was referring to the upcoming WRATH record. In any case, it was awesome watching the band having such a great mood and being in this form. After “Insane Society”, it was time to close the set with the usual suspect; the MOTÖRHEAD cover of “Ace Of Spades”. Of course and I prefer originals over covers but WRATH have done a great version with the double bass drum adding a Thrash dose to this pounder and I think it got the most of the metalheads who had to be ready for FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, right?
02. “Draw Blood”
03. “Test Of Faith”
04. “R.I.P. (Ripped Into Pieces)”
06. “Insane Society”
07. “Ace Of Spades”
(click to enlarge)
There was an issue with one of the mics set on the drum-kit so there was an unplanned delay and this was something that was about to bite a piece off from the setlist later on... Anyway, everything seemed to be ready for FLOTSAM AND JETSAM who kicked off their set with “Monkey Wrench” after the “The Incantaion” taped intro. Alas, not everything was working as it should with the stage lights being at minimum due to some technical issue. Ok, this was annoying especially when trying to get pictures but it was no issue for the band itself that hit us hard with this killer tune from the latest and self-titled LP. To my partial disappointment the young audience did not seem to be into FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and therefore, the reaction was not as it should. I guess, it required more effort to wake them up although I think the “old school song” Eric A.K. introduced did seem to work on the right direction. After all, it would had been crazy if “Dreams Of Death” did not see any action at all no matter one’s age or prior knowledge of this band’s doings (do your homework people); the riff assault, the pounding drumming and high-pitched vocals are more than enough reasons to make a metalhead’s blood start to boil. And if you pair this with “Hammerhead” then you reach the boiling point at no time. Damn, this band looks and sounds in top form so knowing that FLOTSAM AND JETSAM are working on a new album brought some additional headbanging enthusiasm. For this one, bassist Michael Spencer stepped forward and sounded the charge with the killer bass lines leading this song to the Thrashin’ climax with Eric A.K. spitting out the lyrics “hello, how are you?” The old-school suite ended with another classic banger which as the previous one comes from “Doomsday For The Deceiver”. This time it was Mike’s and Steve’s turn to floor the Metal gas with the riff attack of “She Took An Axe”. Ladies and gentlemen this is US Thrash and there is nothing to question about.
“Sometimes you wake and you realize everything has gone wrong” Eric A.K. said and made it obvious what was next on the menu; the hard-hittin’ “Life Is A Mess”, also from the band’s latest record, kicked in and this time my attention was drawn towards the latest lineup addition; drummer Ken Mary was showing off his playing skills and to my eyes he looked like he has been with FLOTSAM AND JETSAM for a long time and that had to do with his impressive level of confidence. The way he was throwing the drum sticks in the air while pounding the skins was awesome. “This is another from our latest album and it titled after my favorite Metal band” commented Eric A.K. and those who have done their homework recognized that it was time for “Iron Maiden”. Unfortunately, the band had time for one more so “I Live You Die” had to be sacrificed with “No Place For Disgrace” taking its spot. Fuck yeah, this sounded great with the riffs and the pounding rhythm making it clear that seven songs were a mere appetizer. However, and as I have already said, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM are on their second youth so a headlining tour will definitely make this up to me.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM setlist:
01. “The Incantation” (intro - taped)
02. “Monkey Wrench”
03. “Dreams Of Death”
05. “She Took An Axe”
06. “Life Is A Mess”
07. “Iron Maiden”
08. “No Place For Disgrace”
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
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Judging by the increased number of metalheads inside The Forge during the break, confirmed that this audience was HAMMERFALL dedicated / focused. Although, noticing the number of HAMMERFALL t-shirts already should have been an undisputed piece of evidence that the headlining set was about to be steamy. Indeed, my predictions were verified the moment the lights went out and the short intro accompanied the Swedes onstage who were welcomed with loud cheers. Oh yeah, “Hector’s Hymn” sounded loud and crystal clear with the first of the many to follow sing/chant along chorus. It was a HAMMERFALL dedicated crowd alright with lots of fists in the air and with many fans singing every frickin’ lyric coming from Joacim Cans’ throat. The last time I had seen HAMMERFALL was in the other side of the Atlantic where they were headlining a fest but they did not get me going. This time however it almost felt like it was the mid-'90s when I saw for the first time HAMMERFALL opening for GAMMA RAY in their “Glory To The Brave” tour. Maybe it was due to the smaller stage (when compared to the festival one) but the energy coming from the band was both addictive and awesome to experience.
Hearing the singing-along during “Riders Of The Storm” made the hair at the back of my neck to stand up and right there, Monday had become a Friday. Once more, I have to tip my hat to the young US audience for being so into the show that made the whole experience 666 times better. To me HAMMERFALL sound way better than they do on the record and this is related to how the band connects with the audience and the way the lineup behaves onstage. Sure, some of the onstage moves seemed to have been semi-rehearsed or pre-defined but this makes the show super-fun with lots of things to watch. There was no way to resist fist-pumping or headbanging during the riff attack opening “Renegade” which brought lots of memories on the surface when HAMMERFALL were hitting the scene hard. In hindsight, being in this side of the Atlantic is a perfect opportunity to experience how it feels watching a band as it’s working its way building a strong following because in Europe HAMMERFALL is an already established Power Metal force. “Last time we were in the States it went so great that we had to postpone the recordings of our new album to return”, said Joacim and sort of affirmed what I was thinking about the success of HAMMERFALL in breaking the always hard shell of the US market. If you have hard time trusting my words then the response “Dethrone And Defy” got and the first oooohs of the night should be the only affirmation one would need. Even though, I am not the biggest fan of “Built To Last” listening some songs from that album live kind of made me to reconsider. Again, this is how better HAMMERFALL sound live than on record and this is kind of rare (usually it is the other way around).
Having finished my photo-taking duty (the lights were still too colorful with minimum whites) I found a spot on the a few meters in front of the soundboard and had my jaw drop by the clarity of the sound despite the high volume. Soon enough, I joined in singing along “Blood Bound” and “Any Means Necessary” with the latter being absolutely fun to do so. “Do you remember 1982?” asked Joakim and he replied on his own after looking around: “some of you, you were not even born. Do you remember vinyl?” That was a good one… Anyways, he talked about how SAXON’s LP “Strong Arm Of The Law” got him into Metal with “B.Y.H.” and “Crimson Thunder” being the best follow-ups in this one-man conversation.
“We have been doing this for 20 years and we may look old but inside we feel young” the singer said and went on: “who has listened our latest LP?” and without waiting much he answered: “and the crowd goes mild…”. I guess, I was not the only one not being moved by the band’s latest album but once again I had to eat my words up as that album’s title track came out awesome with the main riff inviting everyone to sing along with their fists in the air. Without pausing, “Last Man Standing” followed and kept the monument that was already built from “Built To Last” (pun intended). Joakim joked a bit by revealing that “nothing is happening inside the tour bus” contrary to what people believe when thinking about the 80s and then, he offered a “little treat for us” referring to the “Legacy Of Kings”. The medley started with the first part of “Dreamland” with Oscar and Pontus exchanging guitar leads while the former was lip-singing the lyrics. Joakim returned to his singing duties for “At The End Of The Rainbow” excerpt before introducing bassist Fredrik Larsson.
After briefly introducing the band’s drummer, David Wallin, it was back to the full-song setlist with “Heeding The Call” which started with a drum roll (hence the introduction). “One of the reasons we returned to the States was to teach the younger one how to say HAMMERFALL” said Joakim and this was how he passed the baton to “Let The Hammer Fall”. Ok, I was disappointed that the crowd did not respond to the FLOTSAM with a loud JETSAM that Joakim replaced when he was asking the metalheads to respond to HAMMER with a FALL. Anyways, you cannot have everything you want in life right?
The encore of the night started with the “Over The Hills” sounding drum roll and the semi-a capella intro of “Hammer High” resumed the show. Contrary to what usually happens in shows set in the middle or even worse in the beginning of the week no one left during the break. And this was acknowledged by the HAMMERFALL singer who thanked everyone for coming and sticking until the end. “Bushido” and the singing-along “Hearts On Fire” were the last ones of the night but I am sure (and hopeful) that HAMMERFALL will be crossing the Atlantic pretty soon and I will be there singing-along with my fist in the air.
“Hammer high this is a freedom cry
Hammer high, no one should ask me why
It's my life – tell me I will defy
Hammer high until I die”
01. “Hector's Hymn”
02. “Riders Of The Storm”
04. “Dethrone And Defy”
05. “Blood Bound”
06. “Any Means Necessary”
08. “Crimson Thunder”
10. “Built To Last”
11. “Last Man Standing”
12. “Legacy Of Kings” medley
13. “Heeding The Call”
14. “Let The Hammer Fall”
15. “Hammer High”
17. “Hearts On Fire”
(click to enlarge)