Hammer High: Anaheim Metalheads rejoice in Triumphant Return of HammerFall

By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Chris Loomis)

May 10th 2017, City National Grove of Anaheim, Anaheim CA: March 27 2010 was the last time Swedish power metal kings HammerFall played a show in Southern California, at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip. Seven years have passed, the said venue no longer exists, and HammerFall have released three new albums in the interim. In 2017, diehard fans of the band were overflowing with unstoppable, uncontrollable excitement when a co-headline North American tour with Dutch symphonic metal band Delain was announced. The two bands brought their tour to the Grove of Anaheim last Wednesday May 10th, and metalheads from Orange County and surrounding areas gathered in large numbers to let the hammer fall on them.

On this co-headline run, HammerFall and Delain are playing just about equally long sets and the order is HammerFall followed by Delain, with the exception of two shows, Dallas TX on May 13 and Anaheim last night where HammerFall would close the show. As for the Anaheim show there was little to no prior information on the order of bands, so ticket holders were in the dark until they arrived at the venue. On a Wednesday evening, it turned out to be a blessing or a curse, depending on which co-headliner you preferred.


At 9:10, Dutch group Delain hit the stage. Expectedly, all eyes and ears were on the towering, imposing, charming frontwoman Charlotte Wessels, yet the entire six-piece band, complete with a live keyboardist, performed very much as a cohesive unit. There is no denying that they present a very catchy, poppy variant of what’s broadly termed as symphonic metal, and while metal purists may not approve, Delain are well-established in their sound through their five-album career thus far and clearly excel at it because even in a quite saturated symphonic metal market, they have garnered a sizable fan-base of their own. HammerFall fans, regardless of their degree of liking or dislike of Delain, must recognize the fact that the band they love so much has been able to return to this continent mostly because of Delain.

Charlotte Wessels – Delain

Led by Charlotte Wessels’ soaring, booming voice and well backed by all other members, Delain played a full 75-minute set with a selection of tunes that left their fans more than overjoyed. In comparison to their most recent appearances in LA/Orange County opening for Nightwish, this somehow felt like a stronger, more energetic performance from Delain, and perhaps the co-headliner status, and sharing the stage with the mighty HammerFall has inspired them to put forth better than their best. Delain’s popularity in America is at the highest it’s ever been, will surely continue to rise because they have all the right ingredients for it, and one can already predict them returning as sole headliners at the same venue in the near future.

Delain set list:
01. Hands of Gold
02. Go Away
03. The Glory and the Scum
04. Suckerpunch
05. Get the Devil Out of Me
06. Army of Dolls
07. The Hurricane
08. Danse Macabre
09. Here Come the Vultures
10. Fire with Fire
11. Pendulum
12. Sleepwalkers Dream
13. Not Enough
14. Mother Machine
15. Don’t Let Go
16. We Are the Others

At 10:45, the wait was finally over for HammerFall fans, as the band stormed the stage to bring 20-plus years of pure Swedish steel, much to the delight of those that remained inside the Grove. Knowing full well that they had not played in Southern California since March 2010, HammerFall were not about to waste a single moment of their time on stage, and utilized it to the maximum with an all-killer, no-filler, power-packed 14-song set that only went from strength to strength with each of the 14 selections. Besides three well-chosen songs from the latest album ‘Built to Last’ (2016), it was very much a ‘best of HammerFall’ set of songs that left every member of the audience raising fists, cellphones and singing voices.

Unlike other bands that break the momentum of their performance by talking to the crowd excessively, HammerFall kept playing song after song, and focused on getting the crowd to participate in sing-alongs instead. Singer Joacim Cans not only delivered his vocals expertly, but also masterfully commanded the audience to set an enjoyable atmosphere for band and fans alike. Cans’ band mates were also at the peak of their powers, as the rhythm section performed with precision and flair, while guitarist and founder Oscar Dronjak together with partner-in-crime Pontus Norgren indulged in their big signature riffs, catchy dual leads and crafty solos and reminded everyone exactly why HammerFall is so loved. What’s more metal than Oscar Dronjak playing a hammer-shaped guitar? Nothing.

Oscar Dronjak – HammerFall

The “new” songs, ‘Hammer High’ and ‘Dethrone and Defy’ in particular, sounded just as powerful as any of the old ones. ‘Let the Hammer Fall’ was one of the singalong highlights, and of course, no HammerFall show would be complete without ‘Hearts On Fire’, which rightly closed this set. So great was the performance of each member and of the band as a whole, and such was the energy level, it felt like none of them had aged whatsoever in the last seven years and both physically and sonically, do not show any signs of aging, ever.

European bands, specifically in the not-so-popular power metal category, often find themselves going through such long gaps between North American tours, and many of them squander their chance when they do get it, with a half-hearted, sub-par show. Thankfully, that is not the case with HammerFall, and with the combination of a splendid set of their own and a smartly chosen co-headliner, they have made this tour a huge success, which should mean they will return sooner than another 7 years.

HammerFall’s show in Anaheim not only marked a triumphant return that was more than worth the wait, it befitted their legacy and stature, and proved that they shall continue to be immortal and forever epic.

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HammerFall set list:
01. Hector’s Hymn
02. Riders of the Storm
03. Blood Bound
04. Any Means Necessary
05. Renegade
06. Dethrone and Defy
07. Last Man Standing
08. Let the Hammer Fall
09. Built to Last
10. Medley to the Brave
11. The Dragon Lies Bleeding
12. Hammer High
13. Bushido
14. Hearts on Fire

Remaining Tour Dates:
05/13/2017 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
05/14/2017 – San Antonio, TX @ Alamo Music Hall
05/15/2017 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
05/17/2017 – Tampa, FL @ Orpheum
05/18/2017 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse