SWEDEN, home of subzero temperatures and blistering hot heavy metal acts. And for fans of metal as pure as the driven Swedish snow, it doesn't get much better than the molten metal sound of HammerFall. Forged from an initial concept by guitarist Oscar Dronjak (Crystal Age), HammerFall formed in 1993 after Dronjak's exit from Ceremonial Oath. Recruiting friend and former Ceremonial Oath drummer, Jesper Strömblad (In Flames' guitarist), the pair took Dronjak's idea from conception to reality, enlisting fellow metal devotees Mikael Stanne (vocals) and Niklas Sundin (guitar) of Dark Tranquillity and bassist Johan Larsson. With most members wanting to continue with their respective bands, HammerFall began with the simple goal of rehearsing a few times a year in order to compete in Rockslaget, a local "battle of the bands." During these formative years, Sundin and Larsson were replaced by Glenn Ljungström (In Flames) and Fredrik Larsson (Crystal Age) to form a line-up that would advance to the semi-finals in 1996. Stanne was unable to perform in the finals, leading him to be replaced by Joacim Cans for this one performance only; however, Cans meshed so well with HammerFall's sound that he instantly became a permanent member. While the band did not make it to the finals, a two-track live video of their performance was sent to Roel van Reijmersdal of Dutch label Vic Records, who signed the band.
Spending the rest of the year preparing to record their debut album, Glory to the Brave, Dronjak and Cans decided that the band would have to become a full-time effort for all members to give HammerFall a chance to succeed. This signaled the end for In Flames members Strömblad and Ljungström. Patrik Räfling (drums) and Stefan Elmgren (guitar) came on board with Magnus Rosén replacing Larsson shortly after the completion of the album. Also at this time, Nuclear Blast stepped in showing keen interest, licensing the record and signing the band to a long-term deal. While so many line-up changes early in their career might have derailed lesser bands, HammerFall thrived. Glory to the Brave landed "Album of the Month" in Heavy Oder Was? and Rock Hard, two of Germany's premier metal magazines. To top it off, the album entered the German charts at #38, the highest debut (at the time) for a heavy metal band. The band continued their success by touring Sweden with rock legends Raven; the band's first concert outside of Sweden was the prestigious Wacken Open Air in Germany. An incredible European tour with Gamma Ray and Jag Panzer followed.
September 1998 saw the release of Legacy of Kings. HammerFall spent the rest of the year recording tracks for Dio and Accept tribute albums, as well as embarking on their first world tour. They supported Deep Purple in Europe and Death in North America, in addition to touring South America and Japan on their own. Well-received by fans worldwide, HammerFall were not only gaining exposure but also spreading the true heavy metal sound the world over. After extensive touring, Räfling's interest in the band waned, and they replaced him with Rosén's good friend Anders Johansson. A seasoned musician, Johansson has performed on over one hundred albums but is most famous for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. With Johansson in place, HammerFall hit the European festival circuit and released the EP I Want Out and The First Crusade home video in 1999. Keeping up the unrelenting pace, the band entered Wireworld Studios in Nashville, TN with producer Michael Wagener (Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row) and released Renegade in late 2000.
HammerFall lined up a double dose of releases for fans in 2002, their second home video, The Templar Renegade Crusades hit earlier this summer, and their fourth studio album, Crimson Thunder, will set hearts on fire this fall. Recorded at Mi Sueno Studios (owned by Helloween singer Andy Derris) with producer Charlie Bauerfeind (Blind Guardian), Crimson Thunder clearly proves to be the band's most mature, well-written and explosive offering to date. Picking up where Renegade left off, their newest effort offers delicate, power-driven melodies and passionate lyrics fired by the consuming vocals of Cans. The disc is also heavier than its predecessor but also a little slower (see the pounding, heavy title track for evidence); however, the tried-and-tested formula HammerFall stand for has been retained.