Spreading the Disease: HammerFall's Joacim Cans in conversation

The Swedish power metal veterans are back and ready to prove once again that a metal heart is hard to tear apart...

It’s hard to believe that HammerFall weren’t taken seriously in all quarters when they emerged on the metal scene nearly twenty years ago. At the time, the world was in the grip of that most ridiculous of genres, rap metal (actually I’ll take that back. Funk metal is the most ridiculous of genres.), which was in the process of mutating into the equally tiresome nu-metal, and anyone turning up to the party seemingly irony-free and clad in leather and studs was met with downright contempt and hoots of derision.

The band then, as now, were deadly serious about the task at hand and went about their business with a zealous look in their eyes and the sound of heavy metal thunder in their ears ( a stroke of luck, there – it drowned out all the sniggering), creating a debut album – 1997’s Glory to the Brave – that surprised many with the quality within its grooves. It’s steely brilliance was a beacon for lovers of true metal everywhere, and it didn’t take long for the punters to catch on; soon the band found themselves at the forefront of the resurgent power metal movement, and the naysayers went back to their Puddle of Mudd albums, muttering darkly.

Fast forward to 2011 and the band are preparing to unleash their eighth studio album, Infected. It’s time to catch up with vocalist Joacim Cans to see if he still feels the same excitement this time around before the album’s release as he did all those years ago.

"I am excited, yes, although I don’t know actually when the album comes out. They keep changing it!’

When we talk we’re sixteen days away from the album’s release, on May 20th.

"I don’t know. I’ve just been told today is Wednesday! That’s all I know!”

The record company seem to be hanging a lot on the facr that Infected is a bit of a turning point for HammerFall? Is that true? To me the songs still sound like HammerFall – maybe the ‘feel’ has changed a bit?

‘Mmm. I think you right. I mean it is HammerFall, these are still our songs. But there is a change. I don’t know if it’s a turning point but it is a different record. It’s never good to go to work each day and not enjoy what you are doing.”

He’s talking mainly, I think, about the band’s decision to stop work with power metal’s favourite producer, Charlie Bauerfeind after a ten year association that has spawned some of the genre’s finest albums.

“Yes. We wanted to work with Charlie… you want to work with any producer because they can help you to get a sound. We had gotten that sound with Charlie many times!”

Was it strange, recording in a new environment and without Charlie?

“Not really, because we had been working up to this on our last record (2009’s stellar No Scarifice, No Victory), which I still think is a very good record, a great record. But we felt we could maybe explore things by recording and engineering the album ourselves, we had to try that.”

So the process was perhaps now more enjoyable. (Newish guitarist) Pontus Norgren was now fully embedded in the band now too. Did that help?

“Of course it did. In fact He (Pontus) is the main reason why we decided to do this. He’s a great producer, and engineer. Why would you go somewhere else when you have that kind of talent at home? He gave us what we needed to make the change. The rest of us – we’re too stupid to even plug in a computer!”

But it went beyond that, didn’t it. You also went to American producer James Michael to help out. How did that happen?

“I loved the Sixx: A.M. album. When I found out he didn’t just sing on it but also worked on the production and songwriting side I was really keen to work with him. So our management got in contact with him. On our first meeting, I realized he really didn’t need to work for us – he’s carved out a very nice life for himself! But he himself was keen, very keen to work with us, to work with a European heavy metal band. So we decided to engineer and produce most of it ourselves but to get James Michael to mix the record. For me, it was wonderful to work with someone I admire and respect as a singer, because I have never had that opportunity before!”

Perhaps the main point of difference between Infected and its predecessors is the absence of Hector, the band’s Eddie-like mascot who has graced the cover of all the ‘Fall’s albums to date. If a slight change in musical direction was a big deal for the band, wasn’t ditching Hector even bigger?

“Not really. For this album we got a new art director. He said ‘Hector’s out!” and so that was that. But it isn’t the end of Hector. The cover of the album you’ve seen is black, right?”

That’s correct.

“Well, that’s not the real cover. That’s the cover of the cover! There’s been some trouble with the record company over this! Anyway, when you see the booklet, you open It up – and there’s Hector. And Sam (Samwise Didier, the bands longstanding cover artist) has also done ten special sketches of Hector for Infected. So you’re actually getting more Hector this time!”

That’s comforting news. Anyways. The album’s done, it’s time to get out on the road. Is the road where you’ll find HammerFall at its best?

“On stage. The road is horrible. You’re on a tour bus, people are screaming, farting, but the time on stage is definitely the best for HammerFall.”

There’ll be a lot of time on stage for the band over the next few months?

“Hopefully yes! We aren’t doing too many festivals this (Northern) Summer because we did so many last year. But we will be doing festivals and then we’ll start to tour on our own in September.”

Any chance of any Australian dates?

“I’m not saying anything! I’ve said yes before and then nothing has happened! We’ve had a couple of things set up in the past but then it just became impossible for us. The trouble for many bands like us is that it’s not on the way to anywhere!”

A lot of bands tack a few shows onto the end or the beginning of their Japanese commitments.

“Yes. But it’s still another continent! We would love to come to Australia.”

And Australia would love to have HammerFall. Promoters! Start your calculators!