Swedish metal titans HammerFall have released their overall eleventh studio full length effort, Dominion on August 16th via Napalm Records (order here). While the record has been out for nearly a month now, the band are gearing up for a full North American tour with Sabaton, which kicks off next month. We caught up with bassist Fredrik Larsson to discuss more about Dominion, creating a setlist, album anniversaries, and more.
What was the process like to create Dominion?
It was actually quite different in a way, since Oscar was writing a lot of material during our tour. He was so inspired after the shows that he sat down in the tour bus and started to write new songs while the rest of us were cooling down with a beer. I’ve never seen him so focused after a show, you’re usually pretty exhausted after giving 100% on stage! So when he got home, he had a lot of material and wasn’t stressed out about being productive as soon as the tour was over.
We got the demo tapes pretty early and we actually rehearsed a couple of times to get a feel for the songs and brainstorm about it. Then we had some time to let it rest before we entered the studio.
How would you compare the new album to Built to Last?
We had this saying that “good ain’t good enough” that kept repeating during the whole time. If we could make something better we had to do that. And this was in a good way, not that everything should be perfect in pitch and time, that can sound so sterile. We wanted to capture the energy that comes alive when we play live.
But this saying kept us going, from the energy of the drums, accompanied by the bass, the rhythm guitars, solos, vocals and backing vocals. From the bottom to the top. Songwriting, everything around, album cover, videos, photos. Everything had to be a step up from what we’ve done before.
Are there any songs that you felt were more challenging for you as an artist?
“Scars of a Generation” was fun to record and had some odd bass parts. A pretty fast song that we had to make groove, and I think we managed to do that really well. David is a great drummer and it’s pretty easy to lock in with him but on a fast track that can sometimes get lost. This song has some slow parts as well and I think it’s well put together.
Can you talk more about the song “Testify?”
This is a heavy song with a lot of gang vocals. I get some Judas Priest vibes as well, some great solos and an overall darker feel. This was one of the earliest songs I got from Oscar and to hear that song evolved from a demo to a studio version is a fantastic journey. Some songs are pretty much the same from the demo stage and some really evolves and this one did.
What was it like creating videos for “Dominion,” “(We Make) Swedish Rock,” and “One Against the World?”
We made both “Dominion” and “(We Make) Sweden Rock” at the same time with iCode Team in Belgrade, Serbia. We’ve worked with them before and had a good feeling. It’s really hard to know what to do in a video when all you do is standing in front of a green screen… But on “Dominion” they had at least a kind of a stage or arena with soil to stand on so we got some connection to what it would be like. It turned out to be a great video of us playing in “Pandemonium – the capital of Hell” with a lot of old school CGI. It has a good vibe that fits the song.
On “(We Make) Sweden Rock” Joacim, and maybe Oscar, had this idea to include all the old Swedish bands that the song is all about. A tribute to all who make Sweden Rock. And I think it became a great tribute! This is by far the best lyric video I’ve seen so far. Almost like a “real” video.
“One Against the World” is a video filmed and edited by Oliver Route. He was with us at the Sweden Rock Festival and put this together for us. It captures the whole HammerFall live experience in a very good way I think. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t always sync to the music but it captures the spirit and that is more important.
What do you guys do when you have extra material left over?
That is something we rarely have. Oscar doesn’t produce more songs that we would have on a record but this time we actually made one extra that we don’t really know what to do with yet. It’s really something special but I guess it doesn’t take that long until we will release it somehow.
You have a tour coming up with Sabaton, do you find it harder to plan out a setlist and any thoughts on celebrating ten years of No Sacrifice, No Victory?
Ten years of “No Sacrifice, No Victory”? I haven’t even thought about that. We released our first album in ‘97 so we only celebrate Twenty year anniversaries now days. But it’s always hard to plan out a good set list. It’s getting harder and harder. It’s so many songs that you want to include and there’s a lot of fan favourites that we just have to play. And as a special guest I don’t think we have time for that many songs either but we’ll squeeze in as many as we can.
When did you decide to step away from power metal?
We never considered us playing Power Metal from the start. We all grew up with and listened to Heavy Metal and that is what we play. In our opinion. The first couple of albums might have been a bit more fast paced but we also love heavy, brutal and even soft parts. We like to have a lot of dynamic, there’s got to be room for everything. If you don’t have the soft parts the heavy or brutal doesn’t get that heavy or brutal. And if you don’t have the slow parts the fast won’t really come alive. If you listen to an album with just fast and faster songs all the way through it’s really easy to lose interest. At least for me.
Anything else you want to say or add?
If you haven’t seen HammerFall live I want to invite you all to a show somewhere near. HammerFall live is such an energy boost and I would love for you all to experience that. If you’ve seen us before I hope you bring some friends for next time!