Latest release: Infected (Nuclear Blast)

Over the years, the name HammerFall has become synonymous with huge-sounding power metal and along with German bands like Gamma Ray, Helloween and Blind Guardian, the Swedish quintet have long been recognised as one the most influential bands on the European melodic metal front. The band’s new album Infected, due for release on May 20, has caused concern among long-time fans for an apparent change in directionl, perhaps precipitated by a change of producer — James Michael of Sixx:A.M. — and a stark, simplistic cover with no sign of their long-established mascot, the warhammer-bearing Hector. But as vocalist Joacim Cans explained to Loud, Infected isn’t so much a change of direction but a tweaking, and if you look closely, Hector is still around.

Q: You chose James Michael as your producer this time. What did he bring to the table, because you haven’t worked with him before?

A: We wanted to change a little bit. Not in the style or the elements of the music, but we wanted to change a little bit when it comes to the overall sound and the overall feel of the music. To achieve that we needed to part ways with our old producer and find a new solution. And that solution was partly to do part of the album ourselves. We tracked the bass, the guitars and also the drums here in Gothenburg before we decided to take the vocal production elsewhere. I had this vision of seeing what would happen if we took the sound of HammerFall to a person like James Michael. I’m a big fan of Sixx:A.M. I think the first album is on my top 10 list of my favourite albums of all time. When I realised that he was the singer, which I admire a lot, but the producer and song writer, I really felt that we should check the guy. In my opinion, it has really turned out as well as we were hoping it would. This was risk taking. Taking a big, big risk.

Q: Of course. You have developed a specific style over the last decade or so. How do you think the fans will react to a different sound?

A: I would say it’s a little bit different sount, but it’s a better sound. The change is not that vast. It’s more… in order to create something heavier, we needed to remove stuff from the old way of working. If you add more guitars to what we did in the past, you only get an increased volume. We want to be able to hear all the details in the music. The change is not that drastic, as some may think. It’s HammerFall with a twist. It’s HammerFall with a lot of new elements and a new energy.

Q: What’s the story behind the album?

A: The whole album is zombie inspired. Both me and Fredrik and Oscar are into horror movies and zombie movies in general. It comes from the first song on the album, “Patient Zero”. I guess you know what patient zero means when it comes to an outbreak: patient zero is the first person getting it. That song is about that, getting contaminated, getting infected and then the disease starts. It definitely has something to do with the album, but it’s a good title. It’s a red line going through the photos, the video we’ve made for this album, the booklet… it all has been zombiefied.

Q: I believe there was some issues with the original artwork?

A: The thing is, we have two issues. The first is, the original cover is still there, but had to be covered with a slipcase just to make the label happy. I love the cover but they didn’t. So we decided to put a slipcase and use the international symbol for biohazard, but we couldn’t because for some weird reason, the band Biohazard has the right to the symbol when it’s in regards to music. So we removed it and just said, “Fuck it”. And we just put the hand there, and now it doesn’t really make any sense anymore. If you remove the slipcase, you will see the real cover, and that makes a lot of sense.

Q: So what was the reason you had to cover the original art?

A: The label didn’t like it. I think it’s fantastic! It’s a bright cover, taken from the backseat of a car with a zombie hand on the windshield. And you have the downtown area of New York outside. It’s a very modern kind of film-ish type of cover. But the label didn’t really understand us. We had some arguments. But now we’re friends again.

Q: Do you think people are going to miss the fact that Hector’s not there?

A: A lot of fans are reacting to that, and they say, “Well, I’m not going to listen to HammerFall again.” And I think that is very narrow-minded thinking. Listen to the album, buy the album and open up the booklet. And you will see, there’s someone there. And if you get a chance to check out the mail order edition, we had the artist from Blizzard Entertainment, Sam, who’s done all our art prior to this one, has done unique sketches inspired by all the songs on the album and Hector is one five or six of them. So Hector is more present than ever, but we had to send him to rehab for a while.

Q: How does it affect you when your music is leaked?

A: Well in a very negative way, especially when people leak the album prior to release. People should wait until it’s out there in the market. The surprise element isn’t there anymore. That’s one of the most boring parts. But also, we invest a lot of money in the production. Somehow, we need to pay the producer. We need to pay the studio. We need to pay for our gear. And in order to pay for everything, we need to sell albums. That’s just the way it is. The more people just download illegally, the less money we have for production. But I think we’re seeing a change in attitude with the new generation of fans, the younger ones. They’re happy to pay for the songs they like. You don’t have to buy whole albums anymore. The price is cheap enough, than it was a few years ago. It’s not so bad anymore.

Q: Obviously a little while ago people were stealing entire albums because of the price. Do you think it’s a good thing then that people are now more able to just buy a song or two, rather than have to purchase the whole album?

A: Yeah, but I think when it comes to metal bands like HammerFall, the fans are gonna buy the album. You don’t just go and buy the first track of the new Iron Maiden album. It doesn’t make sense. Metal bands release albums. We do not release singles. We don’t think like that.

Q: So what are your touring plans for HammerFall now, and are you going to come to Australia one day?

A: We’re starting off the festival season here in Europe in about three weeks. We’re going to be doing festivals until mid-August. Then we’re going to start up the world tour in October-ish, and I can’t make any promises but I really hope we can stop by Australia this time. It’s not really on the way anywhere. That’s a big problem. We’ve had some offers before for small tours, but you have some decent festivals down there now, so maybe one day