HammerFall, "One Crimson Night"
This is, without question, a release for fans of the band. From the thick booklet packed with photos, to Joacim Cans' Swedish between-song banter to the long set list, "One Crimson Night" is HammerFall captured, for good or bad, live and complete. Recorded at their hometown gig in Gothenburg during their "The Crimson Crusades" tour, this is definitely not an attempt to draw new fans to the band. To begin with, there's an agonizingly long introduction sequence (nothing but a droning keyboard bit), multiple crowd participation segments that the uninitiated will find to be an endurance test, and a far too long bass solo (the guitar solo fairs better as it has drum accompaniment for some of it). While many live albums are dressed up "greatest hits" releases that attempt to garner outside interest, "One Crimson Night" is a tribute to the band and its loyal fans. If you're a loyal fan, you will love the authenticity of this release - warts and all. To the band's credit, the warts aren't focused on the music or playing (you'll be hard pressed to find many bad notes), but in its live presentation... cuz the crowd participation sections surely could have been edited. In fact, the label could have saved some cash and made this a single disc release that may have been a dressed up "greatest hits". Cutting out the "live experience" fat would have made this a very strong single CD - but as I've been saying, this is a release for the truehearts, and they're getting quite a bargain with this double CD set. I respect that both HammerFall and Nuclear Blast were willing to go the full nine yards and release the concert with such devotion to detail, and despite my misgivings about the interaction sequences, my hat goes off to both band and label for breaking out the checkbook to give their fans a quality release (even though the quantity affects the quality). If you're a fan and you haven't picked this up, I must assume that you just don't buy live albums - because if you do, you should already have this. It's a great package for a great price.
So that said, about the only thing to discuss is how it sounds and the song list. Since it's a 2 disc set, there are 20 tracks included. Considering this was recorded during the tour to support "Crimson Thunder" (a step up from the tepid "Renegade" but no match for the first two releases), the set isn't too heavily based on the "new" CD. In fact, it's balanced almost symmetrically with the back catalog. You get five tracks from "Glory to the Brave", five tracks from "Legacy of Kings", four tracks from "Renegade" and five tracks from "Crimson Thunder" (it adds up to twenty when you include the forgettable intro). I suppose I should note that the final track, "A Legend Reborn" isn't from the Gothenburg set (it's from a show in Mexico) and is the lone song where Cans addresses the audience in English. Unfortunately the Mexican crowd sounds more excited and vocal than the homeboys on the rest of the disc. Whether this is due to having the crowd micced better or a genuine bigger show of exuberance, I dunno... but it makes some of the lackluster crowd response on the previous 19 tracks pale even more by comparison. Alas. I've got all of HammerFall's CDs, and I think the set is pretty damned good. Of course you can't please everyone all the time, so there will quibbles over some selections, but all in all, they really couldn't have chosen a much more representative list of songs.
The sound is good, but I wish the guitars were pushed more to the forefront. Cans vox are as strong as he's capable of projecting. I suppose the overly long bass solo is included so Magnus Rosen can demonstrate that he's got some chops, since the songs so rarely call for it (everyone gets their chance to show off in-song but him, poor bastard). Um... I guess that sums this up. If you're not a fan, this ain't gonna change your opinion. If you are a fan, go buy it already.
Heeding the Call