Hammerfall Drops The Hammer On 2020’s Top New Live Recordings List

Courtesy: Napalm Records

Live music and live music venues took a big hit this year thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  That goes without saying.  Music acts and venues from the independent level all the way up to the big names were force to put their live music plans on hold indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.  However a glimmer of hope rose this week when Live Nation head Joe Berchtold was quoted by major media outlets as saying that he believed live music would return by summer 2021.  One can only hope that Mr. Berchtold is right, and that when it does return, audiences will welcome its return rather than let the germaphobes control their minds.  Until then, audiences do have lots of live music to enjoy on CD, DVD and Blu-ray that was released this year.  Hammerfall released its latest live recording Live! Against The World this year.  Dream Theater also dropped its new live recording Distant Memories: Live in London.  Metallica even celebrated the anniversary of its landmark S&M show with the release of S&M2.  These are just some of the recordings that made Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Live Recordings.  They were joined by new live material from the likes of Myrath, The Rolling Stones, and Kamelot.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the Top 10 new titles in the given category and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Live Recordings.


  1. Hammerfall – Live! Against The World
  2. Jimi Hendrix – Live in Maui
  3. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration
  4. Def Leppard – London to Vegas
  5. The Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels Live
  6. Devin Townsend – Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Volume 1
  7. John Lee Hooker – Live at Montreux 1983 & 1990
  8. Waylon Jennings – The Outlaw Perrformances
  9. Myrath – Live in Carthage
  10. Kamelot – I Am The Empire Live from the 013
  11. Dream Theater – Distant Memories: Live in London
  12. Metallica – S&M2
  13. Delta Rae – Coming Home To Carolina
  14. Bush – Live in Tampa
  15. Dee Snider – For The Love of Metal

Up next from Phil’s Picks is one of the last three music categories of the year, Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Rock Albums.  After that will be the year’s top new hard rock & metal albums, and then last but not least, the year’s top new albums overall.  From there, it’ll be on to the DVDs and Blu-rays in all of their categories.  Stay tuned for all of that.

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‘Live! Against The World’ Is HammerFall’s Best Live Recording Yet

Courtesy: Napalm Records

Live, in-person concerts have been hard to come by this year.  That goes without saying.  The global COVID-19 pandemic has all but wiped out live shows.  If not for live streams and so-called “drive-in” concerts, live music would be gone.  The noted shows are just a couple of ways that acts across the musical universe have worked to bring live music to audiences.  It would seem that as a result of the pandemic’s impact, audiences have also seen a rise in the number of live recordings released this year, too.  That is just this critic’s own take and could be incorrect.  Though, it certainly seems that live recordings have been more prominent this year than in the past.  Veteran power metal band HamemrFall will join the ranks of those countless acts who have released live recordings this year when it releases its new live recording Live! Against the World Friday through Napalm Records.  Only the band’s third ever live recording, this 20-song performance is everything that the band’s longtime fans could hope for.  That is thanks in no small part to its set list, which will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performance of said set list adds to the recording’s appeal, and will be discussed a little later.  The performance’s production rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Live! Against The World HammerFall’s best live recording yet and one of the year’s top new live DVDs/BDs.

HammerFall’s forthcoming live recording Live! Against The World is a wonderful way for the band’s fans to get their live fix now and even after the global COVID-19 pandemic ends, whenever that might be.  That is due in no small part to the recording’s set list.  The extensive 20-song set list clocks in at just under two hours, and is the very definition of career-spanning.  Given, the concert – recorded Feb. 15, 2019 at the MHP Arena in Ludwigsburg, Germany – was mainly in support of the band’s then latest album Dominion, but it pulled songs from every single one of the band’s 11 albums.  Dominion is only represented by five songs, as a matter of fact.  Other albums only get one nod, while others get two to three.  Regardless, what the band has done here is given audiences the widest possible cross section of its catalog.  That includes some well-known songs and even some deeper cuts mixed in for good measure.  Simply put, the expansive set list that is featured in Hammerfall’s new live recording creates a solid foundation for this presentation.  It is just one part of what makes this recording such an appealing presentation.  The band’s performance of the set list does its own share to make the recording so engaging and entertaining.

The performance of the concert’s featured set list is powerful in its own right.  Right from the show’s opening in ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget,’ the energy runs high.  Front man Joacim Cans’ vocals soar here while his band mates – Oscar Dronjack (guitar), Pontus Norgren (guitar), Fredrik Larsson (bass), and David Wallin (drums) – each shine in their own right.  The time keeping is solid while the harmonies between the guitars and bass, and the guitar solos absolutely soar.  The show’s energy stays high from that point on through, with the only moments of rest coming occasionally between songs when Cans taking the time to interact with the audience.  Even those moments are themselves rare.  What’s more, even in a slightly slower song, such as ‘Hollwed Be My Name,’ the band still manages to keep the audience entertained simply by performing the song.  That in itself is a statement.  The over-the-top guitar solos are kept to a minimum, with the band opting instead to present the songs as they were on record for the most part.  The result is a concert performance that lets the band’s talents shine through from beginning to end, rather than relying on a bunch of theatrics.  It is another solid testament to the recording’s appeal and to the band’s ability to entertain audiences.  It is just one more way in which the recording proves itself so appealing, too.  The recording’s overall production rounds out its most important elements to bring everything together.

The production of HammerFall’s new live recording Live! Against the World is important to note because it gives audiences the best seat in the house.  The camera angles and transitions keep right up with the energy in the songs, enhancing the experience even more. Audiences will appreciate the seeming drone shots that take them up above the crowd, looking down at various points throughout the concert. Whether it its a drone shot or a crane shot, the fact of the matter here is that this is a unique style shot that is not often used in live rock recordings. There is something special about being able to look down and see the audience moving en masse as the fists pump and heads bang in time with the music. It instills a certain positive feeling in audiences as they see it happen The various on-stage shots that come from just below the stage and even on the stage gives viewers that up close and personal experience that they otherwise would not have likely gotten. The wide shots give audiences an appreciation for the venue’s makeup and the sheer devotion of the fans as they see how packed the concert hall was for the show. The shots used for the pyro effects add their own touch to the presentation. They are captured at just the right locations and angles to fully capture the immensity of the plumes of fire. One can almost imagine how hot the flames must have been. Noting again the transitions between all of the noted shots, they are so smooth throughout. They help to translate the energy exuded by the band and audience alike without leaving viewers feeling dizzied. As a result, they and the shots themselves do even more to enrich the viewing experience.

On a related note, the recording’s audio production is just as impressive as its video. The audio production is exactly what audiences should hope for.  The instrumentation is expertly balanced, even as bombastic as that collective is.  The vocals are right there with the instruments, too.  Considering the size of the concert hall, all of this is important in regards to making sure the sound was balanced and did not just echo throughout the venue. Those efforts paid off, too.

HammerFall’s forthcoming live recording Live! Against The World is an impressive presentation that the band’s longtime fans will appreciate just as much as those who are less familiar with the band’s catalog.  That is proven in large part through the recording’s featured set list.  The expansive 20-song set list clocks in at just under two hours and is in fact a truly career-spanning retrospective.  The band’s performance of the set list will keep audiences engaged and entertained from beginning to end.  The production, at least in regards to the recording’s CD platform, is appealing in its own way.  It leaves the concert sounding good just as much as the content makes it “appear.”  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, this presentation is HammerFall’s best live recording to date and one of this year’s absolute best new live recordings.  It is scheduled for release Friday through Napalm Records.  More information on the recording is available along with all of HammerFall’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.hammerfall.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hammerfall

Twitter: http://twitter.com/HammerFall

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Dragonforce Announces New Live U.S., European Dates

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Dragonforce announced a new slate of live dates this week.

The band announced on Monday, the dates for the upcoming North American leg of its tour.  The tour is in support of its most recent album Extreme Power Metal (2019).

The two week run is scheduled to launch March 5 in Phoenix, AZ and to run through March 21 in Brooklyn, NY, and will feature in performances in other cities, such as St. Louis, MO; Detroit, MI and Salt Lake City, UT.  Unleash the Archers and Visions of Atlantis will join Dragonforce for the tour.

Also joining the band for the run will be bassist Alicia Vigil (Vigil of War). Vigil’s addition to the band is just the latest following the departure of bassist Frederic Leclercq from the band in August. Damien Rainaud, who produced Extreme Power Metal handled bass duties for the band at its most recent shows, following the parting of ways between Leclercq and the band.

Vigil said in a recent interview, she was looking forward to joining Dragonforce for its upcoming run.

“So beyond stoked that Dragonforce chose me to be a part of this!,” she said.  “I can’t wait to travel the world and play these new cities with them, and be a part of their legacy!”

Following its upcoming North American run, Dragonforce will head back overseas for another European run starting March 24 in Odense, Denmark.  The tour is scheduled to run through July 18 in Balingen, Germany. Hammerfall is scheduled to join Dragonforce for select dates on the tour.

Vigil will also join Dragonforce for its European run.  Dragonforce founding member and guitarist Herman Li talked recently about her addition to the band for its upcoming run.

“Alicia was recommended to me by a number of musician friends in L.A.,” he said.  “She impressed me with her playing, her professionalism and her ability to learn the Dragonforce songs really quickly!  I’m excited to have her playing on this tour, and I think the fans will really like what she brings to the show.”

Dragonforce will stream its world tour live through Li’s official Twitch channel.  The band’s upcoming North American and European dates are noted below.

DragonForce USA Tour – Mission 2
w/ Unleash The Archers, Visions Of Atlantis
Tickets – https://dragonforce.com/shows
VIP – http://dragonforce.soundrink.com/

Mar. 5 – Club Red – Phoenix, AZ
Mar. 6 – The Regent – Los Angeles, CA
Mar. 8 – Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
Mar. 10 – Metro Music Hall – Salt Lake City, UT
Mar. 11 – Oriental Theater – Denver, CO
Mar. 13 – Fine Line – Minneapolis, MN **
Mar. 14 – Red Flag – St. Louis, MO **
Mar. 15 – House of Blues – Chicago, IL
Mar. 17 – The Agora – Cleveland, OH
Mar. 18 – St. Andrews Hall – Detroit, MI
Mar. 19 – Roxian Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA
Mar. 20 – The Palladium – Worcester, MA
Mar. 21 – Warsaw – Brooklyn, NY
** = no Visions of Atlantis

DragonForce tour dates
Mar. 24 – Posten – Odense, Denmark +
Mar. 25 -Train – Arhus, Denmark +
Mar. 26 – Amager Bio – Copenhagen, Denmark +
Mar. 27 – Partille Arena – Partille, Sweden +
Mar. 28 – Annexet – Stockholm, Sweden +
May 16 – Pulp Summer Slam – Manila, Philippines
Jun. 26-27 – Rock am Härtsfeldsee – Dischingen, Germany
Jul. 2-4 – Rock Fest – Barcelona, Spain
Jul. 16-18 – Bang Your Head!!! – Balingen, Germany
+ = with Hammerfall

More information on the band’s upcoming live dates are available online along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:




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