I must apologise to Hungarian Power Metal chaps Wisdom, whose show I didn’t really get to see on Sunday night in Sheffield – due to pressing telecommunications issues which would not be denied, I was late to the gig and heard a slab of their set from outside the venue. The Maiden cover, “Wasted Years” sounded chunky and faithful through the walls and the eponymous “Wisdom” and “Judas” seemed riffy and well-played slices of chugging traditional metal – the already decently sized crowd seemed to be enjoying what they saw.
Some brief set dismantling and roadie magic later, the Swiss Folk Metal onslaught of Eluveitie was amongst us and the band turned limited space to their advantage – Corporation’s stage isn’t massive at the best of times, and with eight band members on stage that bijou performance area was stretched to its limits.
The band had never played in my city before, as singer/whistle/bandola/bagpipe player Chrigel Glanzmann informed us, and I suspect walked away with more than a few new fans as they were pretty phenomenal live – the traditional metal attack which you might expect married seamlessly to folk instrumentation and impassioned vocals of the harsh and clean persuasions from Chrigel and Anna Murphy respectively.
I’m most familiar with their recent “Helvetios” album, so I got to hear a smattering of songs from that record to appreciate as well as material from their back catalogue – the gig was very much a case of being interested in the band before going to see them live and being wholly won over by their performance thereafter. Am I a new fan of this band? Very much so. Just a cursory hearing of their glorious, Celtic-inspired, stirring sound is sufficient to inspire thoughts of painting your face with woad, donning furs and a kilt and setting about tyrannical land owners with a sturdy club.
Not that Sabaton don’t inspire similar feelings – the Swedish band have recently undergone a fairly major line-up change around the release of their recent “Carolus Rex” set but haven’t let this shift in personnel unduly affect their splendidly self-aware live show. New members were integrated well into the gig, with lead guitarist Tobbe Englund’s accidental discovery of a kitschy knick-knack secreted above the Corporation main stage providing an accidental comic highlight in the show – it’s the humour of this band and singer Joachim Broden’s chipper, off-the-cuff stage banter which mark them apart from their other contemporaries in the upbeat, fast-paced Power Metal sub-genre.
It’s important to state that the Corporation crowd LOVED this band. From the moment that the lights went down and Sabaton’s intro tape – fellow Swedish rock titans Europe’s classic “The Final Countdown” played in full (!) – erupted through the PA, the audience was here to see one band and shortly thereafter the roars of “SABATON! SABATON! SABATON!” filled the room and didn’t stop for the rest of the night. If there was a moment of silence between songs, that chant seemingly started up again and Joachim’s face was plastered with a massive, cheesy grin.
South Yorkshire loves a bit of proper, fist-pumping, 100 miles-an-hour, head-banging metal mania and as Sabaton’s catalogue is mostly composed of peerless examples of same, they were bound to go over like ice cream on a blazingly hot day. If the band had a more vocal crowd on their UK tour than this one, I’d be surprised.
What’s as remarkable as the overwhelmingly powerful reaction to the band is the fact that Sabaton’s overriding lyrical theme is war, battles, soldiers and conflict – real ‘Boy’s Own’ glory, honour and valour stuff – and yet the material never gets distasteful, jingoistic, objectionable or reactionary, which for a gig which occurred on Remembrance Sunday felt quite important.
Any gig where you learn about the secret Swedish plan for global domination (Those IKEA warehouses? Pro-Tip? Lovely homes for battalions of tanks), get to hum along to a few bars of “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” by Abba and bellow out the chorus of the band’s anthemic “Primo Victoria” on a chilly Sunday evening is my definition of a fun time.
To paraphrase a certain Matthew Broderick/John Hughes classic of the 1980’s, if you get the opportunity to purchase Sabaton tickets, I highly recommend picking them up.
- Sabaton? Eluveitie? Wisdom? Oh My… (fluffrick.wordpress.com)
- SABATON – Carolus Rex Goes Gold In Sweden (bravewords.com)
- SABATON Announce Pryo Plans For London Koko Show; To Be Recorded For Future Release (bravewords.com)
- Sabaton / Eluvetie / Wisdom – Glasgow Garage (moshblog.me.uk)