It was a cold winter's night with a bite in the air as I joined the queue outside The Great Hall in Welsh capital Cardiff.
Brimming with excitement at seeing the mighty Sabaton and with pleasant and warm memories of when I saw them firstly at Hard Rock Hell back in 2009, where they had graced the main stage at some unearthly hour in the morning where a few lingerers had been mightily surprised by the grinning Swedes tearing into their set, leaving us all with the sound of 'Panzer Battalion' still ringing in my ears for weeks after.
Accompanying them were Eluveitie, whom I had also seen before at Bloodstock in 2008, a set that also had stuck in my memory banks due to their myriad of instruments that at the time were uncommon in the world of Metal. Their energetic folk-Metal sound had really left a mark so I was interested to see how they would fair in the mix.
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The throng began to flow in with a sea of Sabaton T-shirts adorned and to see that they had grown and to have an army of followers in such a short while, which made me feel so happy for the band, as they truly deserve it in my eyes.
Once in, the opening band Wisdom, were halfway through their set. A little known power Metal band hailing from Hungary with members who were looking quite young in age were belting out fresh and energetic power ballads. I wish I had been able to take note of them in an more concentrated fashion, but due to fans pushing to get the best space and excited shouts for the following bands it was a little difficult, but from what I did see, I was definitely tempted to see more.
Wisdom walked off with a good hearted applause from those that did take note and I felt a little sorry for them to be honest, and the stagehands came on to get it ready for Eluveitie.
By now, the Hall had become full and it was hard to move. Shouts emanated from the dimly lit room beckoning them to grace the stage, and after a good 15 minutes, the room went black. Only four small strip lights came on and a deep male voice emanated from the speakers, telling a short sombre tale of a medieval war torn battlefield.
The stage lights blared into action to accompany drummer Merlin Sutter as he pounded out a ferocious beat, whilst the remainder of the band walked onadorned with all manner of mystical ethnic instruments and wonderful flutes. The flute started to whistle out a haunting tune, before the guttural vocals of Chrigel Glanzmann kicked in, urging the thundering riffs of Rafael Salzmann (Lead Guitar), Ivo Henzi (Rhythm Guitar)and Kay Brem (Bass) to storm in with their opening and title track from their new album 'Helvetios'.
This album had just been released in the October, so most of the set was pertaining from that.
It must have been a tight squeeze fitting all eight of them on but they managed to utilise the space wonderfully.
As the band twiddled and roared their way through the track, the air was filled with happy, bouncy melodies that got everyone's feet tapping. I could feel my Celtic roots pulling and wanting to join the others who were now jigging away quite happily. Even with the introduction of the throbbing Metal riffs that seamlessly joined, not to overpower the flutes, you could just imagine a stereotypical Irish bar dance scene going on with the flagons of ale over spilling with each jump. Already there were groups of people huddled together into circles, jiggling and bouncing in time with all kinds of varied and strange moves.
Moving into 'Luxtos' (another from 'Helvetios') the air was again filled with a joyous cacophony of violins, tin-whistles, Anna Murphy's pure and melodic vocals, along with her effortless playing of the hurdy-gurdy, whilst the roar of the vocals and Metal guitars/drums flow together in, well, harmony.
'Luxtos' – many thanks to szlachcic2000 for sharing:
The same can be said for the rest of the set, with the inclusion of bagpipes, fiddles amongst the aforementioned. The traditional folk tunes in their songs have been drawn from various sources, such as traditional Irish reels. While many of their lyrics are in English, some are in the ancient extinct Gaulish language, only to be hyped up with gritty guitars, hoarse rasping vocals and heavy drum beats to create a sound that is unique to Eluveitie.
During the whole set, the fans did not once stop for a break, jumping, bouncing and hailing to the members. By the time the band had finished, they walked off to cheers and appreciation, the air was brimming with excitement and the need for more. What a way to get a party started.
Another lull for change over, drinks were bought and people were chatting excitedly, reminiscing over past encounters of both Eluveitie and the headliners Sabaton.
I must admit, even though I admire Eluveitie for what they have accomplished and the way they bring the two extreme ends of the music genres completely together, my stars were Sabaton.
Once again the lights went down and Europe's 'Final Countdown' came booming over the air. Talk about a comical way to introduce a heavy war themed band.
As 'The March To War' (intro to 'Primo Victoria') came booming through the PA the band bounded on, full of those cheeky Swedish smiles, looking truly happy to be on stage and very happy. The crowd were instantly attentive, watching them with glee. There has of course been a line-up change with Chris Rörland (Lead Guitars, Thobbe Englund (Guitars) and Robban Bäck (Drums) all joining. If you had been seeing the band for the first time, this is something you would not have noticed as the band was tight, looked like they had been this way forever.
After much bouncing, gliding and dancing on the stage, (never mind in the pit), Sabaton mullered straight in with 'Ghost Division' from their very successful Art Of War album. As with most of the bands trademark tracks, it is short, snappy, hard hitting, with tales of war, politics and heroics, memorable and catchy verses that stick in your mind for ages after, all with a slight undertone of, well, buoyancy that will get you hooked straight the way, especially with the infectious smiles that emanate from the charismatic Joakim and Pars, the two existing members from the original line-up.
It's like they are having a party and you are the guests. Just watching the way the members run around and use every inch of the stage, full of bubbliness and joy, whilst you have these hammering riffs, thundering drums and pounding bass lines coming at you. It really is an experience that you have to go through to understand. Words can't really get close to describing the atmosphere.
By the time the second track 'Gott Mit Uns' from their latest release 'Carolus Rex' came on, the crowd was pumped, motivated and fists firmly pumping the air in response to Joakim's, who was like a machine pounding and hammering away with the accompanying riffs. In this piece, each of the guitarists get to do their bit on vocals whilst Pars on bass does a great job on backing.
Now the air was hot, sweaty and everyone was captivated. There was only one thing on their mind and that was the members on stage, constantly bouncing, jumping and to tell you the truth, just watching them wore me out. I felt exhausted, but the hype and energy in the air was just enthralling. Sabaton are truly a live band. That is where they belong and you can see that is where they are happiest.
'Carolus Rex' reinvigorated any tired arms, which were soon beating out rhythmically to the solid beat, with avid fans singing word for word, so loud that Joakim was nearly drowned out.
With more tracks taken from their discography being pummelled out with the same glee and enthusiasm, there came the first of the 'Fan Choices' as the band took its first real breather of the night. With a choice from 'Uprising', 'Midway', and 'Coat Of Arms', 'Uprising' was the fan favourite and was duly performed.
Following this were 'Dominium Maris Baltici' and 'The Lion From The North' then there was a quiet surprise in the form of 'The Hammer Has Fallen' where the rest of the band left Joakim to straddle a low keyboard. The lights dimmed to a blue and the sombre mood was set. The hall went quiet and the audience soaked in the atmosphere and were probably more than happy to rehydrate before the next onslaught.
The Second of the 'Fan Choices' followed with 'Attero Dominatus' and 'Into The Fire' in line. It was 'Into The Fire' that won and with much jubilation we were hammered.
Leaving the stage for a few moments, we recouped our energy, mused and recollected about what we had just seen, before the band adorned the stage once more for the encore.
Not giving us an easy start with the anthem 'Art Of War', we were soon back in line and bounding once more. Unrelenting, 'Primo Victoria', another Sabaton anthem followed suite, finishing up with 'Metal Crüe' and 'Masters Of The World'.
As the band left the stage for the final time I, along with many others, felt like we had just attended a military workout session, with aching bodies from the jumping and pounding, but not one us cared, as we were totally enthused and overwhelmed by a fantastically great show.
If you ever have the chance to see Sabaton, I would highly recommend it. Check them out at: http://sabaton.net/
A Rose For Epona
The Final Countdown (Europe song)
The March To War - intro to Primo Victoria
Ghost Division - Art Of War
Gott Mit Uns - Carolus Rex
Poltava - Carolus Rex
Carolus Rex - Carolus Rex
Karolinensbön- Carolus Rex
Cliffs of Gallipoli - Art Of War
Uprising - - Coat Of Arms
Dominium Maris Baltici
The Lion From The North
The Hammer Has Fallen - (Joakim Bróden on keyboard)
Into The Fire
The Art of War - Art Of War
Primo Victoria - PV
Metal Crüe - Attero Dominatus
Masters of the World - Metalizer