Billed as The Tour To End All Tours, Sabaton marched into a sold-out Wembley to present a deafening and retina-scorching spectacle to prove this grandly ambitious title. Certainly, the Swedish quintet were well armed, their biggest shows to date seeing them joined by the twin firepower of Kawaii Metal legends Babymetal and Finnish monster rockers Lordi. No half measures, this was a night that truly displayed the power of Heavy Metal has over hearts and minds, its global span across legions of fans stronger than ever.
Sabaton – OVO Wembley Arena
15 April 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
With the World War I themed stage set and the dominating feature of the full-sized tank drum riser, this was always going to be a spectacle worthy of its cinematic scope. The intro tape rolls, ear-splitting explosions send sonic shockwaves across the cavernous interior of the arena and dazzling lights blaze as Sabaton sprint onstage, launching into Ghost Division.
Constant plumes of flame pour a blistering heat across faces, and the sense of being in the heart of a battle adds a dimension beyond the usual push-pull of a concert, something that elevates the experience to something truly visceral.
Bismark and The Last Stand sound truly heroic, the backing vocals and intricately crafted soloing adding a cut and thrust to the bludgeon as Joakim Brodén leads the band into battle. The singer promises a few surprises tonight, and with several costume changes, special effects, props and actors onstage, it’s certainly theatrical, the visuals complimenting the fretwork of Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson, along with the thunderous duo of Hannes Van Dahl’s drums and Pär Sundström’s bass.
The Celtic thrash of Into The Fire brings another barrage of flames, and when Brodén calls out, “Let’s test your Swedish,” as they break into Carolus Rex, he’s met with the sound of thousands singing in his native tongue.
The pounding Winged Hussars and instrumental Sarajevo stamp their authority in the set before the Speed Metal and flamethrower of Stormtroopers lead to a moving cover of Motörhead’s 1916.
Snow falls during Soldier Of Heaven, and the sight of about two dozen people forming a pit of seated rowers in the middle of the hall for Dreadnought are just two of the things not normally seen at this or any other venue. Amidst the terrors of war, as shown by the toxic gas of Father and Attack Of The Dead Men, sparkling solos by both Rörland and Johansson pepper the set, the two making the most of the raised barriers and turrets of the set as they switch between muscular runs and soaring passages.
At the rear of the stage, Van Dahl plays with a heaviness that John Bonham and Cozy Powell would have approved of, his eagle’s nest view of the mayhem perched atop the tank’s turret the best seat in the house.
Whilst the show may be big and bombastic, there’s a genuine appreciation of the fans here that are shown on the faces and reactions of the band in between songs. Seemingly slightly overwhelmed by the response, Brodén declares the night to be one of the most memorable they’ve ever had, and when Sundström reveals that they’ve grown from playing their first London show at the tiny Purple Turtle to ninety people in 2007 to selling eleven thousand tickets for tonight his smile and the warmth of the audience contains more heat than any amount of pyrotechnics.
With a huge shower of confetti and a solo played atop a flaming piano Christmas Truce closes the main set before killer triple Primo Victoria, Swedish Pagans and To Hell And Back bring the night to a glorious conclusion.
As the band take their bows and thousands of Sabaton notes float down, it seems this battle has been won, yet another successful campaign in full swing by the Swedes. On this form, the war is theirs for the taking.
You can read the Lord and BABYMETAL review here.