Sabaton

support Alestorm + Thaurorod
author GR date 14/10/10 venue Electric Ballroom, London, UK

My last gig review brought you an epic tale of a sold-out show by a European power metal band in the capital city I now call home - and here I am once again, reporting back on another such gig. This time taking place in the much more familiar surrounds of Camden and headlined by a band from Sweden rather than Germany, it was another night with plenty of friends from varying corners of the country in attendance. Sabaton are a band whose profile has grown considerably over the past few years, this being their biggest UK headline show to date, and with a reputation for fantastic live performances, the evening looked set to be an enjoyable one as the "World War Tour" rolled through town.

Thaurorod

Unfortunately the demands of work, reliance on public transport and a queue for the box office despite doors being quite sometime earlier, meant that my arrival inside the Ballroom was not timely enough to see much of Finnish symphonic power metallers Thaurorod. Given that I had heard their singer quit the band part-way through this European jaunt (not that this was official, you just happen to learn things on Facebook), I was unsure what would actually greet me as I stepped into the main hall. I can only assume that whatever the problem may have been, it was sorted out in some way, as a full band, singer and all, stood upon the stage playing to an already rather busy venue. I don't think it would be fair to give Thaurorod a grade based on my limited exposure to them, but I can't say I was blown away by what I did experience. Sure, the songs seemed like more-than competent efforts with a typical keyboard-y sound and the band appeared to be having fun, but that's no more than can be said for many similar bands. One thing that did stand out, though, was the singer's voice - and unfortunately not in a positive way. He seemed to have the basis of a decent set of pipes but much of his delivery was strained and sounded pretty bad. Whether this was just the tour taking its toll on his vocal chords or this wasn't the usual frontman after all, I don't know, but it didn't leave me wanting to check them out further.

Alestorm

Ahh Alestorm; the band many love to hate and even more love to love. Their 'Pirate Metal' shtick is an unsurprising dividing point and has seen them both panned and praised in equal measure (although, in my experience, with a leaning towards the former in the UK's print metal media). Now, whatever your view of the folk/power foursome, it cannot be denied that they've achieved growing success since signing to Napalm in 2007 and this was to be my first proper chance to catch them live indoors since their support slot to Turisas back in 2008, at this very venue. After a cheesy wrestling-style spoken intro, announcing them to be the "true kings of Scottish pirate metal", Alestorm bounded onto the stage to much cheering and - as though to leave no-one in any doubt about their 'theme' - broke into "Heavy Metal Pirates"

Whilst their music may not be particularly complex, the band has had a bit of a reputation for sloppy shows in the past and although this may befit their pirate ways, it doesn't make for favourable impressions. Thankfully everything was shipshape (come on, I had to use that somewhere in this review!) on this occasion and Alestorm performed with both energy and precision. A few technical hitches at the start of the set were dealt with humourously ("a man walked into a bar with a steering wheel attached to his crotch. The barman said 'where the fuck is the fucking guitarist?!'") by frontman and keytarist Chris Bowes, who naturally provided most of the focus throughout their time on stage. Songs from both albums and EP were given an airing, including the uber-catchy Eurovision cover "Wolves of the Sea", as well as a new number simply entitled "Rum" (in case you're wondering, the chorus to this goes "Rum! Rum! Rum!").

A few audience members had gone as far as dressing up as pirates for the gig, but most of the sizeable crowd were happy to contribute through the medium of fist-pumping and headbanging rather than anything more elaborate. A band with what is essentially a gimmick are always going to be in danger of becoming tiresome but Alestorm managed to avoid this pitfall and rounded their set off with a rousing rendition of "Keelhauled". How much longer the whole 'pirate metal' thing can go on for remains to be seen, but this was a decent performance in its own right.

7

Sabaton

Swedish war-machine Sabaton are an almost perfect example of the steady growth of a band achieved through both hard-touring and hard-rocking. Their excellent performances at Europe's major metal festivals, support slots to the likes of Hammerfall and signing to Nuclear Blast has seen them progress from headlining the Purple Turtle (capacity of around 300) in 2007 and 2008, to tonight's gig in a venue capable of holding over 800 in a concert setting. Of course, such popularity isn't gained without strong albums and Sabaton were here promoting latest release "Coat of Arms", their 5th album of historic war-themed power metal.

As I waited for a pint to be poured at the rear bar, everyone's favourite New Year's Eve song "The Final Countdown" started up and not-so-subtly hinted at the imminent arrive of Sabaton to the stage. By this point the venue was as busy as I've ever seen it and meant any ideas of getting up close and personal with the band were quashed in favour of standing towards the back - something that's luckily never too much of a problem, being one of the tall bastards that most of you probably hate for blocking your view at gigs. The band appeared and started with perennial opener "Ghost Division", a highly energetic and memorable track perfect for getting an audience going from the word go. Personally, and as can often be the case at the start of sets, the moment seemed a bit subdued and lacking in atmosphere despite a rapturous reception from the crowd. After a couple of new songs had been given an airing, however, everything fell into place (or maybe it was just the beer taking effect) and with "Cliffs of Gallipoli", Sabaton were firmly in the driving seat for a great performance.

While the rest of the band were no slouches, rocking out with gusto throughout the set, vocalist Joakim Brodén is always going to get a special mention and he proved once again to be one of metal's best frontmen. As on the previous occasions I've seen Sabaton, he looked as though all his Christmases had come at once, beaming from ear-to-ear between leading the band through heroic cuts from their back catalogue such as "Wolfpack" and "Back in Control". All the things you'd expect from a good power metal show were in abundance - namely fist-pumping, clapping in unison, audience singalongs and, err, birthday celebrations. It happened to be drummer Daniel Mullback's 28th ("the baby of the band") so a large flight case was wheeled onstage and opened to reveal a present in the shape of his girlfriend with bottle of champagne in hand. The celebratory mood continued but before long it was time for the encore and traditional closing "Metal Machine/Metal Crue" medley. The set hadn't quite matched past Sabaton performances, which highlights how consistently great they are given the strength of this one, but provided the best Thursday night out one could hope for.

8

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