Sabaton are back on Canadian ice roads this month and returned to Calgary, a mere 9 months since their last show. How lucky are we to see Sabaton twice in less than a year! The answer of course, is VERY! For this tour, the Swedish storytellers of war have Kreator sharing the bill, who were also in Calgary just under a year ago.
I walked into the warmth of The Palace, with “Metal Heart” by Accept playing in the background and just in time for Cyhra to start. I’d not heard Cyhra before and wanted my first experience to be as authentic as possible so went in not knowing what to expect. A relatively new band with a uniquely long history, having forged from members of In Flames, Annihilator, Rhapsody, and Amaranthe.
The first thing I noticed was a lack of bass player. Instead, the four-piece had technology on their side, with both drummer Alex Landenburg and singer Joacim Lundberg supported by laptops that generated both the bass and some background keys.
The Calgary crowd seemed pleased but placid for the moment, with a dozen or so hardcore fans right up front singing along with the band. With three names on the bill and limited stage space, Cyhra made the most of the small square footage they’d been given to warm up the crowd.
Next up was Kreator! I was unable to see them last year when they headlined the Decibel tour with Obituary, Midnight and Horrendous, so having them back on stage in Calgary so soon felt like my second chance. Their 2017 release ‘Gods of Violence’ was a highlight last year and I was very excited to see them play live.
As their stage was getting set up, metalheads filled in the pit and sang along to the background music. I appreciated that the band waited for “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden to finish before they started their set. The lights dimmed, smoke machines went into overdrive, and the band silently took the stage. Suddenly they exploded into their first song of the night, “Phantom Antichrist” and their light show was blinding, filling The Palace with powerful disorientating brightness. Singer Mille Petrozza shrieked at the crowd “destroy this fucking place!” And they did, going crazy in the mosh pit.
On two separate occasions Petrozza was able to orchestrate a Wall of Death in the pit; given the meagre size of the floor, this made for some squishy times for those of us on the sidelines. He also churned up multiple “Canadian Circle Pits” (really just a bunch of guys running into each-other and apologizing) which was very impressive. Included in the setlist were “Hail to the Hordes,” “Satan is Real,” (where all the screens in the venue lit up in flames – it was a nice touch!) and “Totalitarian Terror” all from ‘Gods of Violence’ which was just awesome.
As we waited for Sabaton to take the stage, I looked around the room and was pleased to see many punters dressed up for the occasion, clad in camo pants, military boots and helmets (…for safety!) There was also a Swedish flag floating above the sea of people in the pit. The “SA-BA-TON! SA-BA-TON!”chants began as the lights went out and “In the Army Now” began. Sabaton had returned!
The background screen illuminated with animated tanks rolling around, then the band took the stage for “Ghost Division.” It really is a joyous moment when Sabaton take the stage; their energy is astounding! Pär Sundström’s, utterly infectious smile, Joakim Broden’s magical levitating/fist pump combos, and guitarists Tommy Johansson and Chris Rorland’s synchronized guitar ballet always make for a wonderful experience and Saturday night at The Palace was no exception.
In the first break between song sets, the band paused to engage with the audience – Broden cracked a few jokes (“my favourite band is ABBA, my favourite restaurant is IKEA”) then launched into “Cliffs of Gallipoli” much to my delight.
A more sombre moment when “Final Solution” was played, accompanied by a visual montage of WWII footage and the crowd fed off that energy. A slower song, and a quieter audience that seemed to be paying their respects to what they were seeing on stage and screen. That mood quickly fell away when Broden strapped on his guitar and said, “now it’s time for the one-hour guitar solo!” The crowed cheered, much to Broden’s feigned dismay. He ripped out a quick ode to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” before the band exploded into “Resist and Bite.”
Highlights on the set list were “Swedish Pagans,” “Far from the Fame,” “Sparta” and “To Hell and Back.” A good mix of the Sabaton discography ensured a little bit for every fan at the show.
One of my favourite aspects of the Sabaton show is how much the band seem to enjoy themselves on stage. Each member wore massive smiles, played cheeky tricks on each-other and Broden’s trademark high-energy antics that would sell very well as an aerobics DVD. Their happiness on stage always adds something unique and very special to their live show, and I will never miss the opportunity to see it again and again.
There are few bands that spark joy like Sabaton do. What an absolute pleasure to have them back in Calgary.