Sabaton + Accept + Twilight Force
@ O2 Academy Brixton, London
January 14, 2017
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Fabiola Santini
Swedish metal machine Sabaton’s confusingly titled “The Last Tour” (spoiler: it’s not) arrived at London’s beautiful O2 Academy Brixton last Saturday, serving UK metalheads their grandest performance on the island to date, since their first show here in 2007. Bringing along fellow countrymen Twilight Force and German metal veterans Accept, the evening was set for a spectacular show offering fans both hilariously cheesy power metal, true Teutonic heavy metal and a good dose of metal set to war-like imagery along with astounding pyrotechnics.
The massive que and jolly mood outside the venue prior to the show, and also the upgrade to playing the larger Brixton Academy rather than the Forum in Kentish Town (where they played last year) serves to prove that Sabaton are as popular in the UK as ever. It is pretty momentous in fact, for the band to play such a large venue, something reflected in vocalist Joakim Broden’s moving reaction to the massive crowd’s response.
Twilight Force hit the stage surprisingly early, only ten minutes after the doors opened, causing their performance to be beheld by a mere fraction of the people that paid to see them, and also causing myself to lose half their set. Despite this off-putting start (which was probably out of the band’s hands anyways), the Swedish medieval themed power metallers put on a jovial and fun show as always.
Having supported Sonata Arctica in London last autumn (review of that can be found HERE), the band are no strangers to the London audience, and were arguably received better now than last time. Despite quite bad sound mixing, with guitars being partly drowned by the drums, the technicality of their performance stands unchallenged for the rest of the evening. Guitarists Aerendir and Lynd showcase massively impressive shredding and riffing, and witnessing this paired with Chrileon’s superb vocal performance and the atmospheric narrative by keyboardist Blackwald is a definite highlight of the evening.
Their highly energetic and entertaining set is brought to an end after a mere 30 minutes, when “The Power of the Ancient Force” concludes the night’s medieval cosplay display. The intensity of the chorus’ sing along and the everlasting cheers of gratitude from the crowd as the band leaves the stage was a good indicator of the atmosphere this past Saturday.
1. Battle of Arcane Might
2. To The Stars
3. Riders of the Dawn
4. Flight of the Sapphire Dragon
5. Gates of Glory
6. The Power of the Ancient Force
In the half-hour following Twilight Force’s set, the stage is gradually transformed into an unmistakable scene of a steel factory, leaving no doubt about who’s soon to enter. German metal veterans Accept definitely helped attract a slightly older crowd, but the overall reception from their performance showed a classic band still going strong, able to serve a fist-pounding powerhouse of a show, to the joy of everyone at the Academy that night. Drummer Christopher Williams almost trips over his drum set as he enters, while the tape playing over the PA reveals the single “Stampede” from their latest effort Blind Rage to be their set’s opener.
Vocalist Mark Tornillo gracefully enters the stage wearing Ozzy-sunglasses, while guitarists Uwe Lulis and Wolf Hoffman are already busy riffing (and the latter making funny faces). After seeing them for the second time, I am now certain Hoffmann would be a worthy contender in a funny-face-making contest facing Lars Ulrich himself. The sound is considerably better mixed compared to Twilight Force’s set.
“Stalingrad” from the 2012 album of the same name takes a Soviet patriotic turn as a snippet of the National Anthem of the USSR is played in the outro.
“We’re doing some shameless self-promotion!” Tornillo proclaims, referring to their new live album Restless and Live, before kicking into the classic that the album is named after (“Restless and Wild”). “London Leatherboys” is played “especially for you, London!”, although a sneaking suspicion of a white lie and some snooping around on setlist.fm confirms it is in fact a regular in their set this tour.
The intensity and power of their newer material, alongside timeless classics like “Princess of the Dawn” and “Metal Heart”, only shows that Accept is an enduring band. The classics also shows why Tornillo was nothing but the perfect replacement for Udo Dirkscheider. The twin guitar solo in “Fast as a Shark” is immensely enjoyable and serves as the highlight of their set for myself. Hardly a surprise, the immortal “Balls to the Wall” ends our dose of Teutonic metal, and the synchronised Accept-moves finally appear as the band tears through the song so impeccably perfect that it’s quite obvious they’ve played it (probably) thousands of times by now.
3. Restless and Wild
4. London Leatherboys
5. Final Journey
6. Princess of the Dawn
7. Fast as a Shark
8. Metal Heart
9. Teutonic Terror
10. Balls to the Wall
As the lights go out around 21:30, a massive roar of cheering fills the floors of the Brixton Academy as their cover of “In The Army Now” over the PA reveals it’s time for the night’s highly anticipated headliner, Sabaton. A sense of instant energy engrosses the venue and the already aroused audience, and when drummer Hannes Van Dahl climbs his massive tank-drum set to the intro track“The March to War”, the crowd goes wild. A wall of sound hits us, and Joakim Broden’s unmistakable vocals from behind the stage presents us with the rather predictable: “Alright London, we are Sabaton, and this is Ghost Division!” before the band tears into exactly that song.
The presence of indoors pyrotechnics and explosives on stage was a positive surprise, and only one of many aspects of their show making this one much grander and more enjoyable than when the band visited London together with Alestorm last year. Spartan soldiers invading the stage during “Sparta” off the new album is another, and the video screen serving as a backdrop, displaying hard hitting parts of their lyrics along with images of war is a pleasant addition. Much needed I would argue, and some of the unusual songs in their setlist is another element of fresh air from a band that has largely done the same exact thing (successfully) for years.
That doesn’t stop Joakim from pulling the same Michael Jackson joke as he has for the past three years though, and “Swedish Pagans” being played “by choice” of new guitarist Tommy Johansson – as if the unmistakable fan favourite wasn’t planned. “Blood of Bannockburn”, about Scotland’s struggle for independence, probably received a somewhat better response in Glasgow three days prior, but is quite enjoyable to hear down here in England as well.
The new material works predictably well, and we’re presented with six songs off last years The Last Stand. Some older, lesser played classics make a triumphant return to the set list, with the criminally underrated “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” from 2008s The Art of War being a definite highlight. “The Final Solution” in acoustic form might’ve seemed like a good idea on paper, but fails to personally invoke the emotional response that was obviously the intent when slowing and stripping down a song about the Holocaust.
No matter how much previous setlist regulars such as “The Art of War” and “Attero Dominatus” might be missed, it’s good to see the band embrace the fact that the lesser played songs in their now quite large discography deserves a moment in the spotlight.
“Night Witches” from 2014s Heroes sounds as good as ever, accompanied with perfectly placed pyro. The already well-established fan favourite “Primo Victoria” is the night’s first encore, showing a still eager and enthusiastic crowd having great fun singing and jumping along while the band narrates the events that took place in Normandy on the 6th of June, 1944. “Shiroyama”, an immensely catchy song about Samurais, rapidly follows before “To Hell and Back” ends what cannot be described as anything but a highly entertaining and energetic night celebrating metal in the capital.
Sabaton is by no means making a last stand with this tour, and there is without doubt more good things to see and hear in the coming years from what’s arguably one of the most fun live bands touring at the moment.
The March to War (tape)
1. Ghost Division
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Swedish Pagans
5. Carolus Rex
6. The Last Stand
7. Far From The Fame
8. Winged Hussars
9. The Final Solution (acoustic version)
10. Resist and Bite
11. Night Witches
Dominium Maris Baltici (tape)
12. The Lion From The North
Diary of an Unknown Soldier (tape)
13. The Lost Battalion
14. Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)
16. Primo Victoria
18. To Hell and Back