SABATON and Eluveitie @ The Forum

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Sabaton and Eluveitie

@ HMV Forum, London

9th November 2012

Review by Rhiannon Marley

Photography by Michelle Murphy

Whether you think of Sabaton as pioneers of modern power metal or a bunch of self-confessed ‘Village People in combats’, the fact is, they’re bloody good fun. Flying high with 2012’s Carolus Rex after a renowned post-recording line-up change, the belligerent Swedes are hitting the HMV Forum tonight in force – and from what I’ve heard, in FLAMES…

Yes, the gents are not only recording tonight’s show for their upcoming live DVD – they’ve also imported a load of pyrotechnics from their motherland to sizzle us frosty Londoners with. Oh lord. I arrive two hours before doors open to interview frontman Joakim Brodén, and even then, the side-road is heaving. Sabaton’s own merch tousles for supremacy with Rob Zombie shirts, as waist-length sooty locks betray the tell-tale signs of Schwarzkopf dye: crowning blonde eyebrows and beards.

With brimming cup in hand and audience place secured, I gear up for Swiss export ELUVEITIE (4/5). A far mightier force than the region’s connoted watches or chocolate, the 8-piece burst into life with the Scottish-introduced ‘Helvetios’. Beams of light and clapping hands engulf their new wave of folk metal, with flutes, hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes shooting fairy-dust atop a brutal power and death-riffed engine.

Compelling frontman Chrigel Glanzmann leads his clan, while ladies Anna, whose live voice is terrific, and Meri windmill. With their melting pot of instruments and a set drenched in Celtic symbols, Eluveitie take you across seas and space-time.

More aggressive than contemporaries such as Ensiferum and Korpiklaani, their passion wraps the crowd in horn-throwing enthusiasm and gives them a grittier edge than your average folk metal stereotypes.

That said, though they shun the ‘party-music’ associated with the genre, that doesn’t mean folk metal can’t be earnest and fun; there’s a ram’s head (fake, I think…) on one of their sets of bagpipes, and mandatory folk-dancing in the mosh-pit.

Middle-aged women and barely-pubescent lads are having a great time and many metalheads are nodding without resistance; you just can’t help but dance (the more ridiculously, the better) to their anthemic choruses and interesting, powerful presence.

The perfect blend of crazy precision: how a folk metal band should sound.

After a few minutes’ hiatus spent bumping into familiar faces and elbowing past a sweaty washing line of men covered in SABATON’s (4.5/5) back-catalogue, I resume my place by the stage.

Atmosphere by the bucket-load, as military images fill a massive screen, almost makes the wait bearable; hell, you’d have time to prepare for, win, and make it home from war, and still be back before their set started.

But the lights finally dim. ‘SA-BA-TON!’ spreads like wildfire. And their opening battle mantra? The Final Countdown. There’s no turning back; giggled warbles of Europe’s trademark three words confirms that tonight’s going to involve a shitload of merriment.

The Swedes explode into sight, Joakim in signature aviators and with three new members in tow. The mob surges, jumping and bellowing like lunatics to ‘Ghost Division’ and ’40:1′ as the quintet storm the stage in a way unlike anything I’ve seen in recent times. Whip-snap musicianship, nuclear energy and dazzling grins between their ears for the next two hours testify that not only are Sabaton on form – they’re on form with a fresh Triple Entente of perfect creative matches, in a very, very big way.

Despite the gents not having found a keyboardist yet, once they’re a couple of tracks in, any sceptics about their choices of replacement need either their misconceptions, or heads, lopped off.

The Swedish flag is handed from the audience to Joakim, who’s having the time of his life, as much-awaited sparks fly onstage and he dances his way around them. Fists, bodies and the occasional shoe fly to the smell of smoke and singed split-ends from the front row, with an audience uprising fit to topple a government or three.

Between each song, chants of their moniker are injected like religious bookends. The watching army goes as crazy for older classics, when moshers have to choose between ‘Midway’ and ‘Uprising’, as it does for recent cuts, such as native-tongue rendition of ‘Karolinens Bön’. Sabaton are showmen to the core; Joakim plays piano intros to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and ABBA’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ before ‘The Hammer Has Fallen’, then swaps armour jackets with a fan who has to pick on his lonesome between ‘Attero Dominatus’ and ‘Coat of Arms’.

The undoubted highlight though, is the encore. During powerful epic ‘Primo Victoria’, Joakim flings himself into his adoring ocean and I abandon all irritation with some pissed bloke who’s been propping himself up on me all night, as I join the carnival of shouting human pogo-sticks.

Sabaton’s passion is utterly infectious; you feel the creases in their smiling eyes, the sweat pouring down their faces and the joy in their souls. While Joakim’s presence is imperious, quietening onlookers with a mere raise of the mic, the band’s modesty and innocent happiness is their greatest weapon of all.

Reminding the crowd of their first ever gig at Camden’s Purple Turtle, they place the ultimate victory in the hands of their fans for getting them this far…and how could we possibly resist that?

An adrenaline-fuelled sonic jamboree, and one of the most genuinely entertaining nights I’ve enjoyed in a long while!

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