Metal has always been about theatrics, and I’ve always been fond of bands who embrace that theatricality and dial it up all the way to eleven and beyond. I was in luck, because three of those bands were playing at Club Soda that night for one of the most fun shows I’ve seen in a while. The venue was PACKED. Which is not surprising for a sold-out show, but it was kind of hard to move around and it felt like being in a greenhouse.
I had always known Leaves’ Eyes as Liv Kristine Espenæs’ (from Theatre of Tragedy) solo symphonic-metal project, so imagine my surprise when I realized she wasn’t even present on stage. After doing some research, it seems she’s recently been ousted and replaced by singer Elina Siirala. Being kicked out from your own band, man that must be a bummer.
The second surprise was that they’re now playing… Viking metal?! And they made a point to show it; they had a bunch of dudes dressed as Viking warriors banging their shield on stage, and backup singer Alexander Krull even played a couple songs in full armor while brandishing a sword. I couldn’t help but being won over by how over-the-top it was, and the music wasn’t too bad either. They played mostly songs from their latest album King of Kings, with a couple throwbacks to the Liv Kristine era.
It was then Battle Beast’s turn to take the stage, for their very first show in Montreal. These guys looked straight out of the eighties, between lead singer Noora Louhimo’s crazy make-up and attire, and keyboardist Janne Björkroth’s bitching keytar. That decade’s influence was certainly there in their sound as well, which is somewhere between power-metal and eighties pop with a hint of disco. This certainly put a grin on my face, and I was headbanging non-stop to their high-energy performance. Louhimo has an incredible stage presence and a voice to boot and won over the audience. She even brandished a Canadian flag towards the end of their set, which may or may not be a faux-pas in “la belle province.”
Finally, it was time for Swedish power-metallers and military history nerds Sabaton to enter the stage. I discovered these guys at Hellfest a few years back, and still remember how much fun I had at their show, so I was more than eager to see them again. Being quite the history buff myself, and having ancestors who fought in both World Wars (on the French side), one could say that their music speaks to me. The stage setup was ridiculously awesome. Supply crates and camo netting were disposed all over, and the mic stands were literally M-16 rifles, adorned with helmets. No tank to be seen this time though.
After playing “In the Army Now” and “The March of War” through the PA to warm up the crowd, they burst onto the stage to the first notes of “Ghost Division.” A little bit too fast for guitarist Tommy Johansson, who tripped and wiped out against the stage monitors! He seemed fine, though. Frontman Joakim Brodén arrived last, wearing his trademark aviator shades and body armor. He was all over the place for the whole show, running, jumping, and striking action poses. I was half-expecting him to start doing splits between two amps, Vandamme-style. This guy has an incredible charisma, and I couldn’t help but laugh hearing the stupid stuff he would say between songs, with a thick Swedish accent. “Do you want it hard? Do you want it fast? Do you want it up the butt?”
Their set was non-stop energy and epicness, and the crowd was 200% into it. They didn’t stick to their last album The Last Stand, and played all their greatest hits, from “Primo Victoria” to
“To Hell and Back,” and, of course, “Winged Hussars.” For their last song, Brodén invited a young fan to come up on stage, which I’m sure he’ll remember all his life. Lucky kid!
I left the show completely pumped up and with a smile on my face, and judging by the people around me I wasn’t the only one. If only all shows were that fun!
Written and Photographed by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Danielle Kenedy