The energy was palpable. The atmosphere was electric. Squadrons of power metal enthusiasts put their D&D quests on hold and marched to MTelus for a night of unrelenting power metal, vocal harmonies, and enough war references to last several lifetimes. With HammerFall and Sabaton on the bill, expectations were quite high as both bands have proven to be entertaining live acts over the past 20 years. Power metal tends to rely on grandiose theatrics and cheesy references more than any other sub-genre of heavy metal, so it was shaping up to be a pretty epic night.
Ripping into “Never Forgive, Never Forget,” HammerFall set the stage for the night as if we were all embarking on a visceral journey through medieval times, with a prolific cinematic score to match. Throughout their set, there was a blistering assortment of solos, a never-ending sonic assault, and operatic vocal harmonies from vocalist Joacim Cans.
HammerFall then tore through the middle of their set with “Hector’s Hymn” and “Last Man Standing,” both of which would be suitable soundtracks for a significant battle. Then it was the moment I had been waiting to see for years: a live rendition of “Let The Hammer Fall.” Let the hammer fucking fall indeed! An epic brute force attack of mustachioed musicians and magical drumbeats, the expectation was met, and the 16-year-old version of myself left the show quite content. The musical bludgeoning continued with the anthemic “Hammer High,” yet another classic track from the band’s extensive collection. Battling a cold and sore throat, I couldn’t resist singing along to “Hearts of Fire,” a fitting finale for a thrasher of a set that would have impressed even the mighty Thor.
A veteran act that has been executing at a high level for years for over 25 years, you can tell that HammerFall still loves performing in front of live crowds. Headbanging in unison and shredding throughout their set, they are a band to be respected due to their staying power and ability to energize an audience, regardless of the venue size. They also definitely buy into the persona they have created, rocking long hair emblematic of heavy metal and utilizing props such as a hammer guitar, which was brought out towards the latter half of the set. While their music is a tad formulaic, they put on a hell of an entertaining show and warmed up the crowd for Sabaton.
As for the headliner, Sabaton is one of those bands where I delved deeper into their catalogue after seeing them for the first time five years ago when they opened for Amon Amarth. That night was energetic as they proved to be quite the outstanding live act, rivalling the Viking headliners that night. I had been eager to see them again ever since their latest tour was announced, which was probably the same sentiment from many of the metalheads in attending donning cargo pants, leather spikes, and war accessories. With machine guns on either side of the drum set and helmets hung on the mics, I knew the entire crowd was in for an epic war-filled night of power metal. Right off the bat, Sabaton brought the energy with “Ghost Division,” which also caused the crowd to erupt like a nuclear bomb. Never have I seen an entire floor go batshit crazy and jump up and down for a whole song.
Plowing through “The Great War,” the band and crowd fed off of each other, with various synchronized sessions of advanced moshing breaking out all over the floor. Whether it was an act or not, the band seemed to be speechless the entire night as the raucous crowd showed no signs of slowing down. Affectionately calling us crazy bastards, Sabaton showed their appreciation for a crowd that brought more energy to a show than I have ever seen.
After giving the crowd some more praise, the band kept the pace going with old and new tracks, such as “Resist and Bite,” “The Fields of Verdun,” and “The Red Baron.” The light show and video theatrics behind the stage matched the music perfectly, adding to the overall atmosphere and making the night feel like a gathering of war generals preparing for a real-life version of Risk. The enigmatic and effervescent frontman Joakim Brodén did not relent once, keeping the crowd immersed in the show as if he was imbued with enough stamina for thirty horses. I have seen a ton of music acts over the past fifteen years, and I maintain that he is, without a doubt, one of the best vocalists when it comes to having a stage presence.
The encore brought more of the same energy throughout the night, with one final coordinated cardio session from the exhausted metalheads in the audience. Sweating off the alcohol I drank from every orifice and being lightheaded due to a crippling cold, I couldn’t help but partake in Sabaton’s ritualistic dancing (mostly jumping up and down) and singing during “Prime Victoria” and “Swedish Pagans.” At last, the show ended with “To Hell and Back,” a fitting finale and go-home track for the crowd.
For a band with nine albums to their name, Sabaton shows no signs of slowing down, especially after they earned a ton of respect this past summer when they filled in for Manowar at Hellfest. They are continuously upstaging headliner acts and are proving to be a valuable commodity in the metal scene.
TL;DR version: epic power metal show was epic.
Written by Jonathan Berthold
Photography by Mihaela Petrescu
*edited by Mike Milito