Sabaton live in London: war obsessed power metal at its very best

The SSE Arena, Wembley, February 8 2020

Hailing from Falun – a modestly sized Swedish city known principally for its copper mine – it’s likely that Sabaton’s homestead will be known forthwith for its export of another kind of metal.

You won’t find it on the periodic table, but Sabaton’s element of choice is best described as war-obsessed-power-metal; think Iron Maiden, themselves no strangers to war-themed musical output, but if their lob on for the devil matched an interest in the optimum dimensions for digging the perfect trench. The Scandinavian band’s stage show features fire – so much fire.

Barbed wire stretched across the front of the stage. Sandbags. A drummer playing inside an actual tank. And a moment within their set where singer Joakim Brodén picks up a giant bazooka and fires it at his bandmates.

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Each song is about a different historical conflict; normally one that occurred during the first and second World Wars. The large screen behind the band plays archive footage of D-Day (during the song ‘Primo Victoria’), the Western Front (the mighty ‘Fields Of Verdun’) and the onward march of infantry (‘To Hell And Back’; if there’s ever been a catchier song written about the PTSD of highly decorated American World War II veteran Audie Murphy then we’re yet to hear it). Sabaton are quite possibly what Nigel Farage thinks of when he closes his eyes at night. Would you like chips with your gammon, sir?

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Sabaton live in London. Credit: Getty

Only that’s not the full story. There is, see, a communal experience being shared tonight that transcends the inward-looking arrogance that currently grips the island the show is taking place upon. There are few existences whereupon the thousands of people who make up a sold-out Wembley Arena, singing “Through the gates of hell, as we make our way to heaven, through the Nazi lines” in unison isn’t a glorious sound, while the sight of the crowd’s omnipresent circle pit, ceasing hostilities, sitting on the floor during the nautical themed powerballad ‘Bismark’, then proceeding to ‘row’ throughout, is perhaps the best thing we’ve seen in a heavy metal moshpit since that year someone crowdsurfed at Download in a wheelchair.

It’s telling that the band close their show tonight with the words “make love, not war” projected on the screen. It leaves Sabaton’s motivations beyond doubt. Instrumental-Finnish-cello-metallers (not a sentence you hear every day) Apocalyptica return to the stage after their prior support slot, to accompany the Swedes on a handful of songs (‘Angels Calling’, the aforementioned ‘Fields Of Verdun’, ‘Price Of A Mile’, ‘Lion From The North’, ‘Carolus Rex’) that somehow manage to make the already heavy sound positively corpulent.

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Sabaton in London. Credit: Getty

The spectacle – four men either wearing camo or armoured vests or a combination of both, duelling with three cellos – is a daft as sight to behold as the drummer sat in a tank turret firing missiles at the adoring arena crowd before him. And yet Sabaton’s alignment of mass euphoria, galloping old school metal and songs about getting blown up, is not only the best night out we’ve had all year, but the group’s ticket to the rarely penetrated heavy metal big leagues.

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What is war good for? Loads of stuff, apparently.

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