Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
First band Týr hail from the Faroe Islands, and are named after the one-handed Norse god of law and heroic glory. I suppose the name sits well with their stated mission of aiming to break down the barriers they feel have grown between all genres of metal and to blow away any resultant prejudices. As you may have expected, their music is steeped in Norse folklore, Faroese and Scandinavian traditional sounds, all given the Týr branding. A nine-song set of full-blooded Viking metal had the packed room chanting along with the band, fist-pumping the air in a demonstration of solidarity in the cause. The anthemic ‘Hold the Heathen Hammer High’ rocked, the opening vocal harmonies of ‘Grindavísan’ brought out goose-bumps and the rousing ‘Tróndur Í Gøtu’ were set highlights for me. Great looking band, great musicians and great music.
In no time at all the crowd were again chanting and clapping and there was no band on stage! The dimmed stage lighting was the only cue required for the intense atmosphere created by Týr to be re-ignited in anticipation of an appearance by Finnish folk inspired forgers of metal Korpiklaani. Formed back in 1993, but renamed as Korpiklaani, which translates as Forest Clan, in 2003, these guys were music to my ears, being a massive fan of their fellow Finns Turisas. Their happy-go-lucky way of playing generates a “let’s go get drunk and have a great time” feel which transfers to the crowd with great ease, not that they need much encouragement and no song demonstrated that more than the bouncy ‘Juodaan Viinaa’ (tr. Let’s Drink Booze), one of several songs that celebrates drinking and partying. With synthesisers long having been dispensed with and more folk orientated instruments like violin and accordion now being major components, Korpiklaani is a band that plays true to the traditions so important to each of its performers and if one of those Finnish traditions is having a rollicking good time singing and drinking, long may they continue to so do.
As the last few bars of Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’ faded and gave way to frantic chants of Sab-a-ton, Sab-a-ton we hear through the smoky haze and dim stage lights “Wolverhampton, we are Sabaton and we play heavy metal!”
The band strike the first chord and the crowd are in metal heaven. Already well-oiled from the previous two bands, Sabaton were about to serve a nightcap to remember them by on this, the last of the UK “Heroes On Tour” gigs. The set-list included songs from the latest Heroes album, but from time to time the band played around with the running order by giving the fans a choice of song and language. Amongst the occasions when fan-power won the day they chose ‘Smoking Snakes’ over ‘Soldier of 3 Armies’ and ‘The Lion From The North’ over ‘1648’ and requested the latter, along with ‘Gott Mit Uns’ be sung in Swedish! The guys from Falun duly obliged and with vocalist Joakim Brodén and the band revelling in the rapport they had struck up with the crowd the die was well and truly cast!
Strangely, I thought that singing the songs in their native tongue brought an added bit of magic and impact to the show, something seemingly not lost on the canny Slade Rooms crowd by their choice when given the option by Joakim. At times tonight Sabaton played with a depth and power which shook the very foundations on which we all stood, although during the performance of the stirring ’40:1′, a tribute to Polish soldiers, we were in danger of being evacuated as the dense stage smoke was setting off the alarms and stealthily drifted across the room as if it was seeking out any remaining non-believers to overpower them into submission. It was the stage crew who came up with an ingenious solution to allow the music to continue which I dare not divulge for fear of H & S backlashes!
There was so much audience energy on show here tonight that it even had the Sabaton guys asking “How are you still standing? You are amazing!” To be honest, they were, and it was testament to all three bands and the calibre of the show they put on, because from the very first song of the evening until the very last we had been taken on a compelling journey through a labyrinth of heavy metal genres in that inimitable Nordic style.
1. Ghost Division
2. To Hell and Back
3. Carolus Rex
5. Gott Mit Uns
6. Smoking Snakes
7. The Art Of War
9. The Lion From The North
10. Attero Dominatus
11. Guitar solos (including Smoke On The Water & Master Of Puppets)
12. Resist And Bite
13. White Death
14. Night Witches
15. Swedish Pagans
16. Primo Victoria
17. Metal Crüe