Manchester is a fun town, lots of young people attending the numerous universities and even more bars. Just the place for me and SABATON. The HMV Ritz hosted the Swedes, Swiss folk octet ELUVEITIE and opening act WISDOM, a young Teutonic leaning power metal outfit, in requisite laced up leather pants, who never got to that necessary full throttle tempo (gallop). Think a mid-paced HAMMERFALL or Germany's MAJESTY. "Scream for me Manchester," the IRON MAIDEN cover ('Wasted Years') was played with more conviction than their own material. The signature tune saw the fans clap along and sing the "whoa, whoa" parts, while the twin lead begun 'Judas' finale saw them stand four across the front of the stage and featured a brief bit of gruff vocals, the only such number.
The eight, multi-instrumentalists known as Eluveitie are led by long, spindling dreadlocked singer Christian "Chrigel" Glanzmann, who also plays guitar, mandolin, penny whistle, harp and a sheep skull topped bagpipe! The band barely fit onstage. There's a pair of females who also help out with vocals, violinist Meri Tadi? and hurdy gurdy player (have you ever seen anyone strap the medieval instrument over their shoulder?) Anna Murphy. Sonically, they're somewhere between Kate Bush and Anette Olzon (ex-NIGHTWISH). Glanzmann asked "Ready for pure fucking metal," which led to dual flutes, pipes and violin... although aggressive (gruff vocals) and otherwise metal beats. It's a short ride from IN EXTREMO and CORVUS CORAX to Eluveitie. Since the headliner wouldn't allow white lights, they strapped a series of small whites to the outline of the two scrims, which improved overall visibility. When he wasn't selecting instrumentation from a carousel posted at the front of the stage, Glanzmann was throwing the horns. In Britain, these melodies might cut a little too closely to Celtic tunes, although 'The Uprising' was simply intense metal.
Sabaton brought a pair of steel ramps, either side of the elevated drum riser, and a blinding light show. There were eight mounted banks of headlights, five by five... so that's 200 headlights above and beyond the regular cans hanging overhead. By now, everyone knows they utilize EUROPE's 'The Final Countdown' as a call to arms, but it also signals the tongue-in-cheek aspect evident onstage and off. Literally charging into 'Ghost Division', Mohawk sporting singer Joakim Brodén's smile reflected in his mirrored sunglasses and steel breastplate flak jacket. Mini-cams were shooting onstage footage, undoubtedly to augment the footage they'll garner in London (Nov 9th) during the filming of a new DVD. After a bouncy 'Gott Mit Uns', where the new blood added the German lyrics, Brodén joked he was "A Swedish guy who looks like he could be in the Village People." 'White Death' was a crowd pleaser, as the audience moved up and down, you could feel the floor undulate, and not for the last time either. With twice as many in the Ritz, as when the evening began, the body odor was kicking up too! The English delivered title track from Carolus Rex was introduced by "UK and Sweden have both been ruled by kings, few as fucked up as Carolus Rex."
Chants of "Sabaton" broke out after almost every song, but Brodén expertly navigated those moments, with comic relief. "We got emails that said you want to hear one song in Swedish ('Karolinens Bön')." Even though 99.9% had no idea what was being said (the singer even alluding to the fact), fists thrusted overhead. "It's an invasion," he continued. "We're smarter than the Germans. We don't attack. You want us. It starts with ABBA, then IKEA. Those giant warehouses are where the tanks are!" Brodén wore his shades throughout. '40:1' was bombastic and frenetic, maybe even more offstage. An oversized Polish flag waving in the front of the crowd. During 'Cliffs Of Gallipoli' the singer left the stage, the two guitarists and mainstay bassist Pär Sundström center stage. Next, the fans were given the choice of which Coat Of Arms track they wanted to hear: 'Midway', the titular cut or 'Uprising'. Aural bedlam ensues, Brodén unable to comprehend the mixed shouts: "Sounds like Swedish. You're saying 'jump into bed!" A brief language lesson follows, as does 'Uprising' (thematically and musically the best selection of the trio offered), plenty of strobes accompanying the mid-tempo number, as a pair of Polish flags are unfurled.
'Lion From The North' and 'The Hammer Has Fallen' are met warmly, but when Brodén sits center stage, at hastily erected keyboards (he started out playing synths), he teases with a few bars of VAN HALEN's 'Jump', then a little classical composition, before the purple lit 'Attero Dominatus' kicks in. Brodén twirls the cordless mic throughout. The voiceover to 'Art Of War' leaves no doubt what's on deck, followed by 'Primo Victoria'. The briefly leave the stage for the encore, but there's a hard curfew at 10pm, so they don't milk it. Brodén thanking the crowd, saying, "It's all about you guys," then leading everyone through an a cappella rendition of the chorus for "YMCA", before the rest of the band returns for 'Metal Crue', where he finally tossed the sunglasses into the crowd. Told you it was a blinding light show! Can't wait to see the results on the DVD.
More photos from Manchester can be seen here