It was in the first two decades of the ninth century that the chroniclers of ancient Ulster first recorded the arrival of the fiercesome Norsemen, as they inflicted on this north-eastern corner of Ireland the same fate they had wrought elsewhere on the island and also across Britain and those parts of continental Europe bordering the Atlantic seaboard for many years then… some 17 centuries later, and a new breed of Vikings returned to these shores, brandishing axes of a slighting different kind that their forebears, as Swedish conquerers Sabaton once more berthed their mighty longship on the shores of Belfast Lough with a promise of musical conquest…
Of course, any good invading force always sends a scouting party or two ahead, and tonight the honour of opening proceedings fell to Faroese pillagers Týr. Their towering folk metal, which quickly wins over any naysayers to their heathen cause with the huge opening double salvo of ‘Blood Of Heroes’ and ‘Hold The Heathen Hammer High’, is characterized by huge harmonic vocals – the most impressive example of the evening being perhaps the three part ‘Sinklars Vísa’. However, the invaders let themselves down badly with an awful interpretation of ‘The Wild Rover’: the uplifting ‘Lady Of The Slain’, however, quickly restores the natural order of things, while ‘By The Sword In My Hand’ is a suitably triumphant closer, leaving the natives in shock and awe at the opening aural assault of the evening.
Blood Of Heroes / Hold The Heathen Hammer High / Grindavísan / Tródur Í Gøtu / Mare Of My Night / Sinklars Vísa / The Wild Rover / Lady Of The Slain / By The Sword In My Hand
Listen to our interview with Týr frontman Heri Joensen at https://planetmosh.com/tyr-heri-joensen-06122014/.
The second wave of the vanguard action sees the focus of the attack swing slightly eastward and away from Scandinavia, in the shape of Finland’s Korpiklaani: unfortunately, their initial onslaught is not as effective as their predecessors, mainly due to an atrocious sound, and particularly an extremely muddy vocal mix. Nevertheless, Jonne and his band of warriors battle through to deliver an energetic, rabble-rousing set, which gets some serious head-nodding action going the length and the breadth of the room.
It’s a performance that is as uplifting as it is ferocious and fiery, with flying fiddles and riotous accordion solos adding to the foot-stomping party metal feel of a set delivered by a middle-order band playing a headline status show.
The (most likely) reason for Korpiklaani’s atrocious sound mix becomes apparent almost as soon as the Finns quite the stage, as the PA system falls eerily quiet: it turns out that one of the mixing desks has blown up, and the inhouse sound engineer has to strip one from the smaller neighbouring venue. And, thus, it is almost an hour after their scheduled start time that the strains of ‘The Final Countdown’ finally (sic) herald the imminent arrival of the main invasion force – no wonder vocalist Joakim Brodén seems to have a particularly vicious anger to his delivery!
What follows is Lesson 101 in how to put on a heavy metal show – but, then, do Sabaton know how to do anything else? Having been previously assured that we would be treated to their full show (the tech issues meant that they took to the stage around ten minutes before the originally advertised curfew), the Swedes’ military might quickly lays waste to the submissive army of Belfastards ranked before and below them, and it is not long before Joakim is grinning with the appreciative pleasure of a conquering hero. The five soldiers of metal fortune deliver epic soundtracks on an epic scale, with the likes of ‘Carolus Rex’ as majestic as its subject matter, ’40:1′ thumping and pounding and ‘The Art Of War’ simultaneously punishing and vibrant.
In between their characteristic fan votes, there are moments of cheekiness – such as snippets of ‘YMCA’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’ delivered during between-song tune-ups – but above all this is a full-blooded, chest-pumping declaration of war on anyone who does not believe in the pure, enervating and unadulteratedly exciting power of real heavy fuckin’ metal played loud and proud.
Ghost Division / To Hell And Back / Carolus Rex / 40:1 / Gott Mit Uns / Soldier Of Three Armies / The Art Of War / 7734 / The Lion From The North / Attero Dominatus / Resist And Bite / Uprising
Night Witches / Primo Victoria / Metal Crüe
Sabaton’s most recent album, ‘Heroes’, is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.
Listen to our interview with Joakim Brodén at https://planetmosh.com/sabaton-joakim-broden-06122014/
Sabaton kick off their 2015 European tour, with special guests Delain and Battle Beast, on January 9 in Oberhausen. This includes a date at the HMV Forum in London on January 12. They then travel to North America as special guests to Nightwish, with dates starting in New York on April 9. The band return to the UK to play the main stage at Bloodstock, as special guests to Trivium, on Friday August 10.