SABATON w/ TWILIGHT FORCE & ACCEPT – Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Clearly, the time has come for the bands to tour their 2016 albums in Finland. With Sonata Arctica’s Ninth Hour Tour just behind us, and Devin Townsend’s Transcendence Tour on the 28th, we can comfortably bridge the gap with The Last Tour (hopefully not literally) by Sabaton for their 2016 release, The Last Stand. The show hit Jäähalli with the legendary Accept and the unfamiliar Twilight Force on February 24th, 2017.

Full gallery HERE!
And feel free to listen along with the setlist on Spotify:

 

We arrived at Jäähalli at 19:30 and it was nicely packed. Unfortunately, as I showed up a bit late, I missed Twilight Force’s set, but our new journalist, Hiski, was at the venue in good time, and here’s what he had to say about them:

“The knights of twilight of Twilight Force had the honor of opening up the night. This show being their first one in Finland ever, I was quite pleasantly surprised of how many people decided to actually check them out despite the early show time. Dressed up as various generic fantasy heroes, the band entered the stage with the opener off their latest album, Heroes of Mighty Magic, “Battle of Arcane Might”, following this with “To the Stars”, “Riders of the Dawn”, and “Flight of the Sapphire Dragon”, all from the aforementioned album. They then closed the show with two songs from their debut, Tales of Ancient Prophecies: “Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom” and “The Power of the Ancient Force”, where the band unfortunately faced some technical difficulties, which luckily were resolved quickly.

As a big fan of the band and cheesy power metal in general, the band did not disappoint me with their set. Although their play-time of only about half an hour was without a doubt short, they managed to offer the audience a nice selection of songs from both of their albums. Interestingly enough though, Twilight Force found time for little intros for most of the songs. Maybe they could have fit one more song into their limited support set instead of those? Unlike other Swedish bands on Finnish soil, vocalist Christian “Chrileon” Eriksson decided to make use of the bilingualism of Finland and held his speeches both in Swedish and in English – resulting in a funny mash-up of both languages.

All-in-all, Twilight Force’s debut in Finland was a triumph. The band played tightly and Chrileon’s voice was as over-the-top and clean as ever. I just hope they are going to make a return with a full headliner set. And from what I heard in the halls of the venue, I won’t be the only one attending such a show, as the band apparently made a bunch of new friends with their sympathetic power metal – rightfully so!”

Twilight Force’s setlist:
1. Battle of Arcane Might
2. To the Stars
3. Riders of the Dawn
4. Flight of the Sapphire Dragon
5. Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom
6. The Power of the Ancient Force

 

I don’t know much (or anything really) about Accept, but I was still looking forward to their set because I saw them once before at South Park in 2015 and had a great time. They got off to a great start with some great lighting, fog, and classic heavy metal, starting with “Stampede” and “Stalingrad.” I think something that I appreciate about these guys is that their music’s range, on the low end, is actually low. They’ve got heavy bass and some chill, dark drums, and Mark Tornillo has some grit in his vocals, even if he can wail. I didn’t know the band during Udo Dirkschneider’s reign, so I can neither compare nor contrast the vocalists, but I have no problem whatsoever with Tornillo as a vocalist or a performer.

Of course, Wolf Hoffman’s guitarwork continues to show why he is so beloved. Even from way up in the stands, he was clear as day and sounded pretty great. Tornillo let out a bit gravelly welcome before they started my personal favorite, “London Leatherboys”! I was grateful for the incredible lighting, because I could see the stage beautifully, even from a distance. These guys put on a nice performance – their music doesn’t have the sort of energy that requires them to fly around, so their presence nicely matches the music. They are active and lively, but not too much so, sticking closer to the in-sync rocking out and a strong focus on soloing with style. The crowd was willing to shout out the lyrics when prompted in a few songs, like “Princess of the Dawn”, which also included a pretty nice chant-along.

There was what I might call a schlager intro before they sunk their teeth into “Fast as a Shark”, yet in spite of performing very nicely, the crowd was a bit on the still side, with only the odd fist in the air, here and there. When they started laying down the solos, that managed to get some hands up and clapping, but I was a bit surprised by the lack of enthusiasm during the songs. However, I should mention that I was told by my fellows down on the floor that, while perhaps there wasn’t a lot of jumping or fist-pumping, the crowd was definitely feeling the groove, bobbing their heads and whatnot.

Of course I recognized the iconic intro to “Metal Heart”, and at last there was some proper enthusiasm from the crowd. And of course they closed out the night, after “Teutonic Terror”, with good old “Balls to the Wall”, which was opened with a single horizontal spotlight on Hoffman as he played. As their set concluded, I also noted Uwe Lulis (guitar) making sure some of the front-rowers got some guitar picks, which was awfully nice of him. Overall, in spite of me still not knowing the band very well, I really enjoyed their set. Jäähalli was pretty packed, so you have to assume these guys have a lot of local fans, yet it was a shame that only the standard big-hype moments got a real reaction from the floor, like the chant-along in the final track. Still, they did give them a loud cheer in the end as the fog cannons blasted, so maybe they were just saving their energy for Sabaton?

Accept’s setlist:
1. Stampede
2. Stalingrad
3. Restless and Wild
4. London Leatherboys
5. Final Journey
6. Princess of the Dawn
7. Fast as a Shark
8. Metal Heart
9. Teutonic Terror
10. Balls to the Wall

 

And then, after the stage changeover was complete, it was time for the Swedish lords of war metal! Sabaton’s performance was introduced with two intros, as seems to be the norm with them. The first of these was “In the Army Now”, a song by Bolland and Bolland. I was glad to see that they’ve dropped “The Final Countdown”, as that song is more than a little overplayed. This was followed by “The March to War”, featuring some videos of tanks and molten metal on the back screen, and the show started with – you guessed it – “Ghost Division.” Why these guys never change their de facto starting track is beyond me, because their shows have become a little predictable over the years as a result. “Night Witches” and even the second track from this show, “Sparta”, all have the potential to be great starters, but due to their unyielding desire to never change the opening track, I feel as though opportunities have been missed. Bonus points for the wicked pyros though.

Now I have to say, Sabaton is kind of amazing right now. The last few times I saw them, they were still playing The Circus, and then suddenly they played at Espoo Metro Areena, and now Jäähalli? When did these guys hit stadium-level popularity without my notice? I think it’s great – these guys have so much energy that it’s no issue for them to fill a much bigger stage. Plus, the extra budget into making the stage performance better was put to excellent use with the screen (though I have to say, for the most of the show I was so compelled by the band that I didn’t even glance at the screen – a problem relating to watching a show from the side and not the crowd, I suppose).

It seems as though my hypothesis may have been correct, because there was no shortage of fists in the air as shots of fire blazed toward the ceiling as Joakim Brodén donned a Spartan helmet and cape (while lesser-clad men took the stage behind him in helms with spears and shields). They also had a partial lyric video up on the screen, though it was hardly necessary – the crowd knew the lyrics. One nice thing about being up in the nosebleeds was my great view of Hannes van Dahl on his epic tank platform. I could see him smashing away at his kit with twirling his sticks like it was nothing, and his hair was everywhere – it was really cool to get an eagle-eye view of him. I am really happy with him in this band.

Brodén greeted and thanked the crowd, mentioning a few changes, such as Tommy Johansson who replaced Thobbe Englund on guitars. The crowd absolutely roared for him, and he got the crowd all hyped up for “Swedish Pagans”, by playing its riff. They then had a discussion about what mulkku [motherfucker] means before the rest of the band joined for the song and the crowd was clapping pretty much from start to finish. Johansson, incidentally, proved to be an incredible addition to the band throughout the night, having no trouble with the material, nor keeping up with the band’s energy. “No surprise there, with him being the guitar god and mastermind of power metal band ReinXeed,” Hiski noted.

“The Last Stand”, even if it kind of sounds like a Christmas carol, though I hope it doesn’t stick to the set, as some of the other new songs work better live, like “Sparta” and, I hate to say it, “Shiroyama.” I might be outvoted on that though, because the crowd showed no loss of energy at that point. Yet, you can’t deny that the hype was higher for “Carolus Rex”, as Brodén came on stage in a wicked kingly cloak of the Swedish blue and yellow and the crowd did their clap-clap-fist(s). Brodén has always soaked up the crowd’s love and given it back tenfold, so imagine what it was like in a stadium as he gave another speech about what they could do that’s different since they’re here so often. He then asked if anyone remembers The Art of War (2008), and they started up “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” to the sound of screaming, while poppies gently fell on the screen. True to his word, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that one live before, and indeed, Hiski agreed that it’s probably never been played in Finland before now.

The tape then played “The Diary of an Unknown Soldier” to the sound of loud gunfire from the guns on stage, before they got the crowd’s hands up and clapping to “The Lost Battalion.” Brodén went on to discuss their setlists, and discussed “White Death”, and again mentioned how it had inspired the Heroes (2014) album, as it was the first song they had written about one man, instead of big events and such. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that they had played this song instead of “Gott Mit Uns”, which is what they’ve usually been playing in this slot, but maybe they feel as though they can’t be in Finland without performing the historical Finnish songs?

There was more fire from the guns for “The Lion from the North”, and then the roadies brought out a keyboard and some acoustic guitars for “The Final Solution” – Brodén said that everything would be acoustic for now on, though he was only teasing. Johansson took over the keyboard and plays beautifully no less, incidentally. This song had incredible ambience with all the lighters/cell phones up and some lines of fire on the edge of the stage. Van Dahl took a little break before joining them in the chorus on the cajón. Actually, this was a highlight of the night for me – the song sounded great, hasn’t been played here in ages, and had a hint of a Blind Guardian vibe (and I adore Blind Guardian).

Again, while I like the Finnish-based songs as much as the next person, but I can’t believe they left out “Resist and Bite” in favor of “Soldier of 3 Armies.” I’m not the only one who feels this way either, as I heard some murmurs from the crowd as the stadium emptied later on – the Finns clearly appreciate it, as these songs always get huge cheers, but fans who have seen them repeatedly are starting to feel as though it’s time for a change, time to hear some different songs (like “Union”). They did follow it up with “Night Witches” though, which is a great live song, and had big explodey red blasts from the stage guns. Oh yes! And lots of fire. “Winged Hussars” then closed out the main set, with its oh-so Sabaton riffs, fist-pump-worthy beat, beams of light, and crisscrossing blasts of fire.

There didn’t even appear to be much of a stream of people leaving as the crowd begged for more. “Primo Victoria” kicked off the encore to more blasts from the stage guns, as well as fire. Brodén thanked the crowd again before announcing “Shiroyama”, which I won’t deny I was hyped for. And not just me, based on the magnitude of fists in the air. So stupid, yet so epic… that song is clearly my favorite guilty pleasure. It was a lot of fun live. All it was lacking was a faux samurai battle on stage. They then stuck an extra song into their set, the again unfortunate Finland-based “Talvisota”, while blowing some sort of fake snow on the crowd (that or someone opened a window on the roof). I was worried that they had replaced “To Hell and Back” with this song, but fortunately they had one more song in them and closed out the night with it.

 

Overall, the show wasn’t perfect, but it was still easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen from Sabaton. Firstly, I really wish they’d drop the Finnish songs – they’re great tracks and I love that they’re showing some respect to the country when they come here, but they’ve left the local tracks out in other shows on this tour, so I had hoped that they would do the same in Finland. However, it was incredible to see them on a bigger stage, really getting to explore the space and show off what they’ve got! While we did lose out on the weird, intimate discussions between Brodén and random people in the crowd, it was cool to see that they were able to reach a much bigger crowd. As well, for once they didn’t end their show with “Metal Injection” and/or “Metal Crüe”! So while openers like “Ghost Division” and the Finnish songs were predictable, they didn’t give us a standard set, which ultimately made for a fantastic evening!

Sabaton’s setlist:
Intro: In the Army Now (Bolland & Bolland)
Intro: The March to War
1. Ghost Division
2. Sparta
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Swedish Pagans
5. The Last Stand
6. Carolus Rex
7. Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)
Diary of an Unknown Soldier (tape)
8. The Lost Battalion
9. White Death
Dominium Maris Baltici (tape)
10. The Lion from the North
11. The Final Solution (acoustic)
12. Soldier of 3 Armies
13. Night Witches
14. Winged Hussars

Encore:
15. Primo Victoria
16. Shiroyama
17. Talvisota
18. To Hell and Back

Text: Hiski H, Amy W | Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

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