Back in 2012, Sabaton began an ambitious solo headlining tour, the band's first such tour of North America. Vocalist Joakim Broden and bassist Par Sundstrom had just split with guitarist Oskar Montelius, guitarist Rikard Sunden, drummer Daniel Mullback and keyboardist Daniel Myhr. Then new members guitarist Chris Rorland, guitarist Thobbe Englund (who left in 2016, replaced by ReinXeed/Majestica's Tommy Johansson) and drummer Robban Back (who left in 2013, replaced by Ex-Evergrey drummer Hannes Van Dahl) had just joined the band just weeks before the beginning of the tour. In Worcester, Sabaton played with no support of any kind to 150 or so fans in the smaller upstairs stage at The Palladium. Now, seven years later, the Swedish tank's tour with HammerFall rolled in the larger downstairs venue, selling it out and playing for 2,160 (or so) fans. A stunning achievement for an ambitious bunch of Swedes that have sunk their lives into the band.
So on All Saints Day, HammerFall and Sabaton rekindled a partnership in Worcester that hadn't occurred since April 22, 2017 when tours collided for the annual (now defunct) New England Hardcore & Metal Festival. In all my days going to The Palladium, I have never seen this place quite this packed, save for Nightwish. Lines were swathed around multiple blocks in Worcester. The typically large stage in the downstairs was packed full of Sabaton's war arsenal. HammerFall was pushed to the front of the stage, making my extremely handy fisheye lens mandatory to capture most of the action.
Say what you want about HammerFall's "basic power metal style." They are one of the most prolific, consistent and fun bands in the world today. They made a decision to remain true to their style and their fans - making this fan a very happy camper. You know exactly what you are going to get going into a HammerFall gig: true metal, crowd sing-a-longs and a wonderfully memorable night.
The band played an hour, starting with two new songs from the latest record "Dominion" - "Never Forgive, Never Forget" and "One Against the World." Then the classics began with "Renegade" (title track from the 2000 full length), "Blood Bound" (from the 2016 release "Built to Last"), "Hector's Hymn" (from the 2014 release "(r)Evolution"), "Let the Hammer Fall" (from the 1998 classic "Legacy of Kings"), and, of course, "Hearts on Fire" (from the 2002 album "Crimson Thunder").
Three tracks that got the biggest reaction from your author was the inclusion of "Any Means Necessary" from the oft criticized 2009 album "No Sacrifice, No Victory," which is a headscratcher, since that album has some brilliant true to form HammerFall tunes. Secondly, the infectious "Hammer High" (also from 2016's "Built to Last"). The third is a live mainstay - "Last Man Standing," once unreleased, which was issued as a single back in 2007 as well as on the "Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years of Glory" release of the same year. Joacim Cans and the boys certainly got the venue warmed up and ready! These songs are some of the most fun songs in a live setting ever.
As always, HammerFall brought the house down - the perfect opener for the Sabaton war machine. The band has already announced a headline run with Beast in Black and Edge of Paradise for the fall of 2020 and will return to Worcester.
When the tarp came off Hannes Van Dahl's drumset revealing the armored tank drum riser, the crowd erupted into chants of USA...USA. The gorgeous stage adornment looked like it was fixed with two GAU-8 Avenger guns on each side in place of the typical turret. The tank was nicknamed "Audie" for Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated WWII soldier, receiving awards from the USA, France and Belgium and was the subject of the band's final song for the night - "To Hell and Back" (from the 2014 "Heroes" album). Flanking the sides of the tank are stacks of standard green weapons boxes, while behind the tank the slightly obscured digital screen (which the band had on the last headline run with Kreator). It is glorious to see Sabaton is reaching elite status, where the stage shows will only grow.
Before the outbreak of the band's standard opening song "Ghost Division" (from 2008's "The Art of War"), a 5-6 minute video in highlighting the brave men who fought in World War I (the subject of the band's latest release "The Great War"), and information on how to support the commission of a monument in Washington, D.C., which oddly has no such monument as of yet. This is proof yet again as to Sabaton not only spreading the word by teaching history, but also honoring veterans worldwide.
Sabaton hits the stage with as much energy and force as an army of tanks. If you take your eyes off of any one of the band members, you can miss things like guitarist Tommy Johansson dueling axes with bassist Par Sundstrom and guitarist Chris Rorland, or vocalist Joakim Broden flipping the microphone. Sabaton is one of the few bands that leave me winded just watching, but its so hard to stand still at any point in the performance.
Of the 13 times I have seen Sabaton, no crowd was more packed and jacked than this one. Turning around in the pit to see a sea of crowd surfers riding the hands of a jammed Palladium from bottom to the top of the balcony in this wonderfully (and recently) restored theater. It was a metal family atmosphere, complete with a history lesson.
The set list couldn't have been better than if I had handpicked it myself. Outside of the absence of "Art of War," it was perfect. The new songs from "The Great War," were my favorites from the album (which incidentally is my favorite since "Carolus Rex") - the title track, "82nd All the Way," "Attack of "Fields of Verdun," "Red Baron" and "Bismarck." The rest of the setlist fatured "Resist and Bite" and "Night Witches" (both from 2014's "Heroes"), all time favorite "The Price of a Mile" (from 2008's "The Art of War") which found it's way back into the set, "Lion of the North" (finally in English!) and "Carolus Rex" (both from 2012's "Carolus Rex"), "Shiroyama," "The Lost Battalion" and "The Last Stand" (all from 2016's "The Last Stand"), and of course, "Primo Victoria" (from the 2005 album "Primo Victoria") and "Swedish Pagans" (which first appeared on the Re-Armed version of 2008's "The Art of War").
It was an amazing night to remember - the second of two shows in a row where all the bands were Swedish and I could see 100 more and it would never get old.