Last year we commemorated 100 years of World War I. Precisely on 11 November 2018, SABATON started working in secret on the ultimate album to capture the stories from The Great War. The band was ready to release their album “The Great War” a couple of months ago in July. With the album ready, the band was prepared to translate the music to the stage, and took their production to Hartwall Arena, with special guests APOCALYPTICA and the support act of the night AMARANTHE. The great tour kicked off in Helsinki on 23 November 2019, and we were there to witness the spectacle. Check out our photo gallery here.
The first one to perform that night was AMARANTHE, set to play at 19:00. The band has been in Finland a few times, but this was the first time for them to play an arena show. Luckily for them, a lot of people had already gathered around for their show, and the energy seemed to be filled with positivity. The band started their set with the energetic “Maximize”. The stage was covered with props from SABATON’s upcoming performance, so the band had very little space to navigate on stage, and were perhaps less dynamic as they usually are. The lighting switched continuously from red to dark blue, which felt a bit too minimalistic for my taste.
The band usually struggles a lot from a well-balanced sound, and this might have been perhaps one of their best-sounding shows, the backing track was not too loud, only the drums were a bit exceedingly heavy in the mix, but luckily the vocalists didn’t suffer from it, and all three of them were audible. The band continued with “Digital World”, but the highlights of their show were definitely older songs such as the emotive “Amaranthine”, “Hunger”, and the energetic “Nexus”. The crowd seemed to enjoy the show quite much and didn’t hold back during their applauses. The show ended with the catchy “Drop Dead Cynical”, which definitely worked well as a song to end the set with, and got the audience hyped up until the last second of the song. This definitely felt like one of the best shows I have seen of the band as of yet.
2. Digital World
8. Call Out My Name
9. The Nexus
10. Drop Dead Cynical
The stage was being prepared for the next band in line APOCALYPTICA, the unique proof that not guitars are the most metal instrument in the world, but cellos. The last time we saw APOCALYPTICA was during their long stretch of shows touring the “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” tour, in which they dedicated their setlist completely to covers of the famous thrash metal act. The last time we witnessed the band play their original score was in 2016 when they were touring with Frankie Perez to promote their album “Shadowmaker”.
The band opened their set with a brand new track “Ashes of the Modern World”, taken from their upcoming album “Cell-0”, starting off softly but then progressing in the APOCALYPTICA we all love, shredding on their cellos as if their life depended on it. After three years of the band playing mostly covers, it was really great to be able to see their original score again. The band played a lot of older songs, such as the energetic “Grace”, before inviting Elize Ryd to the stage to sing a couple of songs with them. I had secretly hoped that Tommy Johansson or Joakim Brodén would have joined the stage, to sing some of their hits such as “I’m not Jesus”, “End Of Me”, “Life Burns”, or maybe even the underrated “Hope Vol. II”, but the band chose for an emotive version of “Seemann”. Elize Ryd is no Till Lindemann or Nina Hagen, but she definitely made it her own version and even showed her true potential as a vocalist. After the song, Ryd seemed a bit speechless looking with an intense stare while smiling over the crowd. The band introduced the next song “I Don’t Care”, which started off a bit shaky, but Ryd regained strength during the song. APOCALYPTICA continued with a mash-up of “Fields Of Verdun” and “Path”, and a couple of METALLICA songs such as the enchanting “Nothing Else Matters”, and “Seek & Destroy”. Watching the band play METALLICA tracks is always a lot of fun, because all three of the cellists still get excited by the music of their idols, and sing along loudly to the song together with the audience, making it a very interactive experience.
APOCALYPTICA introduced their last song, and we all knew what was coming, a soft and smooth version of “Hall of the Mountain King” started filling up the arena, and the band gained strength and started playing faster and faster with much precision showing just how talented and skilled these musicians are. After the explosive last note, the band left the audience in a great mood.
- Ashes of the Modern World
- Seemann (Rammstein cover) (with Elize Ryd)
- I Don’t Care (with Elize Ryd)
- Nothing Else Matters (Metallica cover)
- Path / Fields of Verdun (Sabaton cover)
- Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover)
- Eurovision Theme / Thunderstruck
- In the Hall of the Mountain King (Edvard Grieg cover)
As a great banner was hung from the stage to cover up the switch on stage, “The Soundtrack to The Great War” started playing from the speakers, already introducing us to the music of the band in a subtle way. Finally, it was time for SABATON to mount the stage, and the band opened with an explosive band with the classic opening “Ghost Division”, allowing an energetic start and immediately letting them win over the audience.
The stage production was definitely one of the most impressive ones I have seen of the band. In our interview, Joakim Brodén explained that they wanted to use 3D, and the whole stage, therefore the front of the stage had barricades covered with sandbags, protecting us from the band. Drummer Hannes van Dahl took plays behind his monstrous tank once again and protected the ranks. The huge projection behind the band ensured that everyone could follow bits and pieces from the show, as the band was displayed once in a while.
The first few songs were also a great start to showcase the immense amount of pyros used in this show production, but they took a halt with one of the highlights of the show “The Attack of the Dead Men”, where frontman Joakim Brodén marched on the stage with a gas mask, spewing fake chlorine gas on everyone from a hose. The green dim lights really set a great atmosphere for the song.
Brodén greeted the audience and was amazed by the fact that their first arena show of the tour was sold out. The band continued with “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, which then led us to “The Lost Battalion”, only to progress into “Red Baron”. The stage production took a turn and the world’s smallest aircraft was rolled on stage, along with a red-scarfed pilot. Brodén introduced the airplane and joked to us that the budget was gone, that’s why they got stuck with it, but then admitted that it’s actually the world’s coolest Hammond organ. The band continued with the song with a lot of energy, making it one of the best live songs of the new album.
A Finnish-spoken intro filled the venue, and it was time for one of our songs “Talvisota”, which brought on some light fake snowfall on stage. For me, one of the highlights of the show is always the energetic and passionate “Night Witches”, which comes with an incredible epic intro. The song was accompanied by pyros again and really made the performance very impressive. A couple of days before the tour started, SABATON released a cover of their own song “Angels Calling” featuring APOCALYPTICA and hinted that it would be the first taste of the tour with the band. The band introduced the three cellists on stage and began playing the song. It all worked very nicely with the track, and somehow the two bands merged as one, and it seemed almost as if they were meant to be playing together for eternity. Brodén joked that it would be silly to only have them over for one song, and continued the two bands continued with “Fields of Verdun”. While interacting with one another, this performance truly deemed to be one of the greatest crossovers in metal history, and we were longing for more. On “Price Of A Mile”, Sirén joined the stage with a marching snare drum and played together with the rest of the guys. They continued with a couple of other songs but concluded an epic version of “Carolus Rex” which definitely was a climax in their show.
After saying goodbye to their colleagues of APOCALYPTICA, Brodén told us that the show is over and that we have to go to church tomorrow and urged us to leave. The stage went dark, and it feels like an unexpected, yet funny goodbye. Of course, the band wasn’t done yet with us, after a loud ovation the band returned with the mandatory “Primo Victoria”, “Bismarck”, and we were teased with “Swedish Pagans” once again. Even though the joke has been fairly repetitive, it still remains a fun experience. The audience went relatively wild and started singing along with the band. After the singing experience, it was time for the real last song of the evening “To Hell and Back”, which meant the end of a remarkable evening, but not before announcing we would soon see the band back at Rockfest in Tampere this summer.
All-in-all SABATON truly gave an incredible performance, slightly more serious than they have ever done before, the crossover with APOCALYPTICA lifted some of the songs up to a higher level and definitely was the better part of the setlist. Altogether, all the bands had made sure that we were guaranteed a dynamic evening filled with great music and a lot of fire.
1. Ghost Division
2. Great War
3. The Attack of the Dead Men
4. Seven Pillars of Wisdom
5. The Lost Battalion
6. The Red Baron
7. The Last Stand
9. Night Witches
10. Angels Calling (with Apocalyptica)
11. Fields of Verdun (with Apocalyptica)
12. Price of a Mile (with Apocalyptica)
13. Dominium Maris Baltici (with Apocalyptica)
14. The Lion From the North (with Apocalyptica)
15. Carolus Rex (with Apocalyptica)
16. Primo Victoria
18. Swedish Pagans
19. To Hell and Back