It’s a normal Sunday in Birmingham city centre apart from the fact that all the pubs are slowly filling with pirates, camouflage and SABATON t-shirts. As the afternoon progresses I start to suspect that someone is shipping them in by the coachload. The O2 is packed, not quite sold out but it can’t be far off. Tonight we have a co-headline power metal show with both Sweden’s tank-loving SABATON and Scottish pirates ALESTORM sharing the top spot. I like to imagine that the bands came together over their mutual love of cannons.
A minor gripe, maybe, but I am disappointed that there is no local support act tonight. Many in the crowd may see this as a good thing and want to get to the main acts quickly. However, for me, it’s important to support the local metal scene and I would have liked to see some locals on the bill.
With small horns protruding from his otherwise bald head BLOODBOUND’s vocalist Patrik Johansson takes the stage. The Swedish band play lively power metal with a devilish twist. It is their first time in Birmingham and they tell us how honoured they are to play in the birthplace of metal. In celebration, they play their 2012 anthem “In The Name Of Metal”. Some other highlights of their set included tracks from their latest album “Stormborn” and their closing track “Book Of The Dead” where they were briefly joined on stage by Satan himself. BLOODBOUND provided an entertaining and enjoyable performance which reminded me of Iron Maiden.
I have very fond memories of nearly losing an eye during an ALESTORM concert in 2008. The incident involved the combination of a ‘Wall of Death’ and plastic swords but they were more carefree times and it was an awesome show. I think it is fair to say that ALESTORM have always been a silly gimmicky band. Playing a mixture of metal and sea shanty songs whist dressed as pirates. However, tonight’s performance proves that they have finally given up all pretence of being a serious band.
Dressed in t-shirts featuring the huge faces of dogs, they’re joined on stage by a giant yellow rubber duck and a Fray Benton’s beef and kidney pie drum kit. I couldn’t make this stuff up! No pirates, galleons or cannons grace the stage. They present us with a band that has grown tired of their own gimmick and they provide a passionless recital. Pirate-lovers in the crowd bark the lyrics to their favourite tracks; “Keelhauled”, “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”, “Nancy’s Harbour Café”, “Rum” and “Wenches and Mead”, but you can feel the confusion and ultimately disappointment in the crowd.
“SAB-A-TON, SAB-A-TON”, the crowd begin the chanting that will stay with us throughout the night. SABATON storm on to the stage; their trademark camo and body armour. Naturally a tank houses the drummer, Hannes Van Dahl. The band’s exciting brand of power metal deals with themes of wars and battles throughout history. You’ll never see a more enthusiastic and energetic performance as that delivered by SABATON.
They seem genuinely happy to be on stage in Birmingham. Perpetually happy frontman, Joakim Brodén, tells us that he has goose bumps playing the home of heavy metal for the first time. To celebrate they give the crowd a rendition of The Village People’s “YMCA”, and why not?!
Their uplifting anthems with strong choruses are perfect for crowd sing-a-longs and SABATON delight us with some firm favourites; “Ghost Division”, “Swedish Pagans”, “Carolus Rex”, “Art Of War” and “Primo Victoria”. The band has a fiercely loyal fan base, they even have their own festivals back in Sweden, and you can see why; you cannot fault them. As the crowd pour out of the venue into the night you can still feel the buzz of a fantastic gig.
Review by Rebecca Collins