European Power Metal has always enjoyed a healthy level of support in my home country but not even the most optimistic of music fans would expect that a venue as big as the Academy (can accommodate approximately 1600 people), of a country as economically troubled as mine, would end up hosting a sold out show on a Wednesday evening.
To an old-school metal fan like myself, having a legendary band of Accept’s status opening for an image/prop-orientated band like Sabaton is the equivalent of having arranged a reading of Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible” on the altar of St. Paul’s cathedral on a Sunday morning (Sacrilege). Still, even I have to admit that the organisers of this tour have made an economically intelligent move/decision by combining the forces of these two bands, as the venue was packed to the rafters by one of the most age-diverse crowds I have seen on Athenian soil for quite some time now.
First to hit the stage was the Swedish sextet Twilight Force, a group of young chaps who were obviously raised on a diet of Kiske-era Helloween and Tolkki-era Stratovarius. The lads were almost instantly taken aback by the crowd’s warm welcome and made sure that the positive energy they received was sent back in the shape of a well-rehearsed & pretty passionate performance.
With only around forty minutes at their disposal, the young metallers put their focus on material from last year’s “Heroes Of Mighty Magic” and impressed with both their levels of energy and their technical dexterity. Special praise ought to be given to frontman Chrileon whose pretty demanding high pitch deliveries were performed with a mighty ease, winning quite a few new fans for his band in the process.
It took approximately half an hour for the roadies to clear the stage of the Academy, during which time a decent amount of bold headed middle-aged men started making their way towards the front of the venue. Seconds after Christopher Williams’ impressive drum kit was revealed, the mighty Accept blasted their way with a high-octane rendition of their by now classic opus “Stampede” – a crunchy riff-led monster of a song which truly encapsulates what the now international outfit stands for in the year 2017.
Follow-up “Stalingrad” found bassist Peter Baltes taking centre stage while the duet “Restless And Wild”/ “London Leatherboys” was sung aloud by both fans old and new with religious fervour. “Final Journey”, “Princess of the Dawn”, “Fast As A Shark”…all these mighty compositions were given the ‘Hoffmann treatment’, the tall German shredding his socks off while throwing shapes and smiles all around.
Crowd participation, though not comparable to bygone times (anyone remember the gigs at Rodon club with Udo at the helm?), was pretty satisfactory considering the music style of the headlining band, so both the generation-defining “Metal Heart” and the bombastic opus “Teutonic Terror” were given the respect they were due, while the equally classic “Balls To The Wall” left the oldest in the crowd (myself of course included) simply wanting for more.
Sabaton’s “show” started seconds after the guys in Accept left the stage, as members of their road crew dressed up in military clothing started clearing the stage in what can only be described as an…unusual/theatrical fashion.
Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of the quintet’s music, and the reason for that is my inability to understand how a band can claim to be playing Heavy Metal while its songs are based mainly on chord structures and pop-sounding melodies rather than solid riffs.
Still, tonight I was definitely a member of the minority as, moments after the band’s intro version of Status Quo’s (R.I.P. Rick Parfitt) “In the Army Now” was aired, and for the next two hours, the venue went ballistic.
Supported by a massive sound, impressive stage props (note: the drum set was placed on top of a tank) and a pretty impressive screen/light show, the Swedes provided their crowd with a thoroughly professional performance, the likes of which you can get only from bands of the status of Amon Amarth.
This comparison became pretty apparent during the rendition “Sparta”, when a group of four “warriors” visited the stage and performed similar moves to the ones the Vikings at the Amon Amarth show gave here in Athens a few months ago …never change a winning formula, right?
Joakim Bróden is not only one of the most recognisable figures in today’s metal but also a very skilled frontman. Even though there were times where he went overboard with his long speeches and his general fooling around, he proved himself to be a clever/skilled communicator, forcing the crowd to surrender to his every whim.
As for the rest of the lads; their performances during “Swedish Pagans”, “The Lost Battalion” and the acoustic “The Final Solution” helped portray them as a solid group of musicians who are currently at the top of their game.
It took approximately two hours, following a pretty decent encore, for the band to finish its set, still there wasn’t a single Sabaton loyalist amongst the crowd who did not wish for more after the members of the band had taken their final bows. Now, if that’s not a sign of a healthy music scene I don’t know what is.
Review by Ioannis (John) Stefanis
Twilight Force Set List:
2. “Battle Of Arcane Might”
3. “To The Stars”
4. “Riders Of The Dawn”
5. “Flight Of The Sapphire Dragon”
6. “Gates Of Glory”
7. “Knights Of Twilight’s Might”
Accept Set List:
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”
Sabaton Set List:
1. “In The Army Now (Status Quo cover intro)”
2. “The March To War”
3. “Ghost Division”
5. “Blood Of Bannockburn”
6. “Swedish Pagans”
7. “The Last Stand”
8. “Carolus Rex”
9. “Union (Slopes Of St. Benedict)”
10. “Diary Of An Unknown Soldier”
11. “The Lost Battalion”
12. “Far From The Fame”
13. “Dominium Maris Baltici”
14. “The Lion From The North”
15. “The Final Solution (acoustic)”
16. “Resist And Bite”
17. “Night Witches”
18. “Winged Hussars”
19. “Primo Victoria”
21. “To Hell And Back”
22. “Dead Soldier’s Waltz/Masters of the World”
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In this show, first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 2 February 2020, David Randall plays a selection of tracks from some of the artists who impressed at this year’s Giants Of Rock event in Minehead (24-27 January).
Featured Albums w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 NEWMAN Ignition (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 BLACK SWAN Shake The World (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 CORMAC O CAOIMH Swim Crawl Walk Run (indie)
Power Plays w/c 17 February (Mon-Fri)
SHAKRA Turn The Light On (AFM Records)
THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA Transmissions (Nuclear Blast)
RYDERS CREED Lost Soul (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)
FRAMING HANLEY Puzzle Pieces (Thermal Entertainment LLC)
ROBERT HART Mysterious (Escape Music)
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