Dead End Drive-In: Now Showing – Sabaton – ‘Heroes On Tour’
Written by Mark Ashby
Sunday, 20 March 2016 03:00
Sabaton – ‘Heroes On Tour’ (Nuclear Blast Entertainment)
A little under three years ago, Swedish troopers Sabaton took the decision to commit their incendiary live performances to the annals of posterity, with the release of their awesome ‘Swedish Empire’ package, recorded on the epic trek which ensued after the release of their career-defining ‘Carolus Rex’ album. Now, they’ve gone and done it again, with this offering culled from the tour which followed the release of their subsequent battle anthem-packed ‘Heroes’ opus magnificus.
And they have done so in truly typical epic style, with a lavish, nay luscious, double DVD/ single Blu-ray package featuring their full sets from last year’s headline appearance on Wacken’s Black Stage and their own hometown SOA festival. Both begin with insightful intros from both the band and their crew: the Wacken set features a totally OTT cameo from stage tech ‘Sgt Jamie’, who describes working with Sabaton as “cooler than Game Of Thrones” and an anarchic Benny Hill-esque backstage sequence with bassist Pär Sundström, while the latter gives a valuable insight into the Sabaton Open Air experience, showing how the festival has grown alongside the band but also helped them maintain control of their own destiny.
If it is possible, the Wacken disc is the slightly better of the two, in terms of production values. But, then what else would you expect from Wacken? The camera work is stunning, from the crowd shots through to the guitar-mounted mini-cams, while the overall scale is epic in every proportion. Yet it also has a feeling of intimacy, as if the 70,000 people going buck daft in front of the stage are crammed into a venue capable of holding only a tiny percentage of that number. It’s a feeling which is also evoked on the second disc, which is actually the more interesting of the two: while the production values are slightly lower – there is a lot of background noise in the lighting department, with a subsequent loss of visual quality in terms of blue light washouts and pixelization – the extended set, and its chronological extrapolation of Sabaton’s career, is hugely insightful and showcases some of their lesser played numbers to superb effect. Both shows also give the feeling that you were right there, bouncing along in the front row… which is what should be the experience that a live DVD brings to your living room!
The package comes with an accompanying CD, comprising the soundtrack from the Wacken set. To be honest, though, it is somewhat superfluous, as it loses a lot in translation; while it captures the energy of the performance, the lack of visuals does somewhat denigrate the listening experience, as it loses all the subtleties evident on the DVD, such as Joakim Brodén necking a beer between ‘Carolus Rex’ and ‘No Bullets Fly’, the frontman’s strutting stage demeanour, his hysterical interactions with guitarist Thobbe Englund and aforementioned stage tech Jamie, the crowd surfing sharks… yeah, it works better in full blown HD!
All in all this is a stunning package. Beautifully produced with massive attention to detail, it truly captures the enervating energy of one of the best live bands on the heavy metal circuit and shows that, if they continue along the trajectory that they are following, Sabaton have the potential to rival the likes of Iron Maiden and Metallica as one of the true giants of the genre. Certainly, at this moment in time, they are a lot more exciting proposition than either of them put together…