LIVE REVIEW : SABATON + BATTLE BEAST + LEAVES' EYES
Vogue Theatre | Vancouver, BC
May 7, 2017
Spring is officially in Vancouver, and with it comes a plethora of good things: a sun that brightens our whole city, the opening of all the patios and terrasses at our beloved bars, restaurants, and pubs, and nights after nights filled with the best bands the world has to offer. On the 7th of May 2017, local promotion company The Invisible Orange outdid itself, bringing the cream of the crop to the Vogue Theatre on Granville. The symphonic metal band Leaves’ Eyes as well as the Finnish powerhouse Battle Beast and the Swedish metal machine Sabaton set the venue ablaze with sets that electrified the large all-ages crowd. Though they had visited the city less than half a year ago, Leaves’ Eyes’ presence did seem to make many happy, seemingly having gained many fans during their North American tour with Sonata Arctica the previous fall. The multinational symphonic metal band impressed more than one with the powerful vocal cords of Elina Siirala, whose operatic voice was right at home in the posh venue.
I was expecting the level of awkwardness that often comes with a band member as important as the singer being replaced, but Siirala and her male counterpart Alexander Krull seemed to have made the most of their time touring together. Though the Finnish singer has not been with the band for a year, her chemistry with the seasoned singer and the rest of the ensemble was flawless, a true credit to the entire band’s showmanship and dedication to the art. The crowd loved Leaves' Eyes. From “Halvdan the Black” to “Blazing Waters,” people couldn’t help but join in on the band’s Viking antics, whether it was mustering a deep Viking raid cry when asked to or just cheering for Krull as he donned armor and helmet to wield a mighty sword and closed their set in a manner most dramatic. After Leaves’ Eyes' performance, some pretty big boots were left to fill. Being unknown to most of the spectators, Battle Beast had a lot to prove, especially after Vancouver’s golden children Unleash the Archers were pulled from the bill two weeks before the show. With a frost giant for a guitarist, a bad ass for a singer, and a keytar on stage, Battle Beast was as fun to watch as they were to listen to. Noora Louhimo, with her pure rock voice and undeniable magnetism, had the crowd eating in the palm of her hand from the moment she stomped on stage with her big boots and her big coat.
The bulk of the Finnish band’s set was comprised of songs from their latest album Bringer of Pain, including the title track, “Familiar Hell,” “Bastard Son of Odin,” and “King for a Day,” as well as the older “Black Ninja” that is an audible testament to Louhimo’s vocal superiority. Every single second of Battle Beast’s performance was worth the years I had waited to see it, and the only disappointing thing about it was how short it was. However, there was no time for heartbreak because Battle Beast walking out meant only one thing: Sabaton was next. Sabaton is renowned for their excellence on stage and they certainly proved it during their first headlining tour in North America in years. Though covering the stage in camouflage netting is a far cry from the tank that hosts drummer Hannes Van Dahl on Sabaton’s European tours, it did a good job at setting the stage for the military lessons to come. As usual, the band opened with the classic “Ghost Division,” which set the tone for the entire night. I must admit that the experience of seeing them performing their own headlining set is a completely different experience from watching the Swedish quintet open for someone else. The energy and silly antics were doubled, as was the enjoyment of those in attendance.
Thanks to the band having released an album in 2016, the set contained quite a few new songs from The Last Stand like “Blood of Bannockburn,” but the major key sonic stunner wasn’t the only new thing Sabaton introduced ; new guitarist Tommy Johansson also made his Vancouver debut that night, and he dazzled us all. Obviously used to being the frontman of his own band ReinXeed, Johansson has the talent and charisma of twenty men, and his unrelenting goofiness convinced even the most skeptical of fans that he was the perfect fit to fill the hole left by the announcement of Thobbe Englund’s departure in July 2016.
Right at home in the quintet, Johansson participated in the usual Sabaton shenanigans that have made the band such a live staple, while playing as exquisitely as the rest of the band. By playing fan favourites like “Attero Dominatus,” and “The Art of War” along with songs off their latest album like “Sparta,” the Swedish pagans ensured that a good time was had by die-hard fans of the band as well as people who had only discovered them. Always eager to please, Sabaton also let the spectators choose whether they would play “The Carolean’s Prayer” or “A Lifetime of War.” The latter won in a landslide, and the band went a step farther by letting us choose between playing the song in English or Swedish. The band’s native language won, “En Livstid I Krig” was played, and the crowd was enraptured. In typical Sabaton fashion, the best was saved for last and, after the band invited two children spectators to watch the last song from the stage, the Swedish band played their smash hit “To Hell and Back,” making the entire venue rise to its feet one last time.
For the nth time in their career, Sabaton rocked Vancouver and gave the hundreds of people who had stayed up way past their bedtime on a Sunday night for them a night that they would not soon forget. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for the bangover.
Photography by WITCH HANDS for Bangover.net