Hot off the heels of the wildly successful Download Fest in Melbourne last Saturday and 2 days after ripping Sydney a new one, Brisbane was treated to a wondrous night of epic Swedish metal with Sabaton and Amon Amarth at their sideshow at Tivoli last night. Both groups teamed up to give us a double-dose of their homeland’s musical prowess, and I can happily say that their efforts were received incredibly well in this otherwise sleepy city. Upon arrival, the queue was already well and truly overflowing down the street and many punters were garbed in furs and tunics, each with a drinking horn at their hip. Eagerness and excitement were heavy in the air, making the dreary Tuesday night feel like a Friday night.
I was overjoyed to see that right from the get-go, the venue was packed and the crowd just kept growing with every passing minute. The openers of the show, the mighty Sabaton, wafted orchestral soundtracks over the crowd as we waited for the show to start. Before long an anticipation-building intro of “You’re in the Army Now” and “The March to War” began, and Sabaton leapt onstage with a resounding roar from the crowd.
Joakim Brodén immediately gave off a charismatic, almost larger than life visage with his trademark aviators and metal plated battle vest, grinning at the crowd as they played Ghost Division to get the night started. Hannes van Dahl laid down pounding drum patterns that had everyone pumping their fists and chanting, unfortunately his kit was off to one side to make room for Amon Amarth’s kit but Hannes didn’t let that stop him from putting on an excellent performance. Par’s bass antics were impressive and solid, never letting up and providing the low vibrations to make each song whole. Accompanied by plenty of IKEA jokes and hilarious onstage hazing of their newest guitarist, Tommy Johansson, Sabaton provided humour and wide grins to the pumped-up spectators.
Sabaton skillfully smashed through thunderous tracks like “Carolus Rex” and “Primo Victoria” with perfectly synchronised head banging and guitar movements, as well Tommy continuing the running joke of playing “Swedish Pagans” to piss the rest of the band off; resulting in him being nipple-crippled until he fell down. Both Chris and Tommy’s abilities on guitar were spectacular, watching them trade off with melodic but speedy solos and harmonies and listening to the audience sing along to their riffs was a memorable experience. Joakim Brodén took the time between songs to reassure us that they would be visiting Australia more often, with the words “It took us nineteen years for us to get here; it will not take us nineteen years to come back!”
The highlight of their set, of course, was their performance of “Cliffs of Gallipoli”, a nod toward Australia’s history and involvement in the First World War. Ending their phenomenal set with “To Hell and Back” drove the crowd into frenzy, the ground shook as everyone got up and jumped in time to the infectiously groovy lead riff, a perfect way to see Sabaton off the stage. Sabaton were truly an absolute pleasure to watch. I was wowed by their incredible sound and stage presence, as well as their onstage jokes and shenanigans between each other, providing plenty of laughs and bringing a relaxed but enthusiastic energy to the night.
It felt like mere seconds before it was time for Amon Amarth to command the stage with their behemoth sound, and with a predictably well-received pre-intro of Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills”, the scene was set by another, darker sounding atmospheric intro to introduce the band. By this stage, The Tivoli was positively packed; wall to wall, floor to balcony. The next hour and a half was about to get rowdy. Marching onto the stage to fierce Viking yells from the crowd, Amon Amarth kicked straight into an unbelievably heavy performance of “The Pursuit of Vikings”. From the first note played by Amon Amarth, it was clear that they were about to bring a whole new level of furious energy to the venue.
Greeting the crowd with a humorous “Good evening Brisbane! How are you going, c*nts!?” Johan Hegg was in high spirits as he grinned at the thrashing spectators. As the pit began to churn relentlessly during the third song of the night, “First Kill”, crowd surfers were suddenly in abundance as the band shook the walls with their newest member on drums; Jocke Wallgren’s sprawled out kit emitting pummelling beats that vibrated everyone’s entire chest cavity. Despite the sheer wall of undeniably crushing music that Amon Amarth were masterfully constructing, punters still managed to drown the out the band with their chants and sing-alongs, a feat I was impressed by in the relatively small venue.
Amon Amarth wasted no time in pulling out all the stops for us Aussies, featuring songs like “Guardians of Asgard”, “Deceiver of the Gods”, “Destroyer of the Universe” and also an amazingly well put-together medley from their first album called “Once Sent From The Golden Hall”, of which the band are coincidentally celebrating the 20th anniversary. The introduction for “Destroyer of the Universe” was definitely a high point; as Johan Hegg told us the story of Ragnarok and the coming of Surtur, the original stage backdrop was dramatically torn down to reveal a fiery depiction of Surtur himself, much to the excitement of the crowd.
Finally it was time for the encore, and by this stage it was clear that the crowd was starting to run low on energy. After a few moments of darkness the band strolled back onstage to thank the audience with a toast from their drinking horns and an overwhelming chant of “skål!” as the band emptied their horns. This made for a perfect introduction to the perfectly fitting “Raise Your Horns”, stirring the crowd up again for the last couple of songs. Closing the set while wielding a ginormous Mjolnir above his head, Amon Amarth brought the night to a fantastic crescendo with “Guardians of Asgard” before bowing their way offstage to elated applause from the now exhausted punters.
What a night. Both bands brought their absolute best for Download Fest and their sideshows, proving that Swedish metal will always hold a special place in the hearts of Aussie metal heads. I sincerely hope that Sabaton were honest with us in saying that they will come back sooner rather than later, because after their set tonight I am sure that they have found many new Aussie fans who will be eager to see them again. Amon Amarth’s face-melting performance was truly a sight to see; a thoroughly satisfying and cathartic for everyone involved.
I would like to say a massive thankyou to the organisers of both Download Festival and the resulting Sideshows. The loss of Soundwave has left a gaping hole in Australia’s international music scene and I am beyond happy to see that the Festival’s first year has done so well and has been so successful in bringing acts like Amon Amarth and Sabaton to our shores once more! I personally cannot wait until next time but in the meantime, I am sure that we have all collected some awesome memories and stories to tell.