“So this is a metal concert!” was my first thought as I joined the line to see Sabaton on May 10.
I had come with my old friend Max Walker, who got me interested in the band, and another one of his friends.
Metal music wasn’t always my favorite, but my obsession began early into eighth grade. I was listening to Sabaton’s “Screaming Eagles” and “Attero Dominatus,” and I became enraptured by the group. History has always been my favorite subject, and now I had found a band that sang about it.
For those who aren’t familiar, Sabaton is a power metal band from Falun, Sweden, that writes every song about military history.
An example is “Panzerkampf,” which is about the Battle of Kursk in 1943 when the Soviets beat back a German offensive. Another song, “The Price of a Mile,” is about trench warfare in WWI.
They, along with a couple of other bands, were performing at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco on May 10. Senior Nicole Wolkov told me about the concert in January, and I bought tickets not long after. She would have gone with me but didn’t because she was studying for her AP Euro test that took place two days later.
We arrived shortly before doors opened at 7:30 p.m. to find a line of at least 120 people. Once the doors opened, the line moved quickly; we got in at about 8:50.
Security wasn’t lacking; I had to show my school ID to be checked off the list.
Inside there were three directions we could go. To the right was the refreshment bar. To the left was the merchandise shop. But in front of us was the concert hall.
On stage there were ammo crates, Spartan armor and other militaristic equipment. The microphone poles were M-16s (fake, of course), and each had a WWII helmet at the joint. The atmosphere was perfect.
After a few minutes, the first band came on: Leaves’ Eyes. They are a small European band that does Viking metal.
When they started playing, I was pleasantly surprised. They had two singers: one your traditional heavy metal growler and the other a more classically trained female singer. The duo sang incredibly well, and the other musicians were very skilled. Sadly, not many people knew their music, so the crowd wasn’t really into it.
Halfway through the performance, the male singer left. I wondered where he went for a moment but shrugged and returned my focus to the band.
The next song was just beginning when the male singer ran back on stage wearing full leather Viking armor and wielding a sword. The crowd loved it.
Next was the band Battle Beast, which played a quicker, more fantasy-based form of metal. The crowd went a little crazier, and a few more people knew the songs.
Unfortunately, they didn’t dress up in anything out of the ordinary. But it was fun when the lead singer started joking about people in the crowd, especially a guy dressed as a unicorn. She also commented on some of the crowd’s battle jackets (leather jackets with patches of all the different bands you have seen live).
Overall, they were a solid band. The crowd asked for one more song, but they said they were out of time.
Finally, there was a 20-minute interlude until Sabaton came up. In that time I met quite a few colorful people.
There was one teenager around my age who came with a group of friends. He and I bonded over our enthrallment with Sabaton. Sadly, his other friends weren’t as into the music as he was and waited in the gift shop.
Behind me, farther toward the middle, were two 60-year-olds in frayed leather jackets. One with a cowboy hat and full beard asked the other if he had been at the Anthrax concert in 1988.
Soon enough, the stage was set for Sabaton, and the drummer came on to get ready. My friend started chanting, “Sabaton!” over and over again. I joined in, and soon after the entire crowd did, too.
Suddenly, smoke began to fill the stage, and Sabaton ran on and started performing one of their most famous songs, “Ghost Division.”
And the crowd went ballistic.
In the back, there was a huge mosh pit. People were waving Swedish and Finnish flags, and even more were yelling the lyrics in unison with Joakim Broden, Sabaton’s lead singer.
Everyone in the audience was loving every minute of Sabaton’s performance.
After two more songs they stopped, and the band greeted and thanked the audience. Broden made remarks about how there was already such a huge mosh pit even though it was a Wednesday night.
Then he talked about how this was their first tour in the U.S. in which they were headlining. Normally they would play for 30-45 minutes, but that night they would play for an hour and a half.
He said that they would play new songs and older songs just for the fun of it.
Next was the song “Attero Dominatus” about the fall of Berlin in 1945. It was a ton of fun hearing the entire crowd scream, “Attero Dominatus!” (which is a rough translation of “destroy tyranny” in Latin) at the top of their lungs with Broden.
They went on to play a mix of songs: a couple of the old and a couple of the new. The one I really loved was “Screaming Eagles,” about the 101st Airborne division in the Battle of Bastogne. Long story short, the Nazis launched an offensive, their last of WWII, in Belgium against American forces called the Battle of the Bulge. They plowed right through the ill-prepared American forces but failed to take the crossroads town of Bastogne. The 101st Airborne held the town under constant Nazi assault for six days.
Eventually they reached a point at which they let the crowd decide which song to play. My friends and I cheered heavily for “Carolean’s Prayer,” but, sadly, “A Lifetime of War” won. My friend Max then yelled out that “Carolean’s Prayer” might win through an electoral vote (alluding to the presidential election), and a couple people around us laughed.
Broden asked the audience if they would want to hear the song in Swedish or English. When he asked for English, only five people yelled. He almost fell over laughing, as did the rest of us. So they played in Swedish.
“A Lifetime of War” is more of a metal ballad about the Thirty Years War in Europe. It was the last major religious war in Europe, when the Catholic and Protestant leagues fought for 30 years. In some places in southern Germany, only a third of the population remained. Because of this sadness, people held up their lighters and swayed back and forth. And they were followed by people holding up their phone lights.
This was our last song because our parents wanted us to head home before 11:20. So we walked out into the gift shop.
And when we walked in, we practically walked straight into the lead singers of both Leaves’ Eyes and Battle Beast!
We complimented them and told them their music was amazing.
Soon after we walked out and drove home.
Coming back again to see Sabaton play, maybe staying there for the whole performance, is something I would gladly do again.