Sabaton / Grailknights / Intense
5 November 2008
Purple Turtle, Camden, London

Due to Sabaton and Grailknights having to catch a ferry later in the evening, there was some confusion over when Intense would take the stage and in the end it was actually after Sabaton. As a result it was Grailknights who were first up to entertain, and entertain is certainly what they aimed to do.

Those not in the know looked somewhat perplexed as four Germans took to the stage in superhero costumes, pulling heroic poses to their intro tape. Compared to their entrance, opener Grailquest Gladiators was rather unspectacular, being a messy mixture of power metal with death metal vocals.

Main singer and bassist Mac Death comically explained why the Grailknights looked so “super cool” and that our role was as the Battle Choir. We’d be called upon at various points to add our voices, with a lot of “wooah-ohhh-ing” to Nameless Grave. This song was a vast improvement and saw the Grailknights nemesis Dr Skull and his accomplice Morph The Swarf popping on stage for a look.

If it all sounds a bit pantomime, it should and became more so when things started to go wrong. A Black Beauty intro tape was supposed to signify the arrival of the Grailknights steed, Zapf Beauty, who wasn’t ready, so it was quickly on to the folk infused The White Raven. A second attempt to coax out Zapf Beauty saw a pantomime horse emerging from the dressing room door and precariously making its was down the stairs at the side of the stage. Tonight re-Christened Beer Beauty, cans of beer appeared from within the costume and were passed out to the crowd, before the horse was instructed to “now f**k off!”.

Sillier still, following Moonlit Masquerade, apparently it is usual for Dr Skull’s dragon, Urks to make an appearance. Being too large for this venue, instead his head on a long neck poked out of the dressing room door. Return To Castle Grailskull followed but to be honest the music played a bit part in this performance. Finally it was time for the Grailknights to reclaim their Grail, but Dr Skull had gone AWOL “Checking out the London nightlife!” so one of the Knights had to head up to the dressing room and get it himself. The Grailknights occupy their own sub genre of Pantomime metal and the mishaps actually added to the event. Just don’t make me listen to one of their albums again.

Grailknights set list:
Intro I / Grailquest Gladiators / Nameless Grave / Intro II (Zapf Beauty – non appearance) / The White Raven / Intro II (Zapf Beauty) / Moonlit Masquerade / Intro III (Urks) / Return To Castle Grailskull / Blast Beat Song / Intro IV (Gralübergabe)

Thanks must go to Sinister Heart Promotions for once again bringing Sabaton to London. The repeat visits have obviously paid off as tonight’s show was sold out with hardly room to move as the crowd pushed up as Europe’s The Final Countdown was played over the PA. The intro Sun Tzu Says followed as the band filed onto the stage save for frontman Joakim Brodén, who waited for his vocal cue during opener Ghost Division to make his appearance. Unfortunately, Rikard Sudén’s guitar wasn’t behaving causing a quick trip back up the stairs for a replacement mid-song. This didn’t phase either the band or crowd and as hand’s punched the air, Brodén looked on beaming.

After a stomping rendition of The Art Of War, Brodén informed us it was a special night as the band thought nobody liked them in England, but they had sold out. For the first of many times he then comically asked us, “London, will you sleep with us tonight?”. Noting too many dudes were answering.

The pace of Into The Fire almost started a mosh pit as fans jostled for position at the front. Brodén noted they were so close that they had dispensed with the set list as it would be nicked, so tonight was a request show. The loudest shout heralded Rise Of Evil, “about my penis, you know!” quipped the singer. By now the sound was excellent with Daniel Myhr’s Deep Purple like keyboard solo ringing out.

Further requests for Wolfpack and the excellent 40:1 followed, the latter seeing a Polish flag thrown on stage to honour its subject matter. Cliffs Of Gallipoli may reek of Savatage’s Gutter Ballet, but it was majestic and added real balance to the set. In fact it was noticeable versus last year when the band played this venue that Sabaton have some added breadth to their metal.

The requests and chants continued, with bassist Pär Sundström’s permanent smile showing how much the band were enjoying this night. Brodén noted “Few countries would give a response like this on a Wednesday”.

The formalities of an encore were to be skipped with the small space meaning “it would be like London traffic” for the band to file off stage. Returning with Primo Victoria, Sabaton get most of the crowd jumping along before they wrap things up with a combination of Metal Machine and Metal Crue. Yet to disappoint me in the live environment, Sabaton scaled new heights tonight and I look forward to their next battle at Bloodstock Open Air next year.

Sabaton set list:
Intro – Sun Tzu Says / Ghost Division / The Art Of War / Into The Fire / Rise Of Evil / Wolfpack / 40:1 / Cliffs Of Gallipoli / Light In The Black / Nuclear Attack / The Price Of A Mile / Attero Dominatus / Panzer Battalion / Primo Victoria / Metal Machine / Metal Crue

Poor Intense, before taking their late slot, were now tasked to set up from scratch with the Sabaton gear packed up for transit. Doing a sterling job to turn things around as quick as they could, there was a respectful gathering as the UK metallers opened with Fear Is Not Enough from their latest album As Our Army Grows. Crammed onto the small stage, somehow the six piece turn out to be the most mobile act of the night and seemed to be enjoying their time on stage and making the best of the less than ideal position of having to follow the “headline” act. Opening the show, Intense would certainly have given the Grailknights a run for their money and would have made for a more balanced evening, however this was obviously out of their hands and full credit again to Sinister Heart for ensuring they got to play at all.

With a whiff of Iced Earth in the air, Trojan Transmission provides us with an excerpt from the band’s trilogy tribute to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, whilst Dark Season takes us all the way back to the band’s 1997 debut album. Frontman, Sean Hetherington puts his all into the chorus refrain “As our army grows” from Our Last Hope, but with last trains beckoning, including my own, annoyingly people are having to leave. War of Angels was scheduled to close the band’s set though having dashed off I can’t confirm and was personally hoping to hear Anger Of The Ancients and The Winged. Intense certainly put on a spirited performance under difficult circumstances.

Intense set list:
Fear Is Not Enough / Collision Of Destinies / Trojan Transmission / Dark Season / Our Last Hope / War Of Angels