FEBRUARY 21st 2013
Review by Anka
Photos by Peter Ruttan

Another Wednesday night, another reason to get your metal on. What I liked most about the Sabaton/ Empyria /Unleash the Archers show is that it had such a solid lineup - all good power-metal, all relevant to our local scene. Sabaton: Swedish band riding the wave of success, embarked on their first headlining tour in North America, which is a follow-up for their 2011 tour in support of Evergrey. Empyria: Local heavy metal veterans, playing progressive power metal long before many fans of the genre were even born here. Unleash the Archers: the newest power-metal pride of Vancouver with three albums under the belt, a band that mesmerized crowds across North America with their live performance. Well Sabaton… you’re welcome!

Local band Unleash the Archers opened the show full force, and truthfully it was one of the best local opening performances I have seen in a while, judging by the crowd’s reaction. Unleash The Archers are long past the status of “local” band, having toured extensively inside and outside Canada. They get the crowd going whether they open or headline a gig, the enthusiasm and energy in their performance are always so intense and engaging. The crammed stage setup didn’t allow them to “unleash” the full fury, nevertheless it all worked out for the power-metal hungry crowd who sang along, head-banged and even crowd-surfed to the rhythms of UTA’s power-thrash, sci-fi themed tunes.

Following their set, we had the great pleasure to see the prog-power metallers Empyria, also hailing from BC, playing in Vancouver for the first time in 3 years (last time they opened for Warrel Dane). I had seen Empyria before and actually I was looking forward to seeing them perform again, they are amazing musicians that put on flawless live performances, apart from that, they play one of my favorite genres of metal. At this point the show lost a bit of the momentum in favor of the more serious, progressive direction. Their music clearly outshined the stage presence - also probably hindered by the little space available- however they put on a quality performance and had the crowd watching in awe for about an hour. Bottom line, we need more Empyria in our Vancouver shows.

Crowd warmed up, party mood on – enter Sabaton! After Europe’s “Final Countdown” intro, they took the stage and delivered another tight, Sabaton-signature show that fans know very well, in other words, they didn’t disappoint. Back in Vancouver after a year or so, this was their first time headlining here although it came with a few lineup changes and a keyboardist missing from the picture. Personally, the biggest surprise was to find none other than Snowy Shaw behind the drums (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Dream Evil, Therion, and many more). While just a touring drummer for Sabaton, it was still great to have this opportunity to see some live drum action from him.

Sabaton were in for a good time here on the stage of the Venue. The crowd was very much engaged in their entire show, once again impressing the Swedish quintet and making them feel more than welcome here. Sing-alongs, fist pumping in the air, dancing, head-banging, jumping, while for some hardcore metalheads these are cheesy as hell, they are all constants for a Sabaton crowd. Their anthem-like, war-themed tracks are hard to resist even for those who are not fans, and I think many of the non-believers that were present can testify that it was quite a fun show altogether.  Sabaton is not your typical grim-face, tough-looking band, their stage presence is all overrun by smiles and pure enjoyment you rarely see in other metal bands and that obviously contributes to the general mood in the room.

It was quite entertaining to see them return to the stage for an encore and ask the crowd to choose the songs they would play last. The crowd had to scream for the favorite track out of the two options they were given each time. And no cheating, Sabaton really performed the songs that received the loudest response!

Especially for fans of the genre, Sabaton is a do-not-miss, I am pretty sure the band already has a great following here, and this show confirms it as it had a good turnout for a mid-week night. For the ones that are not convinced yet, I think a good night of fun like this is good to have from time to time, even if you have to get up early for work the next day. Also, supporting your local bands and going to local shows is cool ; )