It was no ordinary night. No, it was an extraordinary night in Calgary. I arrived at the Republik shortly after 9 pm and the venue was completely packed wall-to-wall. Revamp held the stage and were playing their own breed of female fronted progressive metal. Though normally this style of metal is on the lighter side, Revamp managed to give an earnest and energetic performance. At least enough to get a room full of restless metalheads to rock out.
Sabaton followed Revamp. This was something I was eagerly awaiting as Sabaton has been one of my favourite power metal bands since I first heard their Carolus Rex album (Who knew that a history lesson on the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire could be so damned captivating!). For those who are unfamiliar with the band, Sabaton plays anthemic power metal standards with lyrical content drawing exclusively from historical warfare – namely the early modern era through to World War II. Joakim Broden’s rugged and animated vocals supported by choir-like refrains are perfect for recounting tales of war with epic overtones.
That’s the ‘recorded’ Sabaton, mind you. The live Sabaton is an entirely different beast. Hilarious banter between songs and humble praise for the passionate crowd were plentiful. I particularly laughed when the crowd cheered SA-BA-TON and Joakim replied ‘I don’t know who Sabaton is… We are the Village People’ and proceeded to get a crowd full of metalheads to sing along to YMCA. The music was tight as ever. I was singing along to all their hits and cheered extra hard when they ended with their infamous “Metal Crue” – a song that lists as many metal band names as possible. Sabaton not only ruled the stage, but they convinced everyone in that room that they could do it while having a tremendous amount of fun. This was one of the best sets I have ever witnessed.
The headliners of the night were Iced Earth. It was surreal to see these guys with Stu Bloc on vocals. It was not that long ago when he was singing ripping vocals for a local Vancouver band called Omega Crom. Then last night, there he was delivering enough of a performance to match Ripper Owens with one of the biggest bands in metal. It’s obvious why these guys got to where they are – their sound is legendary! When Iced Earth plays fast, it isn’t just another riff… It’s a driving force that has a commanding presence. Their heaviness means something, unlike the majority of bands. Jon Schaffer’s guitar playing just drips with feeling and his tone is what every elite guitarist dreams of.
The band didn’t just kick everyone’s ass with bombastic speed metal. They mixed it up with several ballads written to commemorate the passing of Jon’s grandfather and a friend lost in a motorcycle accident showing a very different side. Though the band were dressed in a biker-hell-bent-for-leather fashion, they managed to connect with the crowd and were not afraid to honour the fallen in front of a room of sweaty strangers.
All in all, this was by far the best show I’ve seen all year. It was a real treat to see several world class bands play in such an intimate environment.