On Stage: Sabaton, Swedish for metal

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Music acts from Sweden are either sonically hard and very heavy – goth metal, death metal, doom and gloom – or light and very frothy – Abba, Ace of Base.

Sabaton, which is headlining a show at the Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) on March 6 is the former.

Sabaton is a metal band from Falun, Sweden that features lyrical themes based on war and historical battles.

Sabaton’s themes of war and historical battles are even reflected in the band’s name. A sabaton is a knight’s foot armor.

The war theme that Sabaton embraces can be heard in the albums “Primo Victoria,” “The Art of War,” “Attero Dominatus,” “Coat of Arms,” “Carolus Rex,” “Heroes,” and “The Last Stand.”

Sabaton was formed in 1999 and still includes two of the founding members — vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström. The other members are Chris Rörland (guitar), backing vocals; Hannes van Dahl (drums, backing vocals) and Tommy Johansson (guitar, backing vocals).

“We’ve been really, really busy the last year,” said van Dahl. “We had a big tour of the states, including a show in Philadelphia. We toured Russia and finished with a headlining show in Japan. Now, here we go again. Time really flew.”

According to Sundström, “I formed the band at the end of 1999. We had a drummer who was a schoolmate with Joakim. He introduced Joakim as a keyboard player so we brought him into the band. When I heard him sing, I realized how good he was. So, I said – you’re the singer of the band.

“We were looking for something to write about. We were both interested in history and wars and realized – this is interesting, this is real. We don’t want to write about our private lives and we don’t want to make things up. I always liked reality more than fiction.

“We’re not history perfectionists. We’re more interested in it than most people but we’re not experts. We also liked to find a topic people can relate to – either from movies or from experiencing it.”

It all starts with Brodén.

“Joakim is the main songwriter of the band,” said van Dahl. “Everyonechips in with their ideas and he has the final yes. We all write in our home studios and exchange stuff.”

Sabaton is still touring in support of its 2017 album “The Last Stand.”

“The next album is coming together,” said van Dahl. “We’re taking a lot of time off to write as good an album as we possibly can. The last two albums have been spread out a bit — from WWI to the Afghan war.

“The music has been getting less dark in a way. But, there is no plan to go in any specific direction. If you have a song with a story, the music has to fit.

“We’ll do a few shows here and there – but not too many. And, we’ll host our 11th Annual Open Air Festival. It’s held in Falun and draws about 5,000 people. The festival has a nice family vibe.”

Sabaton is careful when selecting its set list for shows.

“After releasing eight studio albums, you never make everyone in the audience happy,” said van Dahl. “Usually, we do surveys before the tour to see what fans want to hear.

“We also play what we like. It’s quite a balance. We’re going pretty heavy with songs from ‘The Kast Stand’ because that’s the tour we’re on.”

Video link for Sabaton – https://youtu.be/kPVm-QkWbBQ

The show at the Fillmore, which also features Kreator, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $27.50.


When Vundabar headlines a show on March 6 at PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, www.philamoca.org), the band’s focus will be on its recently-released album “Smell Smoke.”

There’s somewhat of a paradox inherent in Vundabar’s songwriting — a conflicting sense of nostalgia contrasted with the realization that the band couldn’t sound more current. The music Vundabar makes feels like something that should have been heard a long time ago, while simultaneously continuing to forge ahead sonically.

Vundabar’s high energy live show is the stand out quality of this band and is an art they’ve undoubtedly perfected by touring non-stop around the country.

On this tour, the band introduces “Smell Smoke,” which is very special album for the Boston-based group.

Singer Brandon Hagen wrote the band’s third album while tending to a gravely ill loved one.

When Hagen was 18, he was informed that a loved one in his family was ill. Hagen began the long process of trying to grapple with grief and it seriously affected him. Fortunately, he found an outlet for his emotions in the songs on “Smell Smoke.”

“The over-arcing theme of the album is processing loss and its intersection with an American identity,” said Hagen, during a phone interview last week from his home in Brighton, Massachusetts.

“I had a relative who got very sick and I got involved quite a bit. I tried to avoid it for a long time – tried to tip-toe around it.

“It made my songwriting vert cathartic. For me, writing songs has always been a way for me to realize how I feel about something.

“There is this dichotomy – living in a place with so much abundance but it can’t take care of its own people.”

Vundabar recorded “Smell Smoke” last year at two studios in New England with Keith Abrams as the producer.

“I had known Keith for a while,” said Hagen. “He’s a member of the band The Pine Barons. I like what he had recorded with them and other artists.

“A lot of the album’s recording was done in four days Last February at The Head Room. Then, Keith and I mixed it at the studio at his house in two days.

“The songs had been written for a while but we didn’t decide on the arrangements. We also wrote some more when we were in the studio. The spontaneity kept it fresh. It was fun to use the studio as an instrument.

“With this album, there was the intersection of themes and music. The lyrics were more deliberate. The music was more subconscious,”

Vundabar’s fans will get to hear a lot of the band’s new tunes live for the first time at the show at PhilaMoca.

“We’re playing six songs from the new LP,” said Hagen. “We had limited time to get things prepped. We’re trying to keep an even spread by just playing half the new record. And stuff from all our albums.”

Video link for Vundabar – https://youtu.be/oblv7i-ncPw.

The show at Philamoca, which also features The Obsessives and Ratboys, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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