Sabaton Open Air 2018 – Day 1 Review

I’m going to revisit the festival as a whole in a later post, but for now here are the bands featured on the main stage for the first day, Thursday.

Trollfest (c) Iain Purdie

Trollfest opened proceedings with balloons and madcap antics. Giving the sound system a real check, their insane sax-backed music hit all the high and low notes needed to give the sound techs a chance to brush out any bugs and they did, in fact, improve as the set went on. I watched a little from ground level and a lot from up in the kids’ area, and it was enjoyable from both.

Not a band I’d encountered before, I was aware of them, and they were ideal for kicking proceedings off even if a large portion of the potential crowd was in the snaking queue for Sabaton’s signing!

Thundermother (c) Iain Purdie

Showing the world that the ladies know how to rock (as if we need reminding), all-female Thundermother were next up and verily they did shake the ground upon which we stood. Churning out old school hard rock riffage, they were a solid addition to the lineup. With the sun still shining (just about) behind them, they entertained a good crowd, some of whom had managed to get to the front of that signing queue.

For those seeking something heavier, Svartsot brought harsh vocals and folk melodies. Playing to a smaller crowd than the previous two bands (shame!) they certainly had that number more firmly engaged than their forebears with almost every member clapping hands in tune and bouncing the the rhythm. I may have also spotted a couple of people reel dancing and skipping along nearby. Absolutely justifed as the band played a blinder. New fan, right here.

Svartsot (c) Iain Purdie

I did miss a little of their set as I was distracted by a couple of members of Sabaton taking requests in the kids’ area. We managed to capture some live streams which you can find on our facebook page.

With a siren’s wail, Primal Fear became the first band on stage after lights out and made full use of the darkness enshrouding the masses. Playing to an ever-growing crowd, the traditional metal act certainly knew how to entertain and by the time they finished, the area in front of the stage was rammed. Frontman Scheepers was touted as a replacement singer for Judas Priest some time ago (forming Primal Fear when he didn’t get the job), and there’s definitely a touch of the Halfords about his vocal style – not that this is a criticism!

Easily filling an hour with nice, brash metal they gave way to Brazilian stalwarts Sepultura who cranked up the mosh quotient somewhat… eventually! After an extended sound check, some cables being replaced, a lot of “one…two…” mutterings and eventually a rousing cheer, Derrick and the crew finally strode onto stage and started to pummel the audience with a varied set.

Primal Fear (c) Iain Purdie

The man mountain led the four-piece through around an hour and a quarter of music both old and new, though it was definitely the older material which got the best response. It was pleasing to see fans who weren’t alive when the music came out banging their heads to the likes of “Desperate Cry”, “Arise” and “Refuse Resist”.

Being honest, much as I love Sepultura – and the older material in particular – I do miss the older two-guitar sound. Andreas mixing lead and rhythm on the tracks I know so well from the Arise and Third World Posse tours just doesn’t quite click. A minor (niggly) point, though, and one that didn’t hugely detract from a ground-shaking performance.

Rounding up the first full day were Civil War, a band familiar to many in terms of members at least, being made up predominantly of ex-Sabaton-eers. A band I’d had a quick listen to but not had a real chance to get into, I was interested in seeing what they were like live.

What I wasn’t expecting, with the band hitting the stage at almost 1am due to the pre-Sepultura sound issues – was a field rammed with fans. I shouldn’t have been surprised with the majority of the band being local lads but it was still a delight to see.

Musically they’ve kept the same war theme idea of Sabaton, but the actual sound is very different. What they can do is get a crowd going. As I type this, the set is continuing beneath me and I’m listening out of the window (I have a small boy who is very sleepy!), and I can hear the audience cheering each prompt.

With a couple of bands to add to  my “must check out” list, I’m heading for my sloped bed… more on that in a separate article! For now, I need some kip to ready myself for day two which features a larger lineup than today.

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