Sabaton: Swedish Empire Live (CD Digipack)

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Sabaton: Swedish Empire Live (CD Digipack)
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Sabaton: Swedish Empire Live (CD Digipack)

Nucleaer Blast Records
September 20th, 2013
Release length: 1:07:50
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In 2012, Sabaton headlined the Woodstock Open Air festival in Poland, playing to over six hundred thousand fans. This performance was recorded, and is being released in various formats including DVD, Blu-Ray DVD, CD, and LP. The Digipack CD edition of this release features fourteen of the songs from their now legendary performance, clocking in at over one hour of material. But, is this pressing worth grabbing instead of the other two visual aspects?

Swedish Empire Live was clearly captured from the sound board, and everything sounds top notch. All the levels of the instruments and vocals are just right, neither aspect drowning one another out. Unfortunately there is an issue with the cymbals from the drum kit, as it sounds like the echo is being picked up as well, lending a distracting and odd sound at times similar to being washed out that shows up from time to time, though largely obvious during “Cliffs of Gallipoli.” But, the most notable element of the audio is how it captures the enthusiasm of a band that clearly is loving every minute of the show, and getting the most out of the crowd thanks to the subtle pick up of their reactions that don’t overtake the band’s output. Overwhelming them, however, is another story, such as the long amount of chanting at the end of “Carolus Rex” as they chant for one of the most requested songs, “Midway.” Between outbursts like that, brief discussions and announcements to the fans in attendance, or simply stating the song, the band’s interaction with the audience really helps to make the experience that much more memorable.

With a band as pleased to be performing as Sabaton is, you’re basically guaranteed a fantastic performance, and almost all of this recording proves it. The set begins with the introductory instrumental “The March to War,” which perfectly sets up the first powerhouse, “Ghost Division,” kicking off a solid start with some additional pyro that can be heard throughout the song, though not again. “The Lion from the North” hammers away at the crowd with the booming, epic music Sabaton is known for, leaving you to truly feel the glorious atmosphere of the event the band is recreating. “The Art of War” kicks off what seems to be the encore set, and is handled with as much enthusiasm as the whole night started with, both from the band and the crowd, all finally wrapping up with the only song to perfectly cap the night off with, “Primo Victoria.” Of course, “Midway” is handled with a great deal of excitement, and definitely pleased the entire crowd as much as the closing track.

Sadly, “Cliffs of Gallipoli” does end up a bit on the weaker side. The slower, more intimate track isn’t captured too well, and the vocals do sound a bit off-key during the slower verses, though the richer chorus does hold up a lot better. There is a good deal of crowd interaction that might be to blame, having the audience join in at certain parts on vocals. This could have led to some distractions all around, as it seems like Sabaton didn’t quite give this one their all, especially when you listen to “The Price of a Mile,” another slower track with a truly moving performance that captures the brooding, depressing atmosphere perfectly on stage, especially during the guitar solo about half way through. Unfortunately, without the video, this shows the band is possibly using a background track for support, or a secondary vocalist that sounds remarkably close to Joakim Brodén. The latter option isn’t that hard to buy since “Gott Mit Uns” seems to have another singer in the main verses.

This is also the first official recording with some of the new band members that came in after the release of Carolus Rex last year, and they do a splendid job. Robban Bäck’s drumming is fantastic despite the echo/washout issue noted earlier, and guitarists Thobbe Englund and Chris Rörland work together perfectly. “Into the Fire” definitely shows the crowd’s approval during the guitar solo towards the end as they erupt with applause, and make you wish this did have the video too to see how well it executed on stage other than just hearing it.


According to the Nuclear Blast Webstore, the CD Digipack edition only comes with fourteen of the sixteen songs performed for this Woodstock Open Air set. However, if you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray set, you get a bonus CD with the last two songs included, which are “40:1” and “Metal Crüe.” “40:1” starts with some history and Joakin being pressured into another drink from the crowd before the song kicks in and whips the audience into a frenzy the entire time, including clapping along to the rhythm and chanting when the song slows down around the four minute mark. “Metal Crüe” is warmly accepted as well, and is met with some of the most energy and upbeat atmospheres since the start of the show. If these really are removed from the Digipack CD, it’s a downright shame.


Swedish Empire Live sounds like a fantastic performance to bare witness to in person. But, if you’re not in the same country to have seen it, this is a suitable replacement. The music and crowd reactions caught on this digipack CD version are great and only make you wish you were there more each time you hear it. Yes, this makes a nice companion piece, and is well worth the money to own it. Of course, if the label’s webstore is right and two songs are omitted from digipack edition, then grabbing the Blu-Ray or DVD version that includes the complete experience is simply a no-brainer, especially if you’re a fan. With possibly the greatest set list the band could have put together at this point of their career, Swedish Empire Live is something worth vicariously experiencing, even if it is just the audio.

01. The March to War – 1:37
02. Ghost Division – 3:48
03. Uprising – 5:38
04. Gott Mit Uns – 4:07
05. Cliffs of Gallipoli – 5:42
06. The Lion from the North – 6:17
07. The Price of a Mile – 7:03
08. Into the Fire – 3:17
09. Carolus Rex – 7:08
10. Midway – 2:47
11. White Death – 4:43
12. Attero Dominatus – 4:29
13. The Art of War – 5:54
14. Primo Victoria – 5:20

Bonus CD Version:
15. 40:1 – 5:26
16. Metal Crüe – 5:06

CD Digipack Score: 8.5/10

Bonus CD Version Score: 9/10

Sabaton
Sabaton

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.