It’s unsurprising that playing in Sabaton means taking the world by storm on a daily basis. The Swedish band have risen to worldwide acclaim performing striking, bombastic heavy metal songs about history’s most infamous battles and military units. Now, two decades and change into their career, Sabaton have become an army unto themselves, sweeping across the planet and leaving no head unbanged. One wonders when the band ever gets a break from their never-ending campaign.
“Oh, we don’t really have breaks,” says bassist and manager Pär Sundström, who says the word breaks as though it were a joke. “On the 8th of November, we’re returning from this tour, and already on the 18th we’re starting a promotional tour for our new album in Europe. Then we have a little bit of break over Christmas and the New Year, and then on the 6th of January we start a Swedish tour, with 29 shows in Sweden alone. Then we have two weeks break, and then we start our next tour in Europe. Then we have another one booked that’s not even announced, and an autumn one booked as well. When you see the full schedule, you’ll see that we have no breaks. At all.”
When Pär speaks to us, Sabaton have just pulled into Chicago as part of their U.S. opening slot with Judas Priest on the latter act’s 50th anniversary tour. But while that gig might be a career peak for some bands, for Sundström and Co., it’s just the tip of the iceberg. With a new album ready for promotion and a multi-year album cycle planned in advance, the musical tour de force are ready for anything and everything that comes their way. When we ask Pär if playing with Priest every night is awesome, he’s appropriately reverent, but also cooly thoughtful.
“Well, we have a lot of respect for the bands that have been around a lot longer than us, but I don’t think we have those same moments anymore,” says Sundström. “I think we’re pretty connected to what it is — that Judas Priest, for example, is a band who’ve been playing for 50 years. Sabaton’s a band who’ve bene playing for 20 years. Now we’re playing together. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. Without their music, we wouldn’t play our music. This is all about respect. But I don’t need to pinch my arm for that. I think we have other things that play that part.”
How often do you get to use touring to see places of military importance?
When it comes to touring, very often, it’s just about, go there, play the show, get out of there. We don’t often get to experience a place. People are like, ‘Oh, you get to travel all the time,’ but it’s not about traveling, it’s about playing the show. And wherever people are, they are fantastic. Whether we’re playing in Chicago, or Germany, or Sao Paolo, it’s always great, and we still enjoy playing. But that’s the main reason we’ve done that — we’re not sightseeing.
That’s a shame, only because you’re in the U.S. now, and American military history is so rich (and Americans are so obsessed with it).
We get a little bit of everything. Here’s the thing: we take our chances sometimes, to get out of the tour bubble. The current tour we’re on forbids us from doing so much visits or meeting people, because we have to be super careful. If there is a case of this stupid virus going around in the band, then the whole tour is over. So we just have to stay away from any kind of risky thing that might appear. But this tour is a very special case. Normally, if we’re doing a tour of the States, yeah, we do get to go out, we take our time. Fans often help us: Oh, you’re playing this town, do you know about this and this and this here. So we take our time, and every now and then get to go outside of the tour bubble.
What’s it like watching America wake up from the COVID lockdown? What about this tour is fundamentally different from previous trips to the States?
I mean, normally, after our shows — not every night but some nights — we want to go out, be with the fans, hear people talk about the show, go into a a bar, get some impressions on the gig, that kind of thing. This is not happening at all. It’s something we’re forbidden to do. So, bands coming back, sure, wherever you look there are reminders of this things. I feel that the world is kind of getting back to normal again. That’s my opinion. To see the audience every night…I love it. So I’ve started to feel hopeful.
What about the live experience have you missed the most?
We did a couple of shows in Europe before we came here — we headlined a huge festival in Serbia and another one in the Czech Republic, and there were no restrictions, and amazing audiences, and it was great. But here is different — this is touring, not just one-off shows. And the one-off shows might be great, but they’re also exhausting, and a lot of travel is connected to just playing just one show. You can’t really enjoy it that much. This is the life I love — where every day is a new town, a new audience, a new show. And the best thing about when you end a show is that tomorrow’s another one. This is the thing that I like so much. I’m starting to get there now — I missed it so much.
That sounds exhausting — but it also sounds like you love it!
Well, it’s the job. And the job needs to be done. So we have to consider a lot of things when we’re booking shows and touring. We haven’t been touring for quite some time. And now, we have a new album, and we need to tour the world. And you don’t tour the world in five weeks!
What inspired you guys to book 29 dates in Sweden alone? That’s epic, given the size of the country.
It’s something we talked about for a while. It came about when the corona stopped — we had the arena tour in Europe that we were about to announce when everything shut down. And we were trying to do an estimation of what would be possible in the future. We thought it would be a slow opening with a time limitation. When they put the capacity at 5,000 and said anything above 5,000 is complicated, we decided to stay under 5,000 and see how many cities we can book. We have 29 shows in a row, and then two weeks later we play in Stockholm. We went for every city where there are actually some people. Sometimes we drive twenty minutes between the cities! To play 29 shows in Sweden, you basically hit everything that could be called a town.
Do you ever get a moment to take time and step away from the band?
It depends on what you mean by taking time. There are ups and downs. We’re basically starting the cycle soon. This North American tour isn’t even the start of the cycle. Early next year, we start the cycle, and that’ll take about two years. After we tour the world with the entire album, we withdraw and write new music based on that. Still, work doesn’t stop. We have a lot of other things that we’re working on — we have the Sabaton History channel, we’re working on other projects that require our attention. So there’s always stuff going on.
Is that always ongoing? Are you in tour mode now, or did you just roll into Chicago while working on all these projects?
No, Sabaton is a completely self-managed band. Compared to a lot of other bands, we have a lot of internal people employed all around the world. So most bands, they have labels, management, and the band isn’t connected to that at all. For us, it’s the total opposite. We’re always running things, developing products for our mail order, working on producing our own videos, booking interviews, shows, tours — we are always doing something. It’s always on. There’s no ‘off.’
Catch Sabaton on at one of the tour dates listed below:
North America with Judas Priest:
9/25 – Maryland Heights, MO – Saint Louis Music Park
9/26 – Louisville, KY – Louder Than Life Festival^#
9/29 – Denver, CO – The Mission Ballroom^
9/30 – West Valley City, UT – Maverik Center*
10/2 – Everett, WA – Angel Of The Winds Arena*
10/3 – Portland, OR – Moda Center*
10/5 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater^
10/6 – Los Angeles, CA – Microsoft Theater^
10/8 – Las Vegas, NV – Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood
10/9 – Phoenix, AZ – Arizona Federal Theatre
10/12 – San Antonio, TX – Freeman Coliseum^
10/13 – Cedar Park, TX – HEB Center Cedar Park^
10/15 – Irving, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
10/16 – Oklahoma City, OK – The Zoo Amphitheatre^
10/19 – Independence, MO – Cable Dahmer Arena*
10/21 – Nashville, TN – Nashville Municipal Auditorium*
10/22 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre*
10/24 – Charleston, WV – Charleston Civic Center Coliseum*
10/25 – Philadelphia, PA – The Met*
10/27 – Newark, NJ – Prudential Center*
10/28 – Oxon Hill, MD – The Theater at MGM National Harbor
10/30 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino – Grand Theater^
10/31 – Lowell, MA – Tsongas Center At UMass Lowell*
11/2 – Halifax, NS – Scotiabank Centre*
11/4 – Laval, QC – Place Bell*
11/5 – Hamilton, ONT – First Ontario Centre*
3/4 – Norway Oslo Spektrum
3/5 – Sweden Stockholm Avicii Arena
3/6 – Denmark Copenhagen Royal Arena
3/8 – Germany Hamburg Barclays Arena
3/9 – Luxembourg Esch zur Alzette Rockhal
3/11 – Germany Berlin Mercedes Benz Arena
3/12 – Czech Republic Prague O2 Arena
3/13 – Hungary Budapest Arena
3/15 – Italy Milan Lorenzini District
3/16 – Switzerland Geneva Arena
3/18 – UK London The SSE Arena, Wembley
3/19 – UK Leeds First Direct Arena
3/20 – UK Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
3/22 – UK Glasgow The SSE Hydro
3/24 – Belgium Antwerp Sportpaleis
3/25 – Netherlands Amsterdam Ziggo Dome
3/26 – Germany Leipzig Quarterback Immo.Arena
3/28 – France Paris La Seine Musicale
3/30 – Austria Vienna Stadthalle
3/31 – Germany Munich Olympiahalle
4/1 – Germany Cologne Lanxess Arena
4/2 – Germany Hannover ZAG Arena
4/4 – Poland Krakow Tauron Arena
4/6 – Estonia Tallinn Saku Arena
4/8 – Finland Kuopio Kuopio Hall
4/9 – Finland Helsinki Hartwall Arena
Words by Chris Krovatin