The band kicks off a massive run with Judas Priest next week
Swedish metal juggernauts Sabaton are getting ready to head overseas to serve as special guests for Judas Priest‘s highly-anticipated 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour. The trek, which was postponed in 2020 due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, is a celebration of Judas Priest’s five decades as a heavy metal powerhouse. Just days before the trek kicks off at the Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania, we caught up with Sabaton’s dynamic frontman Joakim Brodén to preview the tour, chat about the band’s new music, and more.
TRR: You guys just came off of your first two shows back since the music world has started up again at EXIT Festival and Rock Castle. What was that like for you guys, especially coming off of such a long hiatus due to the global pandemic?
Joakim Brodén: Well, I was pretty damn nervous, if you pardon my language! Especially since we’re used to being quite a busy band. At a high peak, we’ll do 150 to 170 shows in 12 months. And, even during a year when we record an album, we’ll still manage to squeeze in 60 to 90 shows. So, it was kind of weird and nervous, because we only had the possibility, due to, well restrictions in travel and such. We only had two days – a day and a half, actually – of rehearsal in Serbia before we actually hit the stage. I was a little worried that we were going to be all too rusty getting shit together. But I was so happy that after only the first few couple of songs everybody was sort of on point with everything. I felt weird and I was super nervous up until, well, when they called us to the stage. But, I walked up on the stage, I heard the intro rolling, and then it just became like nothing had happened – like that year and a half off hadn’t happened at all. It just felt like, “Yeah, this is what I do. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
TRR: You mentioned the traveling was a bit of an issue, and you guys had very limited rehearsal time. You played in Serbia [EXIT Festival], and then the Czech Republic [Rock Castle] for those two festivals. Now, you’re prepping to come to the United States in a matter of days. What has changed post-pandemic for bands and artists, in terms of getting a big touring production back on the road?
Joakim Brodén: Well, everything! With getting [travel] visas, some US embassies are closed, depending on the situation in each country. So, we actually had to go to Belfast in Northern Ireland to get our visas. I mean, it’s hard to say “post-pandemic” yet, because we’re still somehow in the middle of it at the same time. Regulations change all the time. We’ve had rules and regulations change on us while we were away. Then we’d have to quarantine when we got back home. It’s really tricky to predict travel to certain countries these days, at least over the last year, I’d say. And everything takes longer. For example, if you’re getting a flight from Scandinavia and to Frankfurt, Germany and there’s an issue, normally you would have to wait about two to three hours for the next one. Well, now that wait could be nine hours. With all the new protocols, everything with travel takes much longer.
TRR: It’ll be interesting to see, moving forward, how everything unfolds. You guys [Sabaton] and Judas Priest are one of the first big tours to come to the United States from overseas for a full run. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all works out.
Joakim Brodén: Oh yeah, absolutely. But we’re really looking forward to it, because doing a festival show, when you go out and you do all the PCR tests, the travel, all you want to do is sort of survive the situation now, to actually be going on tour. Because we know once we’re in America, at least, we get in our tour buses, and you think, “Oh, finally! We get to do what we want to be doing.” And with one of our favorite bands of all times, I might add.
TRR: It must be incredibly exciting. You guys are going to be very special guests of the one and only Judas Priest. They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary, and you guys are along for the ride. This has to be pretty amazing.
Joakim Brodén: Yeah! If you go back into Sabaton’s history – even the days before we became Sabaton – when we started playing together, only myself and Pär [Sundström], our bass player, are still left from those days. I think one of the most-played albums of our teenage years when we were drinking and talking about maybe one day we will play this festival, or this, and that, after rehearsals – was Judas Priest’s Painkiller.
TRR: That’s an unbelievable record.
Joakim Brodén: Yeah! So, I’m really looking forward to it. I think the first time we played together was in Berlin in 2010. We were delayed because the employees of the airline we were flying went on strike, but Priest’s crew was super nice to us.
TRR: You guys are coming off your last album ‘The Great War’ which came out in 2019. After that, COVID-19 came and the world shut down. It was a big record for you guys here in the U.S. and it hit No. 5 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart, but you guys really didn’t get to do a whole lot to support it live, obviously. Do you think that this tour is a second coming out party of sorts for that record?
Joakim Brodén: Yeah. I mean, this was supposed to be the follow-up [tour supporting the album]. It was supposed to happen last year. We had already done the first run directly after the album was released. We did a bunch of shows in the U.S. with HammerFall, but we were by no means ready to be done. Normally, an album cycle is between two and three years of touring in between the releases. But, let’s just say the plans changed. So, we recorded some more stuff. We released “The Royal Guard” and “Livgardet” – two songs about the Royal Swedish Guard – “Defence of Moscow,” and the Manowar cover of “Kingdon Come.” Now, we’ve just released “Steel Commanders.” On top of that, we have a new album already recorded and finished, and it’s ready to be released as soon as things open up.
TRR: Regarding “Steel Commanders” that just came out. It’s for the video game World of Tanks. Can you give us some more insight on exactly what’s going on with Sabaton’s connection to the video game, and how that all came about?
Joakim Brodén: I think the first time we had meetings and talked together was about 6 or 7 years ago. It didn’t click. We couldn’t couldn’t make it happen then, because we were a little bit too controversial still for the Germans. The Russians wanted us, but the German part of the [World of Tanks] team were like, “Oh, no. These are the guys who sing about World War II. We can’t have them supporting the game.” They still have a little bit of that “don’t mention the war” over there [in Germany]. We’ve been gamers along time. And, as it turns out, a few of the people in war gaming, like what we do. So, we got lucky in a way because we don’t have to do anything different than what we do. We worked together with the gaming company Paradox as well, who have games like Hearts of Iron, as well as Europa Universalis. A lot of the stories they use are already in our music, so to speak. With World of Tanks, for example – we have a tank on stage as a drum riser. We sing a lot about that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t call it match made in heaven, but we sure have a lot of fun together!
TRR: You mentioned the new album is done. Obviously, fans are absolutely going to be hungry for it, even though we’re not too far removed from ‘The Great War.’ What details can you spill about the new record for us?
Joakim Brodén: Actually, not much at all. We don’t want to spoil the surprises! But, it’s called ‘The War To End All Wars.’
TRR: On this tour coming up, are there any possible plans to perform an unheard song or two from the upcoming record?
Joakim Brodén: It is possible, actually. I’m not sure about anything from the new album, but we do have “Steel Commanders” which haven’t played live yet.
TRR: We’ll take it.
Tickets for Judas Priest’s 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour with special guests Sabaton are on sale now HERE.