Heavy Metal Ragnarock: The Day Scandinavian Metal Invaded the Grand Ole Opry


May 11, 2015

Marathon Music Works; Nashville, Tennessee

By: TJ Fowler

People who follow my site and know me at all know that I now live in Finland but I am a native of Tennessee.  People also know being a metal head in Tennessee is sometimes a lonely thing to be, considering the location is the birthplace of country music and it has a deep, strong connection to folk and gospel music.

So when I found out that Delain, Sabaton and Nightwish were touring the States and were going to play in Nashville, Tennessee of all places, I knew I had to travel back to the land of my birth and cover this show as I knew that this was truly a special occasion.  So I bought a plane ticket, hopped on the plane and got myself back here to Tennessee for the first time in over three years.

It has been a long time since metal music has seen the popularity it received in the 80’s in the States and it has never really got back to those heights, though I know things have gotten better in the new century.  Iron Maiden even returned to Nashville for the first time in 20 years a few years back and filled up the local Hockey Arena.  So I know things are getting better but Iron Maiden is a large Global band with a huge catalog and fanbase. To see bands like Sabaton and Nightwish, who are very, very popular in Europe, arrive in Nashville was truly surprise.  I must also admit that I was worried that there might not be a great turnout of people or the fans wouldn’t show support to the band as they played…oh how I was so wrong.  More on that in a moment.

Delain with Marco Hietala of Nightwish
Delain with Marco Hietala of Nightwish

The first band to open the show was Delain from the Netherlands.  Fronted by the very talented vocalist Charlotte Wessels, Delain plays a gothic/symphonic style of music with a bit of pop music.  By the time I got in the doors, there were already a good amount of fans cheering the band on and giving the opening act some great support.  I had never listened to much of Delain before this show but the group really put on a great show and Marco Hietala from Nightwish came out and sang a duet with the band for the song, ‘Sing to Me’ which the fans really enjoyed.  Delain accomplished what I think many opening acts would hope to accomplish when touring with larger acts, they successfully reached the audience and connected with them and as a result I believe garnered them new fans.

Next up was the heavy metal, military historical band Sabaton from Sweden supporting their latest album, ‘Heroes’.  I have seen Sabaton about three or four times back in Europe before this show and they have never disappointed…ever.  And this night was no exception.  The band’s penchant for writing songs detailing the historical aspects of wars and the people involved in them have really made Sabaton a unique band in a genre where saminess can prevail and appealing to people’s patriotism has really paid off for the band.

The band has so much energy on stage that people can’t help but feel happy and get involved with the band.  Joakim Brodén

Joakim taking over Guitar Duties
Joakim taking over Guitar Duties

the singer of the band, comes out sporting a Mohawk, camo pants, aviator sunglasses and a metal plated vest and is always going crazy on stage.  Whether that craziness is jumping around like he is doing some crazy style of aerobics, some kind of strange stretching while throwing his hands and legs all over the place or just engaging the crowd with playful banter and talking to them like they are old friends.  As a result the crowd in Nashville was REALLY supportive of Sabaton to the point of chanting along with the songs the band were playing and really enjoying Joakim’s funny jokes and insanity on stage. The crowd really responded to the song ‘Swedish Pagans’ where they got to chant out a big ‘Ohh oh ohhhh!  And clap their hands in time with the tune.  Great, great feedback from the crowd.  I have never seen a support band capture the audience the same way Sabaton did on this night.  I was truly amazed at the outpouring of support for the band and felt proud of Nashville for it.

The Sabaton Fans showing support!

Then we come to the headliner of the night, Finland’s very own Nightwish, a band who brought to the metal world what is called symphonic metal and operatic vocals.  Nightwish are one of the biggest bands in Europe and have a massive following there and a strong presence in the United States though not as big as in Europe overall.  So Nightwish for the past several years have been able to successfully enter the United States and tour here.  This however was the first time the band has ever been in Nashville which is truly great and shows the band is ever growing their US fan base.  Nightwish is now fronted by a new singer Floor Jansen and they are here supporting their new album, ‘Endless Forms Most Beuatiful’.  Nightwish is another band I am very familiar with and have seen them live several times and so I was eager to see them here in Nashville.

Floor Jansen of Nightwish
Floor Jansen of Nightwish

Well…I wasn’t the only one eager to see the band because the crowd in Nashville was super excited and I was very impressed with what I saw from the crowd in the response they also gave Nightwish.  Floor and the band put on very professional show and Floor engaged the crowd like any good front woman should and talked about how the heat here felt like a sauna and how they loved it.  Floor has such a great voice and a great dynamic range that I feel she fits in great as the new singer to the band overall and the fans seemed to really respond to both her, the band and the music very positively.  Though I will say this, due to the different styles of music the bands play, after Sabaton left the stage Nightwish’s vibe was a bit more relaxed so it was a bit of a cool down period after Sabaton in terms of the way the fans responded to the band. But fans were still clapping hands from the front to the back and outpouring a lot of love for the band which was great to see.

I guess if there was any kind of negative thing I have to say about this night, other than the heat, is that the acoustics of the venue seemed…well kind of odd.  It sounded like the sound from the bands were bouncing off sheets of metal giving the music a piercing sound.  I had earplugs in and that seemed to muffle that stuff out and I could hear the bands better and with better clarity.  When I removed the earplugs the sound seemed really kind of muddled and bouncing off pieces metal which was not very flattering.  So I hope the venue installs some sound dampening walls or something.

Otherwise the show was absolutely fantastic and the one biggest surprise for me was that I received a HUGE wakeup call in

Marco Hietala of Nightwish
Marco Hietala of Nightwish

terms of the support Nashville will show a metal band and not only a metal band but metal bands that will fly over from Europe to perform.  Twenty years ago these bands would have avoided Nashville like the plague and the people here would too.  Now, with the way the internet can reach people, bands like these can now enjoy a success they may not have been able to attain otherwise.

Nashville and Tennessee both, on this night you made me proud to be a metal head from the land of country music for you showed me and most importantly you showed the bands that played here on this night that metal can thrive and even flourish in places where other genres traditionally hold sway.  The Grand Ole Opry on this night got Scandinavian’s version of a metal opera.

See my interview with Nightwish HERE

See My interview with Sabaton HERE

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