Most hosts and recurring guests of the Sixgun Network are fans of the metal band Sabaton, who regularly host an open air festival in their home town of Falun, Sweden.
In 2018 Dave, Fab and Mike went there to, amongst other things, celebrate Mike's birthday. This undertaking was named “Operation SOAP” as in “Operation Sabaton Open Air Project”. If you think there's redundancy in that name, you're not drunk enough.
On the following Day, Mike posted this summary in the Discord:
The intrepid adventurers were happy to arrive in Falun, although some buttocks and other body parts were tender/raw after a long, gruelling road trip. After scouting out the festival area, the conclusion was that facilities are excellent, the only downside being that beer has to be consumed in the bar area. The Danish festival veterans will have to find ways to mitigate the lack of actually being able to hold a beer while headbanging near the stage.
Svartsot: The Danish folk metallers were a jovial, but heavy experience. We were impressed with the band member who, like a court jester, had to play flute, bag pipe and lute while the rest of the band did the death metal thing.
Primal Fear: German Judas Priest clones Primal Fear did a competent and solid show, where the interaction with the crowd was top shelf. Frontman Ralf Scheepers impressed both on Rob Halford-like vocals and showcasing his German steel worker biceps.
Sepultura: In case people were not aware, Brazilian trash metallers Sepultura laid down the gauntlet as the loudest band of the night with their first track. The sonic assault was so severe that most of Operation S.O.A.P. fled the scene. However, Mikkel and Mike stood resolutely against the aural barrage and had a blast being blasted. Frontman Derrick Green also took the prize as Man Mountain of the night, easily toppling poor Ralf off the top spot.
Conclusion: Thursday was an excellent start to Operation S.O.A.P, being a warm-up/scouting opportunity for the weekend ahead.
This message was later extended by Fab:
Addendum to the Primal Fear review: They are probably the most meta band. In fact, Dave and me decided they should rebrand as Meta Fear. Every second song is about metal. “In metal we trust”, “metal is forever”, “metal, metal, metal, metal, metal”. The song “we run through the dust “ was a welcome change, we just didn’t understand why he’s running through the dust.
Sepultura Review: What the actual fuck. My arse hurts even more now. Also: I’m glad mike talked me into getting ear plugs.
Second day of Operation S.O.A.P. was for shifting up a gear and making sure that we would be ready for the main event on Saturday. Having been scared away by the brutal Man Mountain of Sepultura, most of our adventurers were able to get breakfast at a reasonable hour. Dave shamed us all by going to the gym as well. After breakfast we converted Per's room to a board game den and played much good stuff, such as Tyrants of the Underdark and The Blood Bowl board game. We even dusted off some old decks of Star Wars CCG.
Mike and Fab had become hyped about Hulkoff, a Viking metal outfit featuring the charismatic local, Pär Hulkoff, and we weren't disappointed. Hulkoff's vocals are comparable to a 40-ton ice truck being dragged by a tank through a small mountain pass - it's gravelly. He also does great guitar work. The rest of the band sounded excellent too, with brothers Niklas and Kalle Johansson providing positive, nay, exuberant support on bass and guitar, while their dad, Anders Johansson, ruled the thumping backdrop on drums. Hulkoff was a real treat, and we hope to see them again soon.(edited)
Occupying a gnarly spot between sleaze/trash metal and retro hard rock, Bombus was another Swedish band that especially Mike had hyped quite a bit before the festival. Unfortunately, Bombus sounded very muddy and had a hard time getting the party started. Mike left the gig early, but was reliably informed by Per that the band did manage to improve their sound and pulled off a decent performance in the final third.
Another Viking/Folk Metal group (do we sense a pattern here?), this time from the Faeroe Islands, Tyr was an unknown capacity for most of Operation S.O.A.P. although Mike had them on his list. Tyr delivered a relaxed performance, opting for a composed epic sound without the usual theatrics that other Viking Metal bands tend to prefer. Their signature sound is that all band members sing or provide background chorus, which works really well live. They also sing in English and Faeroese. A positive experience.
Another German power metal band (pattern is emerging here too) that flew a bit under the radar of the intrepid Operation S.O.A.P. Music reporter. Mike wasn't sure about the band beforehand and decided to stick to the beer tent, but Martin and Fab liked the western-styled progressive power metal tunes, which were definitely inspired by Blind Guardian and maybe even Iron Maiden. The set was delivered with enthusiasm and it seems many of Operation S.O.A.P. will go back and look up Orden Ogan's albums for a closer listen.
Most of Operation S.O.A.P did not understand why the The Darkness were included in the festival line up, but Mike wagered a round of beers that they would change their mind after the set. This English rock band, most known for their hit single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” from 2003, did seem like an oddball choice, but very quickly into their performance, it was clear that The Darkness was in Falun to have a good time and to make sure that the crowd had something to talk about afterwards. The music style is classic hard rock taken from the pages of Queen and Slade, with frontman Justin Hawkins' falsetto vocal range. The band were obviously excellent musicians and sounded like they wanted to be as loud as the metal bands. Operation S.O.A.P agent Joachim saw the bruised hands of the drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor at breakfast Saturday morning and the drummer confirmed that his hands had bled after the gig because they hadn't played for a while!
However, the real star of the show was Justin Hawkins, who interacted with the crowd, cracked jokes, employed a number of costume changes (including wearing a pair of number 10 Lothar Mattheus shorts, to Fab's utter dismay) and performed several feats, such as handstand and playing a guitar solo while being carried through the crowd. A true frontman!
Conclusion on Day 2:
A day of surprises, with Orden Ogan and The Darkness gaining the most new fans (Fab will not be a friend of Darkness, though).
Review of Day 3:
After the day of surprises, the Operation S.O.A.P. crew knew that they needed to make this day count. This was the big one! Fab had hardly got any sleep because he had been gnashing his teeth all night thinking about the defiling of Lothar Mattheus' shorts. The rest of the crew were in good spirits and got a bit starstruck when one rockstar after the other arrived at the hotel breakfast. More gaming was had in Per's den, where a Geeknews festival special was recorded and Mike celebrated commencing a fifth decade of existence. He even got cake, and some cool sunglasses which never left his face the rest of the day. The crew then tried to empty the room of beers and whiskey before heading out for the final day of shows.
Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam heads this Swedish symphonic metal band, and it was a captivating experience. Apart from fronting the band, she is a tattoo/alternative model, so Eleine definitely was the most sensual of the bands of SOA. Although the Operation S.O.A.P. crew could not agree on the merits of belly dance-esque routines while singing, the band certainly worked hard and delivered a polished show.
The Operation S.O.A.P. crew decided that they needed to cool down after Eleine, so skipped the band H.E.A.T. in favour of the beer tent. It was a worthwhile investment, because the German power metallers Powerwolf are a wild experience. Their lyrics are centred around werewolves, blood/faith and sex, so a fairly metal mix. However, it is all tongue-in-cheek (e.g. performing the song “Resurrection By Erection”) and delivered with charm by the operatic Attila Dorn. Scraping off the face paint for a moment, Powerwolf is in all seriousness a great band who know exactly what they are doing. Operation S.O.A.P. had a great time at this gig.
Finnish power pop metallers Battle Beast brought their best game to the festival. Frontwoman Noora Louhimo was on top form, making sure the crowd was engaged and their set list was all killer and no filler. Even a small power hiccup at the end of the set was handled with grace. A perfect lead in to the next band…
The main event received all the attention you could imagine. With fireworks and smoke bombs, the band launched into Ghost Division after their traditional taped intro of “In The Army Now”. What we have come to know and love from Sabaton is their high energy and sheer joy on stage, coupled with great songs and choruses and this night was no different. Joachim (band member) was in great form and talked to the audience in both English and Swedish. Fab had figured out that the Bombshell Belles, a swing jazz group, would most likely be involved because they recently covered The Last Stand, and indeed they were brought on a couple of songs in. Unfortunately, it was very hard to hear what they were singing, so their contributions to the songs remain a mystery, but at least it provided a different element to the stage show. We got to hear Carolus Rex in Swedish, and a few rarer tracks such as Gallipoli and Metal Ripper, so even for die hard fans, some things were a bit different than other shows. Many singalongs were had in the final third of the show, with Blood of Bannockburn and Winged Hussars going down well with Operation S.O.A.P. Stonking versions of Primo Victoria and To Hell And Back closed the encores and it was mission accomplished for Operation S.O.A.P. in the cloud of confetti and Sabaton blazing off the huge screen - a fitting end to a great experience in Falun.
Conclusion on Day 3:
On a day where it was maybe expected that Sabaton should have mixed up their set a bit more, Powerwolf and Battle Beast gave them a run for their money and overall it was a wonderful day of great music and great people.