Hard Album Review: Sabaton – The Great War 8.8

  • Sabaton
  • The Great War
  • Power Metal
  • Sweden
  • July 19, 2019
  • Nuclear blast
  • 8.8/10

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the newest session in our history course with professor Sabaton. This session we intend to cover aspects of the First World War, also known as “the war to end all wars”. Throughout this session, we discuss the innovations introduced in this period, the extraordinary acts of heroism, the renowned generals and troops, and game-changing events among other issues. Brace yourselves; the class is about to begin.

Artwork by the prolific Péter Sallai

The latest Sabaton album, their ninth LP, is what one might expect from the band, a brand of military power metal that, among other albums of the band, focuses solely on the theme of war, but this time around, they have put forward a full-fledged concept album, the core concept of which is the murky and mortifying epoch of WWI. Music-wise, they have the familiar sound of powerful army drumming, catchy riffs, enticing choruses, and powerful singing. However, that is not all; they have straightforward symphonic metal elements, certainly more that tinges, which add flavor to the meal. But if you are expecting to be served a whole different dish, you are plainly mistaken.

And that is much preferred, I would say. 20 years into their career and they are undisputedly among the top modern-day power metal bands and they execute top notch musicianship and sterling lyricism. And I would pretty much like them to keep at it and produce more of the same material with such superlative quality. A smart band would know when the time is ripe to change tracks before they start to sound mundane and dreary; but more importantly, they would be aware how to wander off a bit from their path one step (or leap according to their prerequisites and visions) at a time so as to never get to the point of no return, where they have to abandon everything and start from the scratch. Sabaton have proven themselves as truly clever in their career choices thus far and they are the actualization of the promising band they were introduced as.

The ritualistic, folk opening of “The Attack of the Dead Men” or the theatrical-and-at-the-same-time-liturgical sound of “The Red Baron” guarantee the diversity of sound. Not to mention that “The End of the War to End All Wars” is an unfeigned act of symphonic metal. To top that, In “Flanders Fields” (the eminent war poem) is sung in a choir and without any instrumentation, much to create an alienating effect in the listener as the band is entirely detached from the song; to some extent, this track gives voice to the fallen, the voiceless, the faceless and even nameless plethora of soldiers who lost their lives in the way of their power-thirsty warlords and delusional warmongers. I doff my hat to the band for their decision.

One thing I admire about the band and their approach toward the issue of war, specifically on this album, is that they, contrary to what one might expect, do not glorify the horrors of war. After listening to the songs, you would not feel like you should go grab a gun and open fire on the adversary. Rather, you would regard this album as a documentary, a historical lesson to get educated on this particular topic. The title track, “Great War”, and “The End of the War to End All Wars” are clear testimonies to this assertion.

Nevertheless, one may intend to cast aside all lyrical and thematic aspects of the album and listen to the album solely with the purpose of musical gratification. For such listeners, the album is outright heavy and yet amusing. Guitar solos (by Chris Rörland and Tommy Johannson), and even the organ solo (on The Red Baron), are truly skillful; you can headbang to almost all of the riffs (In Flanders Fields excluded of course); there are quite a handful of singalongs in choruses, the drumming (by Hannes van Dahl) is on par, making possible the overall militaristic ambience of the album. Other instruments – keyboards, strings, organ, piano, and even full orchestration – have been utilized to reap maximal benefit from them. What’s more, Joakim Brodén behind the mic has displayed his ability to sing in a variety of styles, which is even augmented by the frequent use of choir.

All in all, it is a highly recommended album with several highlights which are worth listening to over and over again. Besides the ever-present quality of Sabaton’s music, that is its educational and informative nature, this album is a worthwhile work of metal art. Before finishing this review off, I would like to mention one drawback that I could find with this album, and that is its shortness of its individual songs. It is such a shame that each song comes to a close this soon and that I am deprived of more music, and in turn lyrics. Still, it is nothing much to complain.

Class dismissed!

Highlights: Seven Pillars of Wisdom – Fields of Verdun – The Red Baron – Great War – The End of the War to End All Wars

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