History and war are not new to the realm of heavy metal, countless bands have sung songs of praise for the brave, but for Sabaton it has become a part of their identity, it defines them. Their war-themed anthems have allowed millions of fans to discover heroes of the past and have simultaneously filled festival arenas by the thousands. Celebrating their 20th anniversary, the band decided to do something different for promoting their new album ‘The Great War’. Inviting 40 journalists, the band set up camp in the historic town of Verdun (in the north of France) over a weekend this April. We at Metal Wani were lucky to be in attendance, to not only get the chance to listen to the new album but experience it in an atmosphere unlike any other before.
To the uninitiated Verdun is a place etched in history books forever, with the Battle of Verdun being the longest battle of the First World War. Lasting over 300 days, from 21 February to 18 December 1916, it was between the German and French armies. In the words of Indy Neidell “While the First World War was fought across multiple locations, but just studying and observing Verdun provides a microcosm view of the much bigger war.”
So why here? First World War is not new to the realm of Sabaton and they were quick to point this out in the very first interaction, as we all converged at the picturesque Les Jardins du Mess. They have in their back-catalog, track such as “Angels Calling” and “Price of a Mile”, but the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War last year prompted them to hit the studio to record ‘The Great War’, a concept record entirely based on events and martyrs of the war a century ago.
Before giving us a flavor of what the new album held musically, we were first provided a lesson in history with a visit to the Verdun Memorial Museum. Housing not only the relics but a storyline of the evolution of the war, it helped all of us gain a better understanding of the events that took place a century ago. Also on the itinerary were, the historical battle site of Fort Douaumont and the Douaumont ossuary memorial. While beautiful to the eye, one remembered the thousands who died on these fields. “The landscape seems so peaceful with the hills around Douaumont covered with flowers. And yet, this peaceful land is scarred by the fierce fighting that has taken place here” said Pär Sundström.
The surprise on this tour across Verdun’s attractions was having the TimeGhost team tagging along! TimeGhost consists of Indy Neidell and Co. who first put together the famous YouTube series also titled ‘The Great War’ which covered the events of the First World War week-by-week until November 2018. The team has been involved in multiple projects since then, including the Sabaton History Channel. The YouTube channel started earlier in 2019, covers various Sabaton songs where the band chips in their recording and touring stories, while Indy and his team at TimeGhost cover the historical aspects of each track. To get a flavor of the same, one can check out the episode for “Fields of Verdun” from the upcoming album! Indy and his team brought even greater insights into the historic importance of not just Verdun but First World War in the history of mankind.
The second day started with the most important part of the tour, the listening session for the new album. While we will cover the album in greater depth in the coming weeks, I can say right here it’s an absolute banger! While still keeping the Sabaton power-metal DNA at its core, the sound shows a clear sign of progression. The flow and structure on the record had me hooked from start to end.
With the weather turning cold, we all headed towards the destroyed village of Ornes, where upon arrival we were greeted with snowfall (in April!). The band members joked on how they had to pay a lot to get the Scandinavian weather this south, before heading to the ruins for photoshoots alongside the militaries of Le Poilu de la Marne. It was great to see a few local fans join at the site, to take photos and autographs with the band members.
To cap off the trip, everyone came together, the writers, Nuclear Blast representatives, the Replica Promotions team, the TimeGhost members and of course Sabaton for a dinner together, to celebrate the new album and Sabaton’s 20 years of existence. From Indy’s never-ending commentary to Tommy Johansson’s undefeated streak as the fastest person to down a beer, we all went home with memories to cherish and the tunes of the new Sabaton album ringing in our ears louder than ever before!