Over their 20 years of existence, Sabaton have told countless tales based on the heroic deeds of men and women when faced with war. Their 9th studio full-length ‘The Great War’ is no different, once again recalling stories of the war, it still sounds very Sabaton. If you were not a fan of their rhyming lyrical tales and power metal solos, the new album is unlikely to change your opinion. But, if you have never given them a listen below, ‘The Great War’ ticks all the right boxes to make you fall for the storytelling style Sabaton have perfected over the years.
Sabaton are not new to concept albums, but this is the first time the band has done a complete album based entirely on the First World War. ‘The Great War’ takes us back a hundred years. We at Metal-Wani had the privilege to be invited to Verdun to listen to the new album and are happy to share our first impressions with our readers our track by track first impressions.
The album literally and sonically kicks off with “The Future of Warfare”. The pounding drums and guitar riffs make it sound similar to the opening shots of a battle. It’s easy to see why the band went with this as the opener, as it quickly pumps up the adrenaline in the listener. The dual guitar attack gets one tapping their foot for the rest of the album ahead. Building on the opener, but picking up even more pace is “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The track even when heard in isolation from the rest of the album, will instantly announce itself as a Sabaton track. Joakim’s narrative vocals, catchy chorus, galloping solos, this one has them all.
“82nd All The Way” brings in a slight change in the sound, mixing old-school traditional heavy metal influences into the music. Very true to the style of Sabaton, the track has a catchy chorus that absorbs you into the story of Sergeant York that track narrates. Sabaton continues their journey into new sonic territories with “The Attack of the Dead Men”. Kicking off with pounding drum beats, it feels like it’s trying to warn us of the attack ahead. Employing a catchy fast/hard-slow/melodic alternative pacing, it’s easy to find oneself grooving along to the music. Up next, “Devil Dogs” manages to incorporate elements of thrash metal. Fast paced and chaotic in nature, akin to being caught in a battlefield. The chorus in the second half of the track is perfect for when you are feeling low, as it will give you the urge to get up and give life another shot.
The next two tracks are probably the most powerful tracks on the album, and are bound to be sung across arenas as Sabaton embark on ‘The Great Tour’. Coming up first, “The Red Baron” is a groovy monster, with the interweaved vocals and guitars are a delight to listen to. The smooth transitions from a solo on the keys, giving way to the dual guitar attack, will get the most unattentive listener bobbing their head along. It is probably the most non-Sabaton sounding track the band has ever done. On the other hand, the title track “Great War” is instantly reminiscent of Sabaton classics such as “Carolus Rex” and “Primo Victoria”. Symphonic in nature, it feels like a track that would be played in the background, as the troops marched into war. As a side note, the cheeky lyrics “Great tour. There will be no encore. Play the great score”, may make this the track Sabaton choose as the last song on the setlist on their tour ahead!
The final third of the album starts with “A Ghost in the Trenches”. By now one has a fair idea of what the album holds. The track sticks to the tropes of traditional power metal, picking pace as it proceeds. The instrumental section stands out, as it feels like it’s plucked out of a war movie soundtrack. The tragic tale of “Fields of Verdun” showcases the storytelling capabilities the band possesses. With hints of elements of NWOBHM, the catchy chorus is bound to get many to sing along.
The end of the First World War was supposed to be “The End of the War to End All Wars”. Today we know better. The track feels like a ballad composed in memory of the lives lost and the destruction caused. The orchestra is reminiscent of both the impact the past has had and the learning from the war with hopes of a better future. The album closes with the famous poem “In Flanders Field”, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. Sung by Floor Jansen, it reminds one of the negativity associated with war. The composition has a melancholic beauty, providing the perfect end to the album.
Will this be Sabaton’s best work till date? Will it rival the already amazing legacy of this band’s earlier albums? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain — Sabaton have delivered a powerful album with ‘The Great War’ and are ready to once again stamp their mark in the realm of heavy metal. The album releases on 19 July via Nuclear Blast Records and can be pre-ordered here.