Sabaton is a phenomenon. On the one hand, this band maybe is one of the best live bands which enters the stages in concert halls and festivals. They have a great stage presence and they know how to motivate their fans and some dudes who are only there just out of curiosity to watch, to engage in this show with singing and dancing. On the other hand, I don’t know any other band that causes that many eye rolls from metalheads if someone says that he or she likes their music, live performances or other stuff of this band from Falun named after a knight’s foot armour.
Nevertheless, the success of this band is undisputed. Published in time for the 20-year band anniversary they release their ninth album The Great War. A special present from the band was the single release “Bismarck” on 22th of April, which doesn’t find its way on this album, but opens the way for this release. It’s logical that “Bismarck” is not part of the Album, the theme is the First World War from 1914-1918, which ended 101 years ago. In an interview, lead singer Joakim Brodèn said, they had the idea for the First World War as an album topic a long time, because it was a very dark and tragic period for humanity. That doesn’t surprise, their last albums always were theme-based; Heroes from 2014 sings about heroic tales of soldiers, The Last Stand from 2016 about inferior battles where the bravery and valour of the participants is the main topic. Now the Great War, the first big social disaster from the last century.
The Album starts with the song “The Future of Warfare”, a reminiscent story about the first tanks in the history of warfare. What instantly attracts attention is Joakim Brodèns voice, maybe one of the most recognizable voices in mainstream Metal. With the line “Standing in the line of fire” he sets the tone for the rest of the album. With “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” I needed a few seconds to know what the topic is: Lawrence of Arabia. And after you know that, for the rest of the song I couldn’t get the face of Peter O’Toole out of my head. In the end, it’s a typical Sabaton song, I missed a little a play with Arabian background sounds, a missed opportunity to make something different. The third song will be something that the US fans will love, “82nd All the Way” about an American war hero has a good chorus which you can hook instantly. “The Attack of the Dead Man” and “Devil Dogs” are totally common Sabaton songs, nothing special or something which needs a special look. “The Red Baron” tells us the story about the flying ace Manfred von Richthofen. First, I was very confused about the hurdy-gurdy sound in the beginning, until it comes in my mind: “Yes, he was the founder of ‘The Flying Circus’!”, a very nice detail in this song, but after the first verse this sound is still very prominent and becomes annoying. Too bad, because the song goes, like it’s said about the Red Baron in the song, higher and higher, but maybe they “flying too fast and (they are) flying too high” with it. The next song “Great War” is about the whole war itself, about the suffer from the soldiers in the trenches, there isn’t really a glory or a heroic sacrifice which could be told in their homeland. A very powerful and emotional song in a typical Sabaton style. A stamping beat in combination with Brodèns prominent voice. I am sure it will get a safe spot on the new concert setlist for this summer. For me, in this song the very prominent keyboard background isn’t really a problem, it gets absorbed by the background chorus which is in combination a positive attribute. After that, again a mainstream Sabaton song: “A Ghost in the Trenches”, but with a more significant guitar sound then the songs before. “Fields of Verdun” feels a lot like a copy from the song “Great War”, just only without the dominant chorus, but also without a dominant and bothersome keyboard sound. A little more powerful about the experience from the French soldiers about the 303 days long famous Battle of Verdun. Here Sabaton again shows us their willingness to give us some interesting details: with “father and son” they are telling us that the French army drafted French men until the age of 45, father and sons sometimes have to fight side by side and maybe both weren’t able to go back home to their families. But this detail doesn’t help to dub the fact, it’s again very typical Sabaton. The last two songs deserve big thumbs up: “The End of the War to End All Wars” starts with very emotional sounds until it breaks out in guitar sounds and a background chorus. Brodèns voice sounds different, more aggressive, but also with a thoughtful touch. A song which is in my opinion a good reminder of the First World War and which impressed me the most on this album, is the outro “In Flanders Fields”, which is not only a Sabaton song, it’s one of the most famous British war poems of the Great War as well: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.”
In the end, the album is more of the same. It’s nothing special in the history of the band, you can change any song from this album with a song from the last two albums, it would not really matter. But I am sure the Sabaton fans will like it. This band knows what they have to do to entertain their fanbase. And the vocals of Joakim Brodèn are still very good. I like his voice, his power and clearness. It’s not surprising that this band has a place between all the other headliners of the festivals. But for me, someone who likes some songs but not the complete work, it’s just nothing new, nothing special, nothing what really surprises me beside the last two songs of The Great War. But I have to admit, again a lot of songs have catchy parts which push you to raise your fist in the air.
Their 20-year anniversary will get a big special show in Wacken this August 2019. Brodèn announced, it will be “extra-long, extra-big, extra-everything.” They will do everything to make it the best show they ever made and I am sure they will. I would like to see it.
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As usual, we added the two favorite tracks to our Transcended Review Playlist.