Sabaton
The Great War

Much like my recent discovery of Blind Guardian, I was a late bloomer when it came to Sweden’s divisive war/history themed power metal vanguards Sabaton. It wasn’t until I randomly heard “Winged Hussars” (arguably still my favorite Sabaton track) from 2016s The Last Stand on a random spotify playlist that I became hooked. I grabbed a large amount of the band’s back discography (The Last Stand, Heroes, The Art of War, Coat of Arms,  Carolus Rex) and enjoyed the heck out of them, despite my general disdain for power metal, and eventually the band got me into other power metal bands.

That said, it became clear that Sabaton’s albums, while largely fun  and catchy as hell, often have quite a bit of filler. As much as I absolutely  fucking love some of their songs, for every  “Winged Hussars”, “The Last Stand”, “Got Mitt Uns”,  “Aces in Exile”, “To Hell and Back” , “7734” or even the cover of Stan Ridgeway’s “Camouflage” (one of my real guilty pleasures), there are a surprising amount of ‘meh’, forgetful, skipable songs like “Night Witches”, “Poltava”, “Glorious Land”, “No Bullets Fly”, “Resist and Bite”, “Last Dying Breath” and others. And that trend continues with the World War 1 themed The Great War; about 1/2 just OK Sabaton songs punctuated with moments of utterly fucking bombastic catchy brilliance.

Like Heroes dealt with heroes from the band’s favorite conflict, World War II, The Great War deals entirely with World War I and though it’s not the first time the band has dabbled in the truly great war (“The Price of a Mile”, “Cliffs of Gallipoli”, “Firestorm”) this is the band’s first album completely dedicated to the conflict. The 11 songs, 38 minute affair covers various battles, historical figures and moments of the conflict with the band’s expected over the top style and heavily researched historical accuracy.

The album starts awkwardly, to the point where after the first 2 forgettable songs, the choppy “The Future of Warfare” and  promising chorus of “Pill’s of Wisdom” (concerning Lawrence of Arabia), I’m thinking Sabaton might have written and released a dud (I wasn’t impressed with the first single “Fields of Verdun”). But then the album hits a mini run of brilliance starting with “82nd All the Way”, a fucking barnstormer of a track, that’s bound to be up there as one of the band’s best, most epic catchy numbers, especially as it has a familiar ring to it that I can’t place my finger on, but its chorus will instantly worm its way into your memory. The same can be said for the album’s other ridiculously catchy standouts “The Attack of the Dead Men” (about the siege of Osowiec Fortress) , grin inducing “Devil Dogs” (about the Battle of Belleau Wood, which and I was humming to myself instantly, reminding me of “Smoking Snakes”, another cracking Sabaton tune) and “The Red Baron”, with its cool 70s keyboards.

But like I said, there’s some forgetful numbers, along with the opening duo you get the peppy but replaceable “A Ghost in the Trenches” (a song about Francis Pegahmagabow, the war’s most prolific sniper) and dull “Fields of Verdun” later in the album. But there is also two more somber, choral songs  befitting the subject matter, the title track and  rousing, synth heavy “The End of the War to End  All Wars”, both pretty solid, slower songs. The album ends with a  a pretty stirring choral rendition of the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields”, and as someone who has been in the actual trenches at Ypres, wandered around sanctuary wood and laid a wreathe at the Menin Gate and tangibly felt the profound sense of loss that still lingers in the air, you cant help but to be moved.

2019 has been a banner year for some of Power metal’s bigger acts like Gloryhammer, Battle Beast and Beast In Black, and that continues with Sabaton’s expected war themed delivery, though I think I still prefer The Last Stand as my favorite overall album so far.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
July 8th, 2019

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