Sabaton
Heroes

Whenever in need of a new power metal fix, Sabaton has been my go-to band ever since I’ve been high and addicted on Pervitin and their 2008 standout album The Art of War. The hot frying pan of hot lead and tracer rounds is dripping of tasty cheese with the slightly perverted combination of perfectly executed power metal, at times jolly compositions and lyrics about the darkest depths and times of the human condition. For whatever reason, Sabaton is offering something in such a fine-tuned overall package it’s near impossible not to like it.

Whereas the band’s previous album Carolus Rex concentrated on Swedish history and Charles XII, the new album Heroes sees Sabaton return to the more modern times as they educate the listener about various heroic personalities of outfits from World War 2. For example, opener “Night Witches” is about a Soviet bomber regiment and “Inmate 4859”, probably the darkest sounding tune on the 37-minute album, has vocalist Broden roll out his teutonic sounding R’s as he lectures us about Witold Pilecki who led the resistance movement in Auschwitz. The fastest and fiercest track on the album “Soldier of 3 Armies” speaks of the legend that is Lauri Törni, aka Larry Thorne; a Finn who fought the communist horde in three different armies throughout the years, before seeing his demise in a freak helicopter accident during the early years of the Vietnam War. John Wayne played a role loosely based on him in the 1968 movie Green Berets, but I digress.

Musically, at first light Heroes doesn’t deviate from the battle plan, like, at the fuck all and some might be offended and accuse the band of playing it too safe. Personally, I don’t mind it too much as Sabaton still does their spiel rather flawlessly; speedy power metal attacks spearheading the way while a few slower, anthemic metal ballads provide indirect fire to cover the movement. Seven albums in, there’s been enough variation to keep the Swedish fighting force battle efficient.

With that being said however, Heroes, does seem a bit less intoxicating from the predecessors, even if first time through I was grinning at the over-the-top ridiculousness, ruthlessly performed without showing the tongue in cheek. But closer recollection during a lull from the battle, there’s no denying that the first three tracks, while competent, are ultimately a bit meh in the grand scheme of things: The aforementioned “Night Witches” seems like a neutered version of The Art of War’s epic first round, “Ghost Division”. The follow-up, “No Bullets Fly” is a rather basic Sabaton tune that doesn’t seem to stick out for long, even if there’s an addicting “Killing machine!” shout in the chorus. The third track, “Smoking Snakes”, doesn’t improve things either as it’s probably the least interesting song in the tensome. Then there’s the aptly named “The Ballad of the Bull” that sees Sabaton dig through the cold corpse of Manowar for their belongings. The realization appears a bit like shooting a fly with an M114 howitzer, missing the subtlety and restraint Manowar was able to provide still in songs like “Heart of Steel” or “Master of the Wind”.

Yet, the rest of the time, Heroes sees Sabaton turbocharge their panzerwagen like they were on an excellent adventure with Bill and Ted through times of conflict and war. Tracks like “Resist and Bite”, the previously mentioned “Soldier of 3 Armies” and “Far From the Fame” do wonders to lift up the album. Then there’s a certain playful quality to tracks like “To Hell and Back”, which has some spaghetti western meddling going on, and on the closure “Hearts of Iron”, where Sabaton lob around in some J.S Bach’s “Air” to the mix right after stripping any traces of melancholy out of it — even while they’re lecturing about how the German forces of 9th and 12th armies protected the fleeing soldiers and civilians so they could escape the bloodthirsty Soviets and surrender to the Western forces.

Sabaton are pretty much the only thing resembling an audiobook rendition of the British Commando comic books, so either you like the pulpy, bombastic entertainment or you don’t, as Heroes won’t suddenly convert any deserters that the outcomes of war can be scary charming. For those in on it though, Heroes provides an enjoyable new set of lore to sing along to, crafted with skill and passion. In its whole, Heroes might not rise up to the accolades of the previous war efforts, but it’s a serviceable album that offers shiny highlights that’ll keep Sabaton’s live arsenal fresh and their chamber loaded.

Yet, I cannot help but feel that the Swedes might soon be headed too deep behind enemy lines and, depending on the next few albums, eventually face the junction where Manowar chose wrong as it got blinded by its own true metal schtick and forgot about actually writing a variety of quality tunes as they foolhardily chased for epicness — only to find themselves in a punchline.

Oh yeah. Speaking of Manowar in the bucketloads, there’s a few different versions of the album, one which has a whole 20-minute bonus disc dedicated to bonus tracks, and among those tracks lies “Man of War” — a tribute to the self acclaimed kings of metal. Quite fitting. The rest of the bonus tracks include Sabaton’s versions of Raubtier’s “En Hjaltes Vag”, Battle Beast’s “Out of Control” and one “For Whom the Bell Toll” and finally a reworked version of the band’s own “7734” from their Metalizer album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
May 26th, 2014

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