First of all, the cover art for Sabaton’s new album The Great War is phenomenal; successfully encapsulating the pain, the sorrow and the sacrifice that the soldiers of World War 1 had to endure; with death, destruction and terror all around them. This album manages to weave a lyrical and musical journey through the notorious history of that Great War, in fact, the title track “Great War” puts this into sublime musical form with emotive lyrics and guitars that manage to feel epic and yet stay placid and respectful. It’s a hard effect to articulate into the written word, but listen to it and you’ll see what I mean!
Heading straight in with the intro track “The Future of Warfare,” it is traditional in that it sounds like Sabaton in their own unique way and although some listeners can draw parallels with fellow European metallers Powerwolf, it is difficult to describe the style of these bands to someone who has never heard them. It’s heavy power metal, but with immensely strong vocals that bring the grand theatrics to the listener’s stereo system without ever needing to leave the house. That is why without a doubt, Sabaton and Powerwolf alike are at home in such epic surroundings as arenas and festivals; fewer smaller venues are able to encapsulate their aura.
As with most Sabaton releases, the macabre subject matter is approached with respect and empathy; whilst a robust release is crafted from within the delicate theming. It also manages to sound epic at any volume, with singer Joakim Broden's unique, powerful vocals and that characteristic Sabaton sound that I struggle to pigeon-hole. Along with all of this, there is also some top-notch production and spectacular musicianship. To me, the vocals sound as though they're pegged above the rest of instruments slightly but the album remains slick and seamless in its execution. The songs are full of crisp instrumentation underneath the distinctive vocals, jam-packed with epic guitar solos, powerful and emotional lyrics, and somewhat controversial theming to the uninitiated.
The first single released off of The Great War was “Fields of Verdun,” Watch the atmospheric music video.
Sabaton do seem to be playing it safe with these new releases with tracks that follow their familiar ilk of the past, although “The Red Baron” and “In Flanders Fields” do bring an intriguing new angle to their discography. The interesting use of what I believe to be synthesizers or organs in the intro of “The Red Baron” sounds almost like a harpsichord in nature, and will manage to raise an eyebrow of the listener as they begin to wonder what they're listening to... before the frantic metal slams into action with hard guitars and a punchy drum beat to knock you off your seat. It echoes the feel of “Poltava” from 2012 concept album Carolus Rex with a familiar beat and catchy chorus; whereas “In Flander's Fields” goes off on an entirely different tangent altogether. It's an emotional finale to this chaotic and manic album; reminding the listeners of the terror that befell the Earth in those four long years. This is all undertaken by an angelic-sounding choir that recites John McRae's famous poem of the same name remembering the one million soldiers that were wounded, missing or killed in action on the main battlefield, and the stoic poppies that were one of the only plants to grow on the devastated and war-torn landscape that saw such grievous bloodshed.
For tracks that follow more of the usual Sabaton DNA excluding the aforementioned, then look no further than to “82nd All The Way,” “Great War” and “Fields of Verdun” for catchy choruses and more incredible lyrics for some of the strongest tracks on this release. Whilst the album is indeed robust in its execution, getting the feet tapping with its epic atmosphere and astronomical wall of instrumentation, only the songs mentioned stand out as groundbreaking. For a more conclusive introduction to the Sabaton experience, it would be wise to check out the aforementioned Carolus Rex and 2014's Heroes as a pair of compelling releases. That said,Great War still manages to deliver as an intriguing and well-composed record that will surely delight battle-hardened Sabaton fans in the UK and beyond.
Released last week, the title track for The Great War was released as the third single and music video.
The Great War Track Listing:
01. The Future of Warfare
02. Seven Pillars of Wisdom
03. 82nd All the Way
04. The Attack of the Dead Men
05. Devil Dogs
06. The Red Baron
07. The Great War
08. A Ghost in the Trenches
09. Fields of Verdun
10. The End of the War to End All Wars
11. In Flanders Fields
Run Time: 38:27 Release Date: July 19, 2019 Record Label: Nuclear Blast