The Swedish panzer battalion codenamed Sabaton continues its quest for world domination with a sixth blitzkrieg of war themed power metal.
Formed in Falun, Sweden in 1999, it was 2005 debut album proper Primo Victoria and the D-Day based anthem of the same name that captured the metal world’s attention.
Essentially a traditional power metal band they have two major selling points over there rivals:
(1) Vocalist Joakim Brodén has a deeper and more graveled vocal range rather than the standard high pitched wailing histrionics.
(2) The lyrics, themes and imagery are all fact based on historical modern conflicts with a major focus on World War 2.
As such you get an interesting history lesson combined with fist pumping heavy metal, which for me is a double win!
Although they have covered the ‘famous’ subjects such as the afore mentioned D-Day, Stalingrad etc, they also cover less well known engagements such as ‘40:1’ a story about heroic Polish resistant to the German invasion in 1939, which by accident or by design has secured them a massive fan base in that country.
2012 saw a major lineup change and shift in focus as Carolus Rex detailed the history of the 17th Century Swedish Empire but with Heroes they are back in World War 2 territory, but take a slightly different lyrical approach as rather than describing battles and events they concentrate on specific people and regiments.
Musically it is a case of "if it’s not broke don’t fix it" as such if you have been following them up to this point you know exactly what to expect although the one noticeable tweak is the keyboards are less overt.
‘Nightwitches’ (A Russian all female bomber squadron) starts with a dramatic bang and thunders along at pace very reminiscent of their current live show opener ‘Ghost Division’, and if the big bombastic gang choruses are to go by this will also become a live show regular as well.
This great opening is followed up by the equally high tempo and anthemic ‘No Bullets Fly’, which carries the perfect emotional weight for the inspiring story it coveys (A German fighter pilot refused to shoot down an American bomber because it was too badly damaged so escorted it back to England!).
‘Smoking Snakes’ is another quick hook laden up-tempo rocker about the heroic deeds of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force on the Italian Front and how their actions changed the meaning of a countries phrase (“The Snake will Smoke was the Brazilian equivalent of ‘And Pigs will Fly”, but now it means something more affirmative and direct).
The pace is slowed down and the mood suitably darkened for ‘Inmate 4859’ about a Polish officer who infiltrated Auschwitz, and while the hook laden ‘To Hell and Back’ on the surface gives the impression of upbeat tale of heroism is actually about post-traumatic stress disorder and how even legends like Audie Murphy suffered from it.
‘The Ballad of The Bull’ is a full on lighter waving piano led ballad and although there intentions were good, for me comes across as cheesy when something more dramatic was need for the subject matter (An Australian stretcher bearer rescued wounded American soldiers whilst under fire).
‘Resist and Bite’ switches the tempo back up and is essentially a re-tread of ‘40:1’ from a Belgium perspective but is still a great song with a killer chorus, while ‘Soldier of 3 armies’ blatantly rips of riffs and melodies from earlier Sabaton songs, but the songwriting is so strong they get away with it, again especially due to the chorus.
‘Far From The Fame’ is a decent if unexceptional high tempo rocker but the album closer ‘Heart of Iron’ is also one of the strongest on the album, an anthemic mid paced power ballad that has the perfect emotional pacing and balance of lost hope and optimism as it details the final days of the Battle of Berlin from the German perspective.
Another successful dose of high quality, hook laden and informative heavy metal.