Sabaton - Heroes - (9/10)
Published on April 30, 2014
Back to the basics – the Sabaton war machinery is taking aim again…
Following up a huge album is, to say the least, an unenviable task, because you pretty much set yourself up for failure, trying to top it. Enter Sweden’s Sabaton and their follow-up to 2012’s massive Carolus Rex. It was their probably magnum epos, big, epic, huge choirs, this equally huge atmosphere, so they were tasked with forging a worthy successor and now I hold Heroes in my hands and it does so not sound like Carolus Rex…
While this statement may seem like a disappointment from my end, read on, because Sabaton have done pretty much the only thing that made sense: They did not even try to outdo their masterpiece, but went into a different direction, but at the same time staying as Sabaton as it comes. Heroes is the first album after the big line-up shake-up that saw two thirds of the band start up Civil War and it is taken a far more direct and down-to-earth approach to the band’s very own style, gone are the big choirs (mostly), but yet Heroes is probably exactly the album the Swedes had to make to move forward.
All the Sabaton elements are still there, Jocke Brodén’s gruff yet melodic voice, the epic character of the songs, the war-themed lyrics, the crunch in the guitars, so there is no mistaking this for a different band, and it works, marking a distinct separation to the previous effort. And from the get-go the different attitude is evident, with “Night Witches” thundering out of the speakers, powerful, at times aggressive, with a very good and restrained use of the choir, great way to kick off the album in style. The Swedes walk the fine line between keeping their epic element and avoiding bombast (for the most part), which suits them well, “Smoking Snakes” shows a little more choir, but stays fully in line with their MO anno 2014, love the harmony solo they threw in here, too! “Inmate 4859” brings us a darker atmosphere (fitting the lyrics), “To Hell and Back” is Sabaton at their catchiest, but “Resist and Bite” is where the gentlemen from Falun strike gold again with the arpeggios that frame the track, intense yet catchy, love this! And they also have their token quality ballad in “The Ballad of Bull” and closer “Hearts of Iron”, which probably is the most epic the Swedes get on Heroes.
As relatively toned down as Heroes is, it clears Sabaton to either continue down the same route or embrace a more bombastic and grand epos, since they have achieved closure to Carolus Rex, so it can almost be viewed as a kind of cleansing album and what a cleanse it is! The more straightforward approach could bring them new fans or bring old ones back (right, Matt?), while some critics will chastise the band for stripping their sound of some integral elements of the previous album, but to be honest, why set yourself up for failure right from the get-go?
Heroes is the album Sabaton had to make to be able to move on and the quality is there. This is as Sabaton as it gets, love it or leave it!