One of the most underrated bands at least within the Power Metal genre must be Swedish SABATON. They’ve been around for nine years already and still have not even remotely received the recognition they deserve, as they do not only offer quality material, but also managed to develop their own sound that makes them almost instantly recognizable as none other than SABATON, not a small feat in today’s Metal scene. One very important factor for this undoubtedly is Jocke Brodén’s characteristic voice, quite a bit rougher than your average guy while still maintaining a very melodic quality, but it is not only that, the vocal harmonies and way they structure their choruses as well as their lyrics set them further apart.
Power Metal lyrics often are equated with fantastic battles, dragons, knights and unicorns and while battles also play an integral part of SABATON’s lyrics, they are far from being fantastic, quite the contrary, they are taking on the realities of historic wars, such as World War II, but thankfully without glorifying wars, rather pointing out the hardships and consequences, if you really listen to the lyrics and actually let them sink in, comprehending what the soldiers had to go through back then, it can actually be a pretty chilling experience.
But on to the album at hand, their fourth to date. What has changed compared to the previous masterpiece “Attero Dominatus” (not counting in the re-release of their previously unreleased “Metalizer” album)? Nothing really, the Swedes still deliver the same sweeping brand of Power Metal with epic keyboards, the already mentioned characteristic roar of Brodén, choirs and pretty unique vocal harmonies and choruses, but still they do not sound like a copy of themselves, but maintain a healthy balance between nice crunch and longevity on the one side, but gripping utterly memorable melodies and immediate catchiness that has kept this CD spinning in my player for many days now.
The keyboard-supported, sweeping opener “Ghost Division”, the brooding “The Art Of War”, the irresistible choir in the chorus of “40:1”, the epic grandeur of “Panzerkampf” or the incredible melodies of “The Price Of A Mile” (that chorus will haunt you for days and days and days, if that’s not an anthem, then I don’t know anymore, play this one in the car with the windows open, singing along at the top of your lungs, works well! And if you listen to the lyrics, you can hear and feel the bleakness and futility of war, very well done.), all of them great tracks and the ones that I have not mentioned yet are not shabby by any means either, just the spoken passage talking about excerpts of Sun Tzu’s 2500 year old book “The Art Of War” break the flow of the album a little, but that is a minor complaint!
For the production, I just have to say “Tägtgren” and that’ll take care of that, one of the best Power Metal releases in quite a while and original to boot, if you like this stuff, BUY IT!
(Online May 26, 2008)