SABATON are back with a new album, the last one in the line-up we’ve come to know over the past few years and albums, and once more the age-old question – can it stack up to my personal favourite “Primo Victoria”? Now I’ve been following the Falun-based brigade ever since before their first record deal with Underground Symphony and their war-themed epic Power Metal has been warming my heart ever since.
Now I had mentioned the line-up upheaval, only singer and main songwriter Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström are left, but we’ll worry about that once the next album rolls around, for now “Carolus Rex” is giving us plenty to be happy about! As mentioned, “Primo Victoria” is my favourite SABATON album ever, then “Attero Dominatus” reduced the power a little, with “The Art Of War” having some brilliant tracks, coming close to their pinnacle, but suffering from the spoken passages breaking up the flow of the album a little up to “Coat Of Arms”, which was not a bad album, but didn’t manage to grip me as much as the three previous ones.
“Carolus Rex” has now proudly entered the #2 spot and while SABATON have always been epic in almost every aspect of things (and do not mistake that with bombastic in the vein of RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) and consorts), this new album is taking the cake with this epic atmosphere that permeates all of the songs and befits the story about the Swedish Empire (the album is being released in a Swedish and an English version, btw). Don’t get me wrong here, this is still pure SABATON with all the power and grit and Metallic bravado that we have come to know and love of them as well as Jocke’s trademark bellow that will strike fear into their opponents, so all is good!
After the obligatory intro, “The Lion From The North” kicks things off in style with power, speed and grit, culminating in a big choir for the chorus, before seguing into the highly epic mid-paced track “Gott Mit Uns” (even featuring HYPOCRISY’s Peter Tägtgren’s vocal talents), which gives us a slightly different approach to the melodies, which works great and proves that Jocke can fully sing (in case that anybody had doubts ;). Something that only struck me after looking over my notes – “Carolus Rex” does not show a lot of fast tracks (“The Lion From The North” and “1 6 4 8” are the only ones), which I usually liked a lot about SABATON, but it took me a long time to even realize, with the album having taken me in so much. Even when things are slowed down, as on “A Lifetime Of War” or “The Carolean’s Prayer” and “Carolus Rex”, the epic nature of the songs remains and contains so much emotive power in connection with the heartfelt lyrics, that even people who do not like ballad-like songs can easily be swept away, since things never get sappy. And overall the lyrics are lived through the music, which follows the vibe of the story, thus making it a very efficient concept album indeed.
I can safely say that anyone, who liked the Swedes in the past will also love “Carolus Rex”, which is supported by a powerful, clear and organic production that doesn’t leave anything to be desired. Songs like “The Lion From The North”, “Gott Mit Uns” and “Carolus Rex” are among the best that SABATON have ever penned and clearly show that even after six albums the band still has plenty of power within them and while staying true to their innate sound, know how to avoid stagnancy. This without a doubt is one of 2012’s strongest Power Metal outings and we’ll have to see how the big line-up will potentially affect the band’s creative future, but if this is a grade measure, then SABATON are on to further manifesting their status at the forefront of Power Metal!
(Online May 16, 2012)