Strangely enough, I don’t need Sweden’s Sabaton to teach me about War; I’m old enough to have actually had an education, and I’m curious enough to augment that education by (I know, right?) reading books about things I’m interested in. Which makes the narration parts they’ve decided to foist upon the listener again at the start and end of their new album – it’s about World War One, again – faintly laughable as the Woman’s voice – designed to add gravitas but executed to sound like the start of a ‘Total War’ franchise off cut – intones the headlines from August 1914.
Pro tip – if you want to hear a really good hard rock band singing about the first World War, you can’t go far wrong – ever – with Brit rockers Magnum‘s songs on the subject. Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley wrench more emotion, more soul and more humanity out of a single phrase than Sabaton will ever manage in a thirty-volume thesis on the subject. FACT.
What makes all this more galling is the fact that, a mere decade ago, Sabaton were making great albums like Carolus Rex that sounded fresh and alive; Sabaton were a vital force to be reckoned with on the Euro power metal scene. Now, that template is well worn, and, on tracks like Soldier of Heaven, rendered virtually unlistenable thanks to it’s well worn familiarity. There just isn’t enough fire, soul or, well, talent in the vocal approach of Joakim Brodén to sustain anything more than a passing interest, which throws the weight of carrying the album squarely on the shoulders of the rest of the band; In places, they pull it off. Stormtroopers is a bracing enough track, and guitarists Tommy Johansson and Chris Rörland both give a good account of themselves throughout; they’ve probably been mentioned in dispatches down at Sabaton HQ for their solos on tracks like the afore-mentioned Stormtroopers and Hellfighters, the only two tracks here really fit to engage with the band’s at-times impressive back catalogue.
By all chart position reports, more conscripts than ever are flocking to Sabaton’s banner, but by putting them straight on starvation rations with the sort of empty-carb metal to be found on TWTEAW it’s hard to see the band replenishing the casualty lists of long time listeners with new soon-to-be-rusted-on fans in it for the long haul after listening to this album.
The War To End All Wars is out now.