The time has finally come for SABATON to unleash their ninth record: “The Great War”. Despite a lengthy career of two decades, the Swedish metal heroes are showing no sign of slowing down, and they prove that they’re here to stay by delivering their biggest, boldest, most bombastic blast of metal in years. Other than slamming the epic pedal to the fucking floor, “The Great War” separates itself from SABATON’s prior works by hanging a darker atmosphere over the music, as well as putting more emphasis on classical scales, especially in its guitar solos.
That being said, it is still very much a SABATON album; it’s commercially-viable, catchy, thumping heavy metal. There’s definitely a progression from previous albums, but the songs all either reuse (or are combinations of) the same structure, chord progressions, scales, tunes, or licks present in previous albums to maintain their trademark sound. While most of the songs on the album still manage to stand out as notably fucking awesome, tracks like “Devil Dogs” and “82nd All the Way”, are almost distractingly derivative of older material.
But, as I said, the rest of the album has some absolute gems. It begins with the ominous chorus of “The Future of Warfare” before pounding out into some of the best drumwork in SABATON history (I mean both in the song and the entire album. Seriously. Hannes Van Dal has no fucking chill and it really pays off). The two most experimental songs are probably “The Attack of the Dead Men” and “The End of the War to End All Wars”, which erupts into the record’s ultra-epic, operatic climax before closing with a beautiful rendition of “In Flanders Fields”.
As far as my own personal favourite goes, I have to give it to “A Ghost in the Trenches”. It’s a steady, blood-boiling onslaught of energy, and the extra bars of 3 at the end of the verses is a really cool touch. Other top contenders (other than the entirety of the album) are “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and the aforementioned “The Attack of the Dead Men”; they play a bit more outside of the box and offer a bit more than your typical Sabaton experience.
Complete with a salvo of headbangable tunes and Joakim Broden‘s iconic vocals, “The Great War” is everything I wanted and more. It easily stands with “Carolus Rex” as the band’s best. The only reason I don’t score this album a ten (for myself, it is a ten) is because of the lack of originality in places. It’s not like anybody expects or even wants much originality from SABATON, but it brings the score down nonetheless. Regardless, be wary when giving this record a spin, because you won’t want to turn it off.
Originally written by Kane for powerthorn.com.