With a career based on stories of warfare and combat throughout the ages, it was only a matter of time until Swedish power metallers Sabaton returned to focus on one specific event in particular. Having previously dealt with different aspects of World War II on Coat of Arms in 2010 and on 2014’s Heroes (both Nuclear Blast), the band have turned their attentions this time towards World War 1 on latest offering, The Great War (Nuclear Blast).
No stranger to the subject through songs such as ‘The Price of a Mile’, ‘Angels Calling’ and ‘The Lost Battalion’, the band have now turned those standalone ideas into a full concept, even beginning the recording process on November 11th 2018, exactly one hundred years after the end of that cataclysmic conflict.
Immediately recognisable in every way imaginable as Sabaton, the band deliver exactly what you expect, as compactly and robustly as ever. Short, snappy, extremely well researched songs with simple riffs, a driving rhythm section and insistent choruses. From the unsurprisingly militaristic bombast of ‘The Future of Warfare’, to the Lawrence of Arabia themed ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, everything is entirely as anticipated, just with differing degrees of success.
’82nd All the Way’ features some serious hooks, even if it does borrow from ‘Wasted Time’ by German act Edguy along the way. ‘Attack of the Dead Men’ is uptempo but dark and immediately stands out as a future favourite, while ‘Devil Dogs’, with its relentless US flag-waving and chest-beating is a dud saved only by a superb middle section and some excellent fretwork. However, even the grumpiest of detractors will surely have to begrudgingly nod their approval at the irresistible uptempo swing and Deep Purple keyboards of ‘The Red Baron’.
The darkly dynamic title track is followed by the standard Sabaton thump of ‘A Ghost in the Trenches’ before the album climaxes emphatically with the powerful ‘Fields of Verdun’, and ‘The End of the War to End All Wars’. A traditional rendition of ‘In Flanders Fields’ follows quietly behind, serving as a coda to the largely magniloquent proceedings in the same sombre manner as the poppy fields sequence in the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.
The addition of Reinxeed/Majestica guitarist Tommy Johansson appears to have given the band more in the way of vocal power this time, his tenor voice backing up the unmistakably gravel throated Joakim Brodén, accentuating certain choruses as well as creating more room for keyboards and flowery choral backing.
As with many records such as this, the concept does tend to outweigh the content at times (the “History Edition” version of the album even includes explanatory narration at the beginning of each songs for that little extra touch of gravitas), but The Great War is still an enjoyable enough experience, and one certain to keep their horde of adoring fans happy until the next time.
6 / 10