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Review

Sabaton – The Great War Review

Band: Sabaton
Album: The Great War
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Power Metal
Country: Sweden
Release Date: July 19th, 2019

So, a few disclaimers before we start. First, there are two versions of this record, and this review is for the shorter version, not the “History Version” of the album. Second, this is my first Sabaton album and one of my first complete power metal records, which means I’m going into this with no bias about the music. This will be a bit on the shorter side because I don’t want to spoil any more of this album than necessary.

Sabaton’s latest album is a concept record about the First World War, which is clear from its title. Concept albums are tricky things because they require an elevated level of creativity and commitment. A band capable of pulling this off can make something quite special, and I would say this album is just that.

The stories on this record are its main selling point. What we have here is a meticulous combination of several different war tales. Everything from the Arab Revolt (Seven Pillars of Wisdom), to the Red Baron, to the exploits of a Canadian sniper (A Ghost in the Trenches), is brought up on this album. These tracks are not surface level, and it’s clear the band had thoroughly researched the events they portrayed in their music. Sabaton treats all of these stories with a great deal of respect, and recent interviews also demonstrate that (I recommend reading the interview done on this site to get the full picture of this). While the musical presentation of this album is grand and often theatrical, the focus is never taken off the narratives. The music felt to me like a soundtrack for the various vignettes. It really places you into these scenes and each track is exhilarating in its own unique way. Most of the energy for these songs come from the vocals. Almost every song on here has a stellar and infectious hook. Songs like 82 nd All the Way, Devil Dogs, and The Red Baron absolutely explode on their hooks. Often times the vocals are accented by choirs or extra vocal layers. Devil Dogs actually employs both of these brilliantly with sailor chants at the beginning and choral vocals accenting lines throughout the song. The Attack of the Dead Men has these really odd vocal samples which I found to be a cool little touch. The closer, In Flanders Fields, is a beautiful rendition of the 1915 poem. This album is filled with respectful, tasteful, and moving stories from the First World War.

While the lyrics on this album are its strongest aspect, the music is nothing to turn your nose at. Sabaton incorporates symphonic and synthetic elements into these songs, to great effect. A Ghost in the Trenches contains sharp keys throughout, which when combined with the guitars, sound absolutely killer. These same keys appear on the title track, but the heaviness of the rest of the instrumentation makes it sound almost like a synth organ. The Red Baron has the same synth organ tones at the beginning, and I felt the thirty seconds of focus on them was a bold move. I think it really added to the song and made the rush that follows it all the more exciting. The guitars and drums on this album are also masterfully performed and always sound great when given a chance to shine.

I am truly impressed with the degree of care displayed for these stories. It’s a short record and I highly recommend giving this one a complete listen. Sabaton has made one of the best albums of the year and you don’t want to miss this.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

  1. The Future of Warfare
  2. Seven Pillars of Wisdom
  3. 82 nd All the Way
  4. The Attack of the Dead Men
  5. Devil Dogs
  6. The Red Baron
  7. Great War
  8. A Ghost in the Trenches
  9. Fields of Verdun
  10. The End of the War to End All Wars
  11. In Flanders Fields

Total Playing Time: 38:24

Click here to visit Sabaton’s Bandcamp

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