Sabaton has produced a plethora of celebrated songs in their own unique fashion focussed primarily around the history of warfare and is hosts of notable protagonists, but evidently, the band has chosen their 20th anniversary year to deliver their very finest collection in The Great War.
It always seemed inevitable that Sabaton would eventually tackle an entire time period or conflict for a concept album and, as Joakim Brodén explained to me recently, the subject such as The Battle of Passchendaele in The Price of a Mile and Cliffs of Gallipoli eleven years ago for their 2008 offering The Art of War.
Despite the band’s history of successfully melding heavy metal music and factual historical events and our lofty expectations for this concept collection, Sabaton has managed to achieve new levels of brilliance with this heaving behemoth of an album, worthy of the august title, The Great War.
The collection itself is available for pre-order in three formats, namely Standard Edition consisting of the songs in sequence, The Soundtrack Edition sans vocals and lyrics altogether and The Historical Edition.
The Historical Edition complete with short narrations is the pick of the three for me although it makes perfect sense to buy all three in their box set, The Great Box edition. The narrations afford this album an additional dimension of appeal for the Sabaton faithful and history buffs alike. To supplement the brilliant lyrics that Sabaton have always managed to create, bursting with historical accuracies and period terminology, the narrations bless us with more historical context to supplement the individual songs already vast appeal.
The first track has narrator giving an account of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria being assassinated on June 28, 1914, beginning the chain of events culminating into WWI. It is narrated so very well that the additional appeal is immediately evident and as The Future Of Warfare unfolds the realisation arrives that melodically, historically, musically and lyrically, Sabaton have tackled The Great War with a truly great collection. Nothing short of a masterwork.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom brilliantly summarises the period and circumstances surrounding Thomas Edward Lawrence who through exploits becoming the stuff of legend, became known as Lawrence of Arabia. This track again is demonstrative of Sabaton’s ability to match such legendary subject matter with suitably soaring musical accompaniment.
Sabaton continues their bewilderingly brilliant ability to keep history alive through thoroughly magnificent metal music and 82nd All The Way describes the very beginnings of the 82nd Division. The ‘All American’ division which remains to this day as the 82nd Airborne and the heroics of one its most distinguished servicemen and recipient of the Medal of Honor, Sgt Alvin Cullum York.
Besides the magnificent accompanying music, it is brilliant to hear ‘Death From Above’, represented in the lyrics…a more contemporary motto for the 82nd which accompanies their older moniker All The Way represented in the title. Again Sabaton has the detail and factual accounts so well represented in their songs.
Attack Of The Dead Men musically and lyrically describes what must stand as one of the most horrific sights of The Great War in events during the attack at Osowiec Fortress in 1915. Blinded, blodied, gasping and staggering from the chlorine gas bombardment were the remnants of the Russian 226th Infantry Regiment. The German troops watched in horror as those who should have already been dead, continued what mast have been their sole remaining purpose with what life was left in continuing their attack. German troops apparently panicked and retreated from the Attack Of The Dead Men. Although far from a celebration of the horrors of warfare, Sabaton manage to provide such amazing music to this tale as the troops, and the gas seem to march relentlessly thought the music. As is the case with The Red Baron in that musically Sabaton have injected all the urgency and fury one presumes of a dogfight between any of the Aces, let alone against Manfred von Richthofen.
Fields Of Verdun has already been released to resounding acclaim and was presumably released as a single because it sets the scene of the entire collection to utter perfection. The longest battle in history lasting over 300 days and claiming an average of 70,000 lives every month. Sitting as track nine in sequence on the album this provides the collection with an additional dimension of sombre reflection.
In Flanders Fields afford a special reverence and honour to complete this musical account of WW1. A simple choral version of the song derived from the famous John McCrae poem that is widely regarded as the most solemn account of the war to end all wars.
All considered, the mastery of Sabaton, the magnificent production work of Jonas Kjellgren at Black Lounge studios, the mastering by Maor Appelbaum and the brilliant artwork by Peter Sallaí represents the tried and tested cast of Sabaton success, but their work on The Great War takes all of that to a whole new level.
As is the case with a genuine masterwork, I fail to feel that my words do any justice in representing the magnitude and sheer brilliance that has been achieved by Sabaton in this collection. All the angst of warfare written into every drum beat, bass blast, soaring guitar solo, and every vocal utterance. The temptation to describe the events represented measured with the urgency to pay homage to the blisteringly brilliant music that accompanies the superb lyrics is a struggle indeed. But so much more awaits you on this incredible album. Musically, vocally, lyrically and historically, l can only offer a humble reflection that you must, simply must own this monumentally superb album.
Sabaton will release The Great war, via Nuclear Blast Records.
PRE-ORDER The Great War HERE