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When it comes to commemorating the First World War in the form of eleven tracks of blistering metal music, who better to do this than Swedish power metal force Sabaton?
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With their ninth studio album The Great War, Sabaton have maximised their characteristic narrative-style of lyrically driven power metal to unpack the significance and resonance of WWI. Third in a line of concept albums centred on historical themes of war, The Great War is Sabaton in robust form, with a history-heavy album full of plenty of memorable lines and inspiring melodies. Naturally, reviewed here is the ‘history edition’.
The Great War a concept album and the said concept is a big one, being the mixed legacy of WWI. The narrator that opens the first foreboding track The Future Of Warfare underscores this: The Great War is about more than human bravado, this about the war itself and its ongoing influence. In keeping with this concept, Sabaton have clearly been selective in the themes covered in the eleven tracks. Tracks such as Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which presents the wartime story of T.E. Lawrence [later, ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’] with insane solos, hint at themes derived from how WWI has been later presented. Obvious candidates Red Baron [the German fighter pilot, for those at the back] and the militant number Devil Dogs, which reads like a wartime recruitment poster for the U.S. Marines, focus lyrically on the standoff between paying the ultimate price in war and becoming an enduring legend.
The Great War will ignite Sabaton fans and fans of power metal.
Of course, the ‘other’ legacy of WWI was that it forever changed the nature and scale of warfare. Less ceremony, more death, as they say. Some of the strongest and most innovative tracks such as rocking anthem The Attack Of The Dead Men and lyrically unnerving Ghost In The Trenches interrogate themes of using gas and snipers to kill more efficiently. Ultimately, the commemorative function of The Great War is really brought to the fore in the final two tracks. Invoking the irony of WWI’s most immediate consequence, The War To End All Wars foreshadows the final track; a powerful and tasteful choral arrangement of In Flanders Fields closes out this thoughtful musical excursion into the First World War.
Overall, The Great War will ignite Sabaton fans and fans of power metal. Although it is the first album to welcome Tommy Johansson to Sabaton’s discography, there is little diversion from the Sabaton sound fans are familiar with. There are a few minor twists on Sabaton’s style but these are welcome and done right, emphasising the concept. Just to note, The Great War will be released in two main forms, an ‘normal’ album and an embellished History Edition, on which there is a very strong focus on historical narration. This adds so much weight and depth to the tracks, making the ‘history edition’ well worth the extra minutes.
STANDOUT TRACKS: The Future Of Warfare, The Attack Of The Dead Men, The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Powerwolf, Majestica, Civil War [or Marduk’s last two albums if you want to move into WWII history].