Sabaton – Heroes
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: May 16, 2014
Sweden’s power house of power metal, Sabaton, celebrates their 15th anniversary as a band with the release of their seventh full length album Heroes. In 2012, their fan base quivered at the thought of the iconic band ending when all but two members quit, leaving front man Joakim Brodén, and bassist Pär Sundström alone on the front lines. Luckily, the band was able to find new members and quickly returned to the seemingly endless touring the band has become known for. Guitarists Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund joined the lineup, and in 2013 a full-time drummer, Hannes Van Dahl was announced. All three of the new members were well seasoned in the power metal world playing for Nocturnal Rites, Winterlong, and Evergrey respectively, and their talents are quite obvious with the release of Heroes.
While Sabaton can’t seem to escape the constant joking about Joakim and his love for tanks, this band undeniably makes music to be taken seriously. Best known for the historically accurate lyrics and imagery of war in all of their releases, Heroes is no exception. What’s so appealing about this new release is that it focuses on heroes from all sides and all countries, as politics and “good vs. evil” concepts are completely tossed to the side. Instead of condemning or condoning the wars themselves, the band decided to celebrate the people who sacrificed so much for their causes.
“Night Witches” kicks off the album with an explosive presence of layered vocals and pounding drums, and only seems to grow more powerful by the second. Fittingly so, as the Night Witches were the 588th Soviet Night Bombing Regiment in World War II, composed entirely of female soldiers, that were extremely effective against the German army. Musically, the guitar work is spot on and really helps drive the galloping rhythm home, topped off with great speed metal lead work, this is truly one hell of a way to begin an album.
From the very beginning and in the first few songs, it’s obvious that this album is less keyboard driven, and instead takes on a true heavy metal drive. Coming from a fan that used to think The Art of War was the greatest thing Sabaton could ever write, Heroes proves to be an even more organized and well-written push of straight forward heavy metal. Track number two, “No Bullets Fly” is about a great act of humanitarianism in the middle of an awful war, but the song itself is nothing but heavy. It’s got a great chanting chorus about the B-17 incident, and sure, it’s nothing new and unexpected of Sabaton, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
A song that definitely stands out from the usual style of Sabaton, “To Hell and Back” focuses on an American hero, one of the most decorated combat heroes of World War II, Audie Murphy. With a definite southwest vibe complete with western whistling setting the tune of the song, it’s unbelievably catchy. With a typically epic chorus, moving melodic guitar lines, and galloping bass that seems to grow in size throughout the song, this is one of those songs that I can listen to on repeat for hours and still feel just as much energy in it. The album isn’t all uptempo and driving songs, as it features an emotional ballad-like track, “The Ballad of Bull” which is seemingly our generation’s “Heart of Steel”. Sabaton has never been afraid of talking about the raw truth of how war effects society, but this song takes the heartfelt lyrics to a whole new level with beautiful piano and choir work.
All in all, Heroes is hands down Sabaton‘s greatest album yet. From the music, to the production, and especially the context, it’s hard to imagine where the band can go from here (although I think that’s what I said after Carolus Rex). Sure, the essence of the album is what was expected and there’s nothing here that’s brand new and genre defining. With this release however, they will gain an entire new level of respect in the heavy metal world. This is a band that can make impressive, meaningful music that younger generations can appreciate, all while learning about forgotten heroes and battles. Heroes is a perfect example of a heavy metal history lesson that will reach the ears of thousands that may have never known of these amazing heroic stories. Cheers to you, Sabaton!