By Jason Wellwood
Sabaton blend traditional metal with power metal and a bit of military pomp to create some truly catchy work. Naysayers will repeatedly bring up the fact that they are not Bolt Thrower so they shouldn’t try to do ‘military metal’ (something that the band started dabbling with on Primo Victoria, which quickly became their forte) however that’s a lot like telling As I Lay Dying that they shouldn’t do Christian Metal because they aren’t Stryper. I actually came to the Sabaton party a little late, I was introduced to the band with The Art of War (their 2008 release with Black Lodge) so these ‘Rearmed’ editions from Nuclear Blast (the bands new home) were a huge treat for me. It’s interesting in the current climate of ‘sign them but drop them if the album doesn’t sell’ that Nuclear Blast is releasing albums that didn’t sell very much initially. Granted, this was due to small labels and little distribution, but it’s nice to see a label take an interest in a new signing to this degree.
You cannot go wrong leading off an album (essentially the band’s debut) with the title track here. It’s a fist pounding, foot stomping, sing along anthem. Definitely a “bracing before battle” type of song. ‘Panzer Battalion’ is less of an anthem but no less sing-a-long-able. The album does suffer a little from the sequencing I think. ‘Primo Victoria’ and ‘Panzer Battalion’ are both incredibly strong songs and having them at the beginning does harm things a little. Closing things off with a fun romp like ‘Metal Machine’ was a stroke of genius though on the original disc. The middle of the album is definitely the darker, heavier and maybe a little slower, just not quite as powerful or captivating as the rest of the album. Of the bonus tracks on this, I think ‘The Beast’ is my favourite, a solid turn on the Twisted Sister classic and I’m happy they didn’t go for an obvious one!
Once again, Sabaton prove that they know how to open an album. ‘Attero Dominatus’ is damn catchy and will stick with you for weeks. Fist pumping, foot on the monitor (or whatever is handy)…it is terrific power metal. In fact, the band tightens things up a little bit more and there is definitely less ‘drag’ in the middle section of the album. Though not as powerful as the title track, ‘Nuclear Attack’, ‘Rise of Evil’ and ‘Back In Control’ are just as memorable. ‘Metal Crue’ continues the tradition of ending off with a silly meta-metal song name dropping as many metal bands as possible, and honestly, I’ve never heard a band do it as well as Sabaton! Bonus tracks here include a Doro cover (doesn’t do anything for me, or the band, really) as well as a live medley of ‘Metal Machine’ and ‘Metal Crue’ which is a lot of fun. Attero Dominatus is a definite step up from Primo Victoria.
Metalizer is a little odd coming where it does. Originally this was the first album recorded by the band and the bonus disc is a a compilation of the original demos on one album. This is pre-Primo Victoria but it literally did not come out until a year after the ‘second’ album was released. This album really helps to highlight the band’s growth in both skill and song writing as Metalizer sees them more as a meta-metal band in the vein of Manowar and less involved in war metal. Granted, the songs are just as bombastic and catchy, but with much less military flare. The tempo is different as well, later releases definitely capture the military march sound, whereas on Metalizer and Fist For Fight (the bonus disc) the songs are much more straight ahead power metal. As I said, it’s a great highlight for the band and I actually think that his pairing of the first two albums is excellent and deserving of a lot more attention. For anyone curious in numbers, there are a total of 16 bonus tracks on here if you consider disc 2 to be bonus tracks (which I do).
The Art of War
The Art of War finds the band completely comfortable with its direction and really finding the groove in terms of song writing. Adding in parts of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as spoken pieces was an interesting choice and does add to the feel of the album. For the first time, from beginning to end, The Art of War feels like an album. Every track on The Art of War is solid, and the middle section mire is completely eliminated on this album. Even the two tracks that were left off the original and added back in as part of the bonus tracks ‘Swedish Pagans’ and ‘Glorious Land’ could have fit nicely on the album. The pre-production demo of ‘The Art of War’ and the live version of the Swedish National Anthem are also nice additions though the album could easily stand on its own. The growth from Aettero Dominatus to The Art of War is fantastic, though not entirely unexpected as Sabaton have improved with every album.
Considering they’re getting some great reviews on their current North American tour alongside label mates Accept, this was a very smart move on the part of both the band and the label. This is a great reintroduction of the band to North American audiences who probably didn’t hear the albums originally. Anyone who enjoyed 2010’s Coat of Arms is going to be very interested in these reissues, and even those of you who can’t seem to get over the fact that the band is playing military themed metal but isn’t Bolt Thrower may also really dig this when you realize that they aren’t trying to steal ‘your’ band’s thunder.
The Art of War: