Album: The Great War
Release Date: 19th July 2019
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
I have been a huge fan of Sabaton for a number of years now. I think the first track I heard was either Back in Control or Primo Victoria, but whichever one it was, I was hooked. I listened to everything I possibly could and as often as I could.
The Great War is the ninth studio album by Sabaton and, if you couldn’t already tell by the title, it is based around events from the First World War, also known as the Great War, or The War To End All Wars. Before I begin my in depth review, I recommend that you also listen to the History Edition of this album, as it provides a more human aspect to the music, and really puts you in the midst of what was going on during the War. The release date coincides with the 100th anniversary of what is known as Peace Day in the UK.
Sabaton are headlining the Ronnie James Dio stage at Bloodstock Festival this year, you can buy tickets here (Fanshare link).
They are also playing arenas early in 2020, with their UK show at Wembley Arena on 8th February 2020, and you can buy tickets here (no affiliation).
As previously mentioned, the History Edition gives me context to the stories behind the songs, with narrative at the beginning and during the tracks. This review is based on the standard edition. Again, I strongly urge you to take the time to listen to the History Edition yourselves, and discover the stories for yourself.
The First World War really did kick off The Future of Warfare. With a calm intro interrupted by full band, orchestral and group vocals blasts, anyone who didn’t know they were going to be listening to Sabaton would know from this introduction. The track isn’t as powerfully epic as some of the tracks we have heard from Sabaton before, it’s more sinister and ominous. But that fits right in with the message and concept of this album. War is not meant to be comfortable.
A more epic feeling intro brings Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It sounds more like a “traditional” Sabaton track, and the drums alone with a choir and Joakim’s distinctive voice is amazing. One of my favourite tracks from the album, 82nd All The Way has a more synthy intro, and the chorus is epic and catchy. The track just gets better and better, with a key change towards the end. This is definitely a track I would love to hear live, and it could be one of the future classics that come from this album.
The Attack Of The Dead Men is quite rightly a more sinister and unnerving track. It brings you back to the reality of the War. The track does pick up the pace and have some opportunity for headbanging, but it’s by no means one of the more epic and jumping tracks on the album. With a real Smoking Snakes vibe, Devil Dogs is another track that is catchy, singalong, and should be a future classic. I really hope that this one becomes a new Sabaton setlist staple.
One of the singles released before today, The Red Baron begins with electronic keys, which definitely have the feel of older keyboards. The full instrumental then kicks in with jumping and pumping energy! This is yet another future classic and (hopefully) a future setlist staple. The title track continues this theme, and Great War offers lots of orchestral and choral elements with an epic buildup, and a really classic Sabaton sound.
There’s another more epic feeling track with A Ghost In The Trenches. It’s energetic, and ripe for some fist pumping and headbanging during a live show. And there’s that classic power metal key change, which Sabaton is well known for. Fields of Verden is another energetic track that just oozes what Sabaton is all about with their sound.
The last two tracks are perhaps the most thoughtful and reflective of the album. Somber piano and violin introduce The End Of The War To End All Wars (which indeed many people thought that World War One was). When the main instrumental kicks in, it is still heavily orchestral with lots of choral vocals. It is almost like a movie soundtrack. (It would not be a terrible idea if some day Sabaton produced a soundtrack to a war movie). Finally we end In Flanders Fields. Originally a poem by John McCrae, Sabaton have produced a fitting tribute, with a choir singing the poem with such grace and respect. I am not afraid to say that I was coming to tears while listening. It is the most fitting end to this album.
As a long time fan of Sabaton, I was always going to be a little bit biased on whether or not I liked this album. However, bands can always throw up surprises and produce something you’re not so keen on. In this case, Sabaton has not done that. This is the first album I have ever giving a rating of 10 for. In my opinion there are few, if any, faults, and the music takes you on a journey through the Great War. The putting together of the History Edition of the album adds a human element which brings you back to reality, reminding you that this terrible conflict really did happen.
We should not forget the sacrifices of those who fought, died, and survived in that War, and all others that followed in the 20th and 21st century to ensure we are free, and can enjoy listening to our favourite music and bands.
Sabaton are playing at Wembley Arena on 8th February 2020, but I was originally planning to not attend due to the travel and accommodation expense of a show in London, and I am already going to be seeing their headline slot at Bloodstock Festival. However, this album made me buy a ticket and start booking a hotel. I am not missing out on any opportunity to see this band live as long as I am able to go to shows.
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