The War is too great for a single episode.
Some stories, be they historical or fictional, are just too large to be contained in a single album, or at least that is the logic behind Sweden’s most popular power metal export Sabaton’s latest studio venture. Coming just under three years since the World War I-centered conceptual endeavor and their 9th studio LP “The Great War” took the mainline metal consuming public by storm, vocal helmsman, keyboardist and amateur war historian Joakim Broden and his band of merry Swedes have opted to put forth a sequel of sorts in their 10th studio album to date “The War To End All Wars.” Yet while this band has become known for sticking to a highly stylized approach to songwriting that puts sing-along hooks ahead of technical intrigue, this time around the formula has been tweaked a bit, revealing an album that takes the idea of a book-on-tape approach to power metal to its logical conclusion and also throws in a greater share of virtuosic flourishes for good measure.
Those with an insatiable appetite for the documentary film approach to conveying a narrative that is regularly seen on The History Channel will definitely find a familiar affair here. If anything, Sabaton’s lyrical delivery involves a somewhat counterintuitive approach of telling rather than showing, featuring an expansive amount of spoken narration segments that would make the excessive ones employed on Rhapsody Of Fire’s “Emerald Sword” saga seem measured by comparison. But to their credit, this power quintet gets the job done in the musical department, as the keyboard-steeped consonance of the instrumentation, driving force of the rhythm section and Broden’s haggard, gravely baritone bark paints a vivid picture of the duality of presumed glory and actual horror that goes along with the subject in question. The brightest spot on this blustering musical affair is the solo work of Majestica mastermind and guitarist Tommy Johansson, who brings a charming neo-classical virtuoso twist to an otherwise highly straightforward presentation.
Approaching this auditory recount of the First World War in a semi-chronological manner, an impressive, if somewhat bloated overture dubbed “Sarajevo” kicks things off with a point by point lyrical recount of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the initiation of hostilities in the Balkans. Instrumentally speaking, this opening proves an effective tension builder with a decent chorus hook and an elaborate arrangement of synthesized orchestral sounds, but the spoken narrations detract from the flow of things a fair bit. Nevertheless, once things get going with the first complete song, namely the fast-paced and riff-happy banger “Stormtroopers”, the classic Sabaton that has been delivering the same caliber of memorable power metal anthems since 2005 rears its head. In comparable fashion, simply structured songs like “The Unkillable Soldier”, “Race To The Sea” and “The Valley Of Death” hit the ears with an instant sense of familiarity that is, nevertheless, fresh and vital, fed and fattened by the highly competent six-string sorcery of Chris Rorland and Tommy Johansson.
As previously noted, this album manages to throw a few intricate surprises into the mix of what is otherwise a mostly typical musical affair for this fold. The first of these comes in the form of a blistering, thrash-tinged speeder in “Hellfighters”, which contains most of the lofty keyboard and vocal elements of the rest of them album but slams down a nasty set of riffs and a driving beat like something out of mid-90s Iced Earth. By contrast, the keyboard-heavy and 80s New Wave-tinged interlude “Soldier Of Heaven” trudges into sonic territory more in line with what Battle Beast and Metalite have been dabbling in of late. But the most out of the ordinary composition to grace this collection is the yuletide-tinged recount of the WWI holiday ceasefire “Christmas Truce”, which frequently appropriates elements of the Ukrainian holiday piece “Carol Of The Bells”, a bittersweet irony given the current state of affairs in said nation.
It is generally stipulated that a band’s latest studio effort will tend to be regarded as their best, at least by the progenitors themselves, but an honest assessment of “The War To End All Wars” falls more along the lines of a very solid outcome. The only thing that really hampers this album, apart from maybe a little too much lyrical optimism regarding one of the worst eras of modern history, is that the overdone narratives provided at the album’s opening and four minutes plus epilogue “Versailles” hinders what are two strong instrumental offerings. It’s a mostly forgivable Persian Flaw in an otherwise impressively designed carpet, but there is definitely something to be said for letting the music stand on its own from time to time. Existing fans of Sabaton, who are great in number, will definitely enjoy what is in store for them here, though their smaller yet vocal collection of skeptics will likely remain unconvinced. But at the end of the day, fan service has been what this band truly excels at, and there is no shortage of catchy fun here for those who crave it.
Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: March 4th, 2022
Genre: Power Metal / Heavy Metal
- Joakim Brodén / Lead vocals, keyboards
- Pär Sundstrom / Bass guitar, backing vocals
- Chris Rörland / Guitars, backing vocals
- Tommy Johansson / Guitars, backing vocals
- Hannes van Dahl / Drums, backing vocals
“The War To End All Wars” track listing:
- The Unkillable Soldier
- Soldier Of Heaven
- Race To The Sea
- Lady Of The Dark
- The Valley Of Death
- Christmas Truce
“The War To End All Wars” is available in the following formats (While stock last):
- Jewelcase CD
- Limited Gold CD [Supporter Edition – various versions with translated booklets]
- History Edition
- NB Mailorder Exclusive Edition [ltd. to 1500 copies]
- Earbook [limited to 6000 copies]
- Black Vinyl
- Azure Blue Vinyl [bandshop exclusive, ltd. to 300 copies]
- Inca Gold Vinyl [bandshop exclusive, ltd. to 500 copies]
- Copper Vinyl [ltd. to 500 copies]
- Fluorescent Orange Vinyl [ltd. to 500 copies]
- Leaf Green Vinyl [Sweden exclusive]
- Fluorescent Yellow Vinyl [Ginza exclusive]
- Dusk Vinyl [Levik exclusive]
- Soft Grey Vinyl [Nordics exclusive]
- Lavender Vinyl [FNAC exclusive]
- Rosewood Vinyl [Mystic exclusive]
- Fluorescent Green Vinyl [UK exclusive]
- Pacific Blue Vinyl
- Polar White Vinyl [limited to 300 copies]
- Dewdrop Vinyl [limited to 500 copies, EMP exclusive]
- Blue cassette [limited to 100 copies, bandshop exclusive]
- Green cassette [limited to 100 copies]
- Grey cassette [limited to 300 copies]
- Red cassette [limited to 500 copies]
- Black cassette [limited to 250 copies]
- Smokey cassette [limited to 200 copies]
- White cassette [limited 100 copies]
Unabashed purveyors of theatricality set in the war history medium known the world over as Sabaton follow up their immensely popular 2019 conceptual retrospective of World War I with another opus covering the same topic from an equally catchy yet even more vivid vantage point.