At 2009’s Bloodstock Open Air festival in the UK, this reviewer strolled past the line at the autograph tent en route to the main sages, beer in hand.
A quick glance at said line indicated that it was close to the biggest one of the weekend. The band in question was Sweden’s Sabaton, whom this scribe was only (very) vaguely familiar with at the time. Regardless, this piqued this reviewer’s interest and the band positively owned the stage that day in front of thousands of adoring fans, subsequently winning many new converts.
Anyway, while their grandiose, over-the-top fare filled to the brim with battle cry-style choruses is tailor made for a festival where the beer flows freely, these guys are also still entertaining, albeit less visceral on record, as new full-length Coat of Arms quickly reveals. While almost a completely unknown quantity on Australian shores, Sabaton’s popularity has exploded in Europe and their truer-than-true power metal stomp is sure to catch fire elsewhere, despite the limitations of their chosen field. The narrative of each of these tracks is rooted in a different World War II battle, which will probably tell some folks more than enough already as to whether they might actually enjoy this record. The band doesn’t offer much variety wise and if you were going to be really critical you could even dub them one-dimensional. This album also doesn’t deviate significantly from the formula utilized on previous releases. But they go about their business with such passion, the band is so unashamedly enamoured with honouring those who fought in conflicts and the cheese factor so far off the scales that it can often be rather endearing. It may even get a few more easily led folks wanting to get suited up and ready for battle, even if it’s only in preparation for a game of Dungeons & Dragons in their basement.
The likes of ‘Wehrmacht’ and ‘Saboteurs’ ought to have many a listener heading to the history books to research the battles in question and much like Iron Maiden inspired legions of teens in the 80s to learn about the pyramids and Alexander The Great, they’re loudly and proudly carrying on this tradition. The greater prominence of keyboards creates a sense of drama and is the welcome punctuation for Joakim Broden’s rousing vocal melodies and solos that erm… scream on ‘Screaming Eagles’ and ‘The Final Solution’. All the talk about artillery will excite history buffs, while power metal devotees will also get their fill from the gang vocals and bombastic riffing (see ‘White Death’ and the infectious ‘Uprising’). Closer ‘Metal Ripper’ is a fun and honest, if brief romp through heavy metal’s past instead of military history’s.
The themes and over-arching bombast of this record will give detractors of this brand of power metal more ammunition (pun fully intended), so if you find the lyrical concept to be absurd, give this band a shot at your peril. Conversely, if the prospect of becoming one of Sabaton’s brothers-in-arms sounds appealing, you could do far worse than standing shoulder-to-shoulder and fighting to protect this Coat of Arms.
1. Coat of Arms
4. Screaming Eagles
5. The Final Solution
6. Aces in Exile
9. White Death
10. Metal Ripper