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Album Reviews : Sabaton – Heroes

By on April 25, 2014

HeroesAfter the overwhelming success of their previous release Carolus Rex, the band embarked on a massive tour across the world including America, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia. Performing in stadiums alongside Iron Maiden and headlining Poland’s Woodstock festival in front of more than half a million fans. Sweden’s metal pride Sabaton returns with a fully loaded armament of new material on their brand new record Heroes.

Unlike the previous album, which took fans on a history lesson of the Swedish Empire during the 17th century, Heroes returns to what many remember Sabaton for. That is, a concept album based on different historical wars and battles throughout the 20th century, namely those from World War II. Telling stories of true war heroes who risked their lives in some of the most dangerous and hostile battlefields.

Featuring the band’s cemented new line-up: Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund on guitar duties, as well as new drummer Hannes van Dahl, who joins Sabaton alumni Joakim Brodén and Pär Sundström. The new album encompasses that unquestionable sound of Sabaton. All the trademarks are there: pounding drums, catchy melodies, fist pumping anthems, crazy guitar solos and of course Joakim Brodén’s trademark vocals.

The opening track ‘Night Witches’ builds with a thumping stampede of drums that get your blood pumping for an aggressive bout of headbanging, while formidable frontman Joakim Brodén barks his distinctive vocals.  The song is a fantastic opener to the album, resembling that of ‘Ghost Division’ and ‘Midway’, but with a more ferocious attack on all fronts. The song tells the story of the Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment, a relatively small and unknown group of Soviet female bombers who defended Russia during the tail end of WWII. It’s super catchy and screams to be heard live in front of Sabaton‘s legion of fans.

‘No Bullets Fly’ brings a great upbeat tempo of riff-o-rama from guitarists Chris and Thobbe, with a thick wall of powerful, anthem like vocals that spread goose bumps across my body. I can’t help but stamp my feet in celebration whilst looking like a complete retard playing air drums to Hannes van Dahl’s memorable as hell delivery. With a captivating chorus firmly planted, I see this track being a great contender for the band’s first single to be spread across the globe airwaves.

‘Smoking Snakes’ recalls moments of ‘Attero Dominatus’, striking an enticing introduction, which perpetuates a constant high throughout. The song tells the tale of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, a battalion of men and women who fought alongside the Allied forces in Italy during World War II. Yet another fine example of the band’s catchy as hell structuring and delivery.

Now we come to ‘Inmate 4859’. You can’t have a Sabaton album without the symbolic reference to Auschwitz, one of the most dangerous places on the planet during WWII. The song captures the constant struggles of those enslaved within, with its crawling and at times eerie musical arrangement. It tells the story of Polish Captain, Witold Pilecki, who during World War II volunteered for a resistance operation to be imprisoned at Auschwitz in order to gather intelligence. During his imprisonment, Pilecki organised a resistance movement informing Western Allies of Nazi atrocities. He escaped from the camp in 1943 after nearly three years of imprisonment. Keyboards, orchestration and a melodic overtone accompany a thick wall of sound which helps drive the song’s characteristic plight. A sign of freedom emerges as the song escalates to a beautiful end with all elements merging together to finish the first melodic entry of the album.

‘To Hell and Back’ picks up where we left off. Kicking into gear with an Ennio Morricone Western inspired introduction that tells the epic tale of one of the most decorated war heroes of WWII, Audie Murphy, who later found success in acting after the war ended. Any notion of melancholy from the previous track is quickly washed away with this upbeat and energetic number, exploding with satisfaction. At times I hear elements of ABBA,most notably ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ with its characteristic keyboard whistle, as the song balances on a blade between melodic pop and the aforementioned Ennio Morricone inspired Western.

Back in 2008, Sabaton paid their respects to Anzacs of the Gallipoli Campaign during WWI with the song, ‘The Cliffs of Gallipoli’. I’m not one to be overly patriotic, but it does fill the heart with a warm fuzzing feeling when one of biggest heavy metal bands in the world pays respect to your country’s fallen heroes. In a rather heartwarming and tearful moment, I experienced it a second time with ‘The Ballad of Bull’. A song which details the exploits of Corporal Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen, a Ballarat born stretcher-bearer during WWII who became a remarkable hero after carrying to safety twelve wounded Americans on Mount Tambu in Papua New Guinea. The song is drowned in patriotism and pride with a beautiful and powerful piano tune and orchestration that ties neatly in a bow with Joakim’s ample and sincere lyrics.

After wiping away the tears we are hurled back into action with ‘Resist and Bite’. What this songs lacks in complexity makes up for with its exciting, theatrical approach. Continuing the band’s stampede of big drums and a thick walls of sound, fans will have a hard time restraining their hands clapping and stamping their feet on the ground to this song. ‘Solider of 3 Armies’ picks up the slack and serves up a epic metal anthem telling the story of Lauri Allan Törni, a man addict to war who served under three flags; Finnish, German and American. A solid wall of guitars binds the song, which is jammed packed like an over-sized Subway sandwich, filled to the brim with the band’s quintessential audacity. Each bite is more fulfilling than the last.

‘Far From The Fame’ maybe familiar to some as it was performed by Sabaton at Masters of Rock in the Czech Republic in 2012. Based on the exploits of Karel Janoušek, a leader of Czechoslovakian Forces in the RAF who was later imprisoned in communist Czechoslovakia. Listening back to the original version that was upload to the band’s YouTube page to promote their East European tour in 2013, it is very similar except for some slight differences. There seems to be more going on this time round, as the band haven’t opted for the easy way out by just placing the first mix onto the album. Drummer Hannes van Dahl adds in additional intricate crashes and taps of his cymbals, which add great depth, as well as additional ambient effects to boost the songs power. The song is so powerful it’s hard not to be taken away by its brilliance.

‘Hearts of Iron’ brings us to the end of this epic journey of champions. A song remembering the fallen during WWII. My heart swells with pride and praise to not only the fallen heroes of WWII, but also the heroes within Sabaton. After listening to the album several times it becomes more apparent the band are a unique force in the metal world. As bassist Pär Sundström put it,

“The sounds of Sabaton are inspired by a lot of other bands. You can clearly hear the influences of other bands in Sabaton, but no band sounds like Sabaton”.

The band have elevated to a new level of unstoppable heavy metal power thanks to long time producer Peter Tägtgren, who has seamlessly expanded upon Sabaton‘s musical branding, pushing them to a new level and making them sound bigger than ever. The album is a perfect representation of the new face (or faces) of Sabaton and is quite possibly the band’s best work to date, and in my eyes, a major contender for album of the year.

Band: Sabaton
Album: Heroes
Year: 2014
Genre: Power Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Origin: Falun, Sweden

Track listing:
1. Night Witches
2. No Bullets Fly
3. Smoking Snakes
4. Inmate 4859
5. To Hell And Back
6. The Ballad Of Bull
7. Resist And Bite
8. Solider Of 3 Armies
9. Far From The Fame
10. Hearts of Iron


Anwar is the editor-in-chief of Metal When Anwar isn't busy promoting tours, interviewing bands and reviewing awesome music, he loves to collect metal vinyl and play video games. Follow Metal Obsession on Twitter and Facebook