The thing I love about the metal scene is the variety of bands present. One week we can have a revolutionary doom metal album while the next week we could be hearing a progressive metal album that twists our heads in six different directions. That
major shift in sound is what seems to be going on this year and I honestly couldn't be happier with the polar opposites I’m hearing. (After reviewing Triptykon
, it can narrow your listening habits a bit.)
For those of you who don’t know, Sabaton
are a power metal band hailing from Sweden who focus their music around chunky metal riffs, soaring guitar melodies and epic synths with lyrics centered around war history. “Power
metal” can definitely be a turn off for many people, since it’s usually associated with high-pitched vocals and Dungeons and Dragons-oriented lyrics. Just give that stereotype a rest and trust me when I promise you Sabaton
is entirely badass and not your typical power metal band.
’s Carolus Rex
was a major achievement for the band, gaining widespread critical acclaim and making them a more known name in the metal community. However, as the success came their way, four of the six band members left the band, leaving vocalist Joakim Broden and bassist Par Sundstrom as the two remaining (and founding) musicians. Adding two new guitarists and a drummer to the mix, the huge shift in the line-up makes this year’s Heroes
kind of a big deal.
But in all honesty, the line-up change serves Sabaton
well, as Heroes
is a fast, to the point, and fun album that not only tackles remarkable stories (All based on, get this, Heroes
during wars) but empowers the listener in its quick run time. Sabaton
aren’t breaking records here, but after the monumental Carolus Rex
, it’s great to hear Sabaton
getting right to the point and touching upon some new ideas while sticking to their traditional heavy metal influences.
What I was caught by surprise with was the emphasis on fast tempos and upbeat songs throughout the album. It only makes sense with the positive nature of the album, but Sabaton
albums in the past are usually mix the tempos up more and feature traditional metal songs with the more epic, power metal influenced ones. The album does slow down here and there, but are done so tastefully and in an enjoyable manner.
A track like “Inmate
4859” plays out like a normal Sabaton
song at low tempo, but has singer Joakim’s vocals take a focus in the pre-chorus, which you can see him having the crowd sing during a live show. The chorus is catchy enough to headbang along with and the entire band manages to make the whole song groove together and a good change of pace after three upbeat songs.
Three tracks prior to “Inmate
4859” is “Night Witches
,” which is Sabaton
going balls out with metal guitar chugs and syncopated rhythms for a great in-your-face approach. The entire song gets the album going and, interesting enough, opens up with the more straight-forward approach used by the band. It’s not until “Smoking Snakes” that the epicness really sets in and the scale of Sabaton
’s sound becomes more obvious.
Lead single “To Hell
and Back” showcases the band experimenting with a slight folk-influence, but not entirely out of their comfort zone. The song’s tempo goes a bit slow compared to the faster tracks on the album, but is extremely upbeat with its approach. The same can be said about “Far
From the Fame” later on the album, which gives the same jump-worthy effect.
The album’s main ballad, “The Ballad
of Bull,” is a beautiful, mostly piano and keyboard track that shows an entirely different side of the band. The track starts adding more and more to the song as it goes on, finishing out with soaring choirs and the full band playing along. Lyrically it’s powerful, telling the story of an Australian soldier saving the lives of 12 US soldiers from death, and makes a great placement in the middle of the album.
Concerning production, I have a personal, although minor, issue with it. With the big chunky guitar riffs, I’d personally hope for more presence from the bass to give it more of an effect. However, the bass is utilized for dynamics, like in the epic closer “Hearts of Iron,” so I can’t really complain. It’s a bass player thing… But that shouldn’t distract you from the amazing musicianship on the album. New guitarists Chris Rorland and Thobbe Englund? Awesome. There’s some ripping solos on the album and if you’re a guitarist you’ll find something enjoy.
is the light in the dark year that is 2014 so far. It’s not dark in the sense it’s terrible, but by how evil and sinister some of the releases have been. Heroes
changes that with infectious songs and great musicianship, all the while making the future for Sabaton
all the more optimistic. Sabaton
as a band should be on everyone’s radar and offer something every metalhead can enjoy. With the massive, heavy riffs, strong sense of melody, and a scale of epicness, they’re worth your time and devotion. Heroes
only extends upon that and opens up their future to so much more.