Sabaton – The War to End All Wars
Released: March 4th, 2022
Joakim Brodén | Vocals, Keyboard
Pär Sundström | Bass
Chris Rörland | Guitar
Tommy Johansson | Guitar
Hannes Van Dahl | Drums
Sabaton have risen to a position of prominence in the power metal community, thanks to their catchy and technical brilliance and over the top stage show. With pretty much each of their nine previous albums being dedicated to a historical exploration of war, there isn’t a sudden change of concept on album number ten: The War to End All Wars. What’s that you say? Didn’t they already do World War I for 2019’s bombastic The Great War? You are correct. But see, the band toured that record prior to the pandemic and found that fans across Europe all had stories to tell – of battles, or heroes and villains, of moments that started and changed the fate of nations and people. Hence, we have a sort of sequel or companion to The Great War, with more tales of horror and honour. And yes, there is a History Edition of The War to End All Wars, so that history buffs can learn the context for each song, narrated by Bethan Dixon Bate.
Sabaton actually kick off the album with Dixon Bate explaining the commencement of WWI with the assassination of ArchDuke Fraz Ferdinand. ‘Sarajevo’ is a grinding opener, with the narration serving as the verses, with the band’s choral vocals saved for the chorus. It’s cinematic in its scope and orchestration so it is a great opener for this concept album. It leads into a standard power metal lead for ‘Stormtroopers’, an uptempo belter that’s awesome for fist pumping. The solo progression is note perfect and will generate much air guitar. ‘Dreadnought’, about a class of battleship, is heavier on strings at a slower, stomping pace. Listen carefully through headphones though, because that keyboard line on the chorus kicks butt.
Things pick up again with ‘The Unkillable Soldier’, a classic romp into battle on a galloping rhythm. It’s a ripping song about Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart, who survived gunshots eye, ear, head and body and several plane crashes, but kept getting back up and fighting. Bloody madness if you ask me, but certainly a tale Sabaton has the chops to do justice to. It’s inspiring stuff that will have you looking for a flag to follow into battle. Sporting anthems be damned, this will get you pumped. ‘Soldier of Heaven’ is somehow even more bleak, less about the glory of war and more the shitty things that happen – like an avalanche killing hundreds of soldiers stationed below the mountain. There is some electronic ear candy accompanying the riffs on this one, giving it an 80s vibe, though the chorus is no less epic. ‘Hellfighters’ is a good one for thrash fans, capturing the charge of the USA’s 369th Infantry Regiment, mostly African-Americans from Harlem in New York. It’s a tough tribute to brave men with a sick series of fast riffs. One of the key things about this album, at least lyrically, is the way in which Joakim Brodén is exploring different territory to the previous album, highlighting lesser known units, battles and moments. The fact there are songs about the Harlem Hellfighters and Belgium’s King Albert I leading his army in the ‘Race to the Sea’ is a great contrast to ‘Fields of Verdun’ and ‘The Red Baron’.
If there is one criticism of The War to End All Wars, it is one easily leveled at most power metal acts. Everything is just so big and there is little room for subtlety. ‘Lady of the Dark’ and ‘The Valley of Death’ capture interesting subjects in the concept, but are very similar in terms of riffs and execution. ‘Lady of the Dark’ is a cool song with a bit of groove as Brodén rolls his ‘r’ into the chorus. It’s nice to get a song about female soldier too, in this case Milunka Savić, a Serbian soldier recognised as the most decorated female combatant in history. ‘The Valley of Death’ has a brilliant, melodic solo but otherwise doesn’t stand out.
Which brings us to the first single – the poetic and majestic ‘Christmas Truce’. Amongst the battle metal of the proceeding tracks, the fact ‘Christmas Truce’ is more contemplative and slower suits the moment – the brief time both sides put their weapons down in 1914 to celebrate Christmas. I mean it’s hardly a stripped back acoustic number, fuck no this is still Sabaton, but it has a brilliant orchestral arrangement and choral accompaniment. It works as both a Christmas singalong and war chant. Pretty hard to pull off, and it is a little cheesy, but ultimately a rousing song of unity and peace. Dixon Bate returns for the closer, ‘Versailles’, telling the story of German surrender and the treaty that ended the war. As a bookend to ‘Sarajevo’ it works well, the band providing a re-worded chorus. It does come with an ominous warning though, as “war will never entirely die… and will return sooner than we think”. A World War II concept album is surely next? But for now, there is a guitar solo to enjoy, beer to drink and fallen friends to mourn.
The War to End All Wars is quite the journey and a worthy companion to The Great War. But to be honest I am ready for a new theme, there are still plenty of wars for them to write about and set to powerful music. This one fits well within the canon of what Sabaton does so well – it is bombastic, precise and the songs all fit the concept. Their fan base will love it and those wondering what the fuss is about should check out ‘Stormtroopers’, ‘The Unkillable Soldier’ and ‘Hellfighters’. A great album to sit around with friends and join in the chorus, beer steins raised to the heavens.
Sabaton – The War to End All Wars tracklisting:
- The Unkillable Soldier
- Soldier of Heaven
- Race To The Sea
- Lady of the Dark
- The Valley of Death
- Christmas Truce