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Sabaton - "Heroes" (CD)

Sabaton - "Heroes" CD cover image

"Heroes" 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. Soldier of 3 Armies
9. Far from the Flame
10. Hearts of Iron

Reviewed by on March 26, 2014

"With Sabaton, you have three options: you love them, hate them or ignore them. If you are a fan, then your 'Heroes' have arrived."

Finally…two long years since the famous split between vocalist Joakim Broden, bassist Par Sundstrom and “the other guys.” The band has just come back from a ridiculous tour schedule. which saw it crisscross continents so many times that airlines ran out of frequent flyer miles. It starts all over again next month. In the U.S. alone, Sabaton headlined two of the largest U.S. festivals – 70,000 Tons of Metal and ProgPower USA - and played support to Iron Maiden. Come to think of it, I don't think I saw a band more times in the span of a year than Sweden’s finest.

During all that touring, the fallen four (Civil War) already released a "killer" full length and a debut EP, so the question remains - just what would Sabaton sound like now and how good would it be? Well, if the live shows were any indication, than the team of Thobbe Englund and Chris Rorland proved to be just as formidable. Don't forget that the sound of Sabaton was the result of song writing between Broden and Sundstrom, and lucky Europeans were treated to the first "post-schism" recording of Sabaton when the single "Far From the Fame" was released in 2012. So would we get an album of war anthems with Joakim doing the "tank tango" in between gigantic irresistible choruses and spewing forth instant live classics? Does Michael Kiske's chrome dome shine brightly in the sun? Of course!

First, let me dispense with the disclaimers so those who are not fans of the band/genre can finish reading here. "Heroes" represents nothing that Sabaton has not done already before. The style is the same, the mannerisms are the same, the soldiers are the same and the war is all the same. You won’t find a progressive tinge gushing from the Panzer attack that awaits you at your speakers. If history infused power metal anthems just aren't your bag: stop reading and move along. Frankly, if you go into a Sabaton album expecting different, you truly have zero concept about what this band is all about. "Same" is synonymous with Sabaton - if it changes…you should too.

With a record as sure as power metal gold, where does the Swedish band take us historically that it hasn’t before? Well the answer is back to the trenches of the Nazi frontlines, where heroes from all sides are celebrated. This is also an era where Sabaton does its best work. After spending a great deal on historical aspects in my review of "Carolus Rex," I will delve deeply into just one of the album’s most intriguing lyrical topics here – which also doubles as the album’s strongest track – “Inmate 4859.” The story is directly from the hearts of Joakim and Par…the Polish resistance in World War II. It follows the journey of Auschwitz inmate Witold Pilecki, who tried to rally an uprising against the Nazi captors, at first by causing enough problems to force the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade to drop weapons and supplies in the camp. When the Nazi’s fortified the borders and increased the arrests, Pilecki escaped the camp to try to convince the Home Army to attack by presenting a report about the Nazi’s ability to cremate 10,000 bodies a day in each of the three crematories on site. Convinced he was exaggerating, the Home Army (Polish resistance and connection to the Allies) refused. The song presents the emotion of the events perfectly with one of the most outstanding choruses in the band’s history.

Musically, much of what fans have come to love and expect from Sabaton is on display in spades. Sabaton is truly one of the world’s most memorable acts. Surely, with little effort you will know many of the bridges and choruses from songs like “Smoking Snakes,” “Soldiers of 3 Armies,” “Resist and Bite” and “Hearts of Iron” (which pays tribute to the German forces of the 12th and 9th Armies, who facing defeat at the hands of the Soviets, created a corridor across the Elbe to protect fleeing refugees and soldiers to escape and surrender to the West rather than face certain death) almost right after the first listen. The music is a bit less keyboard-centric than on "Carolus Rex" – and along the lines of the the pure metal majesty of songs like “Midway,” “Attero Dominatus” and “40-1.” It has a more lethal metallic quality to it without compromising all that made “Carolus Rex” such a brilliant album. With Sabaton, its uncompromising metal – in your face…here it is – as Joakim points a Howitzer at your head. These songs are made for live sing-a-long performances and few bands do it better.

If I may draw a parallel between closely related stylistic acts and how things should be done and not be done in the music business today: with all the re-hashing, re-recording and money bilking that goes on in the mighty Manowar camp of late, it seems that the Swedes just slipped behind the lines Joey Demaio’s ripe pulsating ego and rendered him irrelevant. “The Ballad of Bull” is the newly improved “Heart of Steel.” So, while Manowar meanders around like a bunch of old crabs, Joakim and the boys will step in and do it ten times faster, ten times better, and with twice as much conviction. Come to think of it – there isn’t much the half-clad can do when they point arrows, swords and spears at a Polish 7TP 37mm anti-tank gun. “Heroes” is yet another in a near perfect arsenal of albums. With Sabaton, you have three options: you love them, hate them or ignore them. If you are a fan, then your "Heroes" have arrived.

Highs: More anthems of war and a perfect cacophony of choruses.

Lows: In Sabaton, its more of the same - exactly.

Bottom line: Joakim plays more "tank tango" as Sabaton returns to the Nazi/Polish lines with "Heroes."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)