Release Date: May 16th, 2014
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Power Metal
I realize I am quite late on posting the final two albums on my Top 12 List of 2014, but various circumstances prevented me from devoting any significant amount of time to these reviews, but I seem to have time now so I will try to crank these final two albums out before the weekend closes. For the longest time, this album was actually my Number 1 until the current Number 1 album was released very late in 2014. When talking to many of my metal friends, they would ask what I had been listening to lately, and every time my answer would be Sabaton's new astonishingly great concept album Heroes, which I would then try to physically force into the ear canal of anyone who did not resist. Or bite. Regardless, I was looking forward to this album for quite some time before it was released, as the forward single, "To Hell and Back," had me beyond hyped for was I predicted would be a masterpiece, and unlike many of my other predictions throughout the year like this that fell short, Sabaton delivered, and then some.
Sabaton is one of the most celebrated power metal bands playing today, as they are one of the few to consistently well-received albums, particularly their last effort, Carolus Rex, which many claimed to be their best album to-date. Though I disagreed and claimed that the honor of best Sabaton album went to either their debut from 2005, Primo Victoria, or the wonderful The Art of War, I did still believe Carolus Rex was a significant achievement, showing that Sabaton continue to get better and better as they go instead of falling into some repetitive slump. Many of their lyrics through the years have to do with some various war or battle, typically one of the World Wars, but instead of glorifying war as some may assume, they actually tend to depict the horrors of war more often, displaying the trials and tribulations the soldiers and families caught within war's grasp must face, though presenting it in such a war that they are considered incredibly brave and commendable, which they undoubtedly are. In early 2014, they announced one again that a new album was on the way and upon its release in May, it was incredibly well-received despite toting almost an entirely new cast as many of the members left in 2012 to form Civil War.
I'll get the one part of the album I do not care for out of the way first, and that is the ballad in the middle of the album, "The Ballad of Bull." Now, it is a nice song, and lyrics-wise, it is one of the best written on the album and I am all for switching up speeds throughout the album to prevent it from being either a single blast of force or a slow walk thorough a flowery field, but for me, personally, it just does not work. The piano work is beautiful but Joakim's voice just feels like too much of a jarring juxtaposition and it just feels like he wants to transform into a metal tank and roll all over the enemies as Bull carries out the wounded soldiers in the song. Also, it oddly comes between two of the most upbeat and exciting songs on the album, making it a questionable time to introduce a slower song. Regardless, the rest of the album is great with songs retelling the tales of many heroes of war throughout recent history, mostly those from World War II. Oddly though, this album is quite short, reaching just over 36 minutes for the standard version, and longer for versions including bonus songs and various cover songs. I feel like they probably could have simply included the bonus songs into the standard version of the album, but I guess that it would take away from the established theme. On the other hand, having it be rather short inspired me to listen to it again and again, as listening to the album did not seem like too much of a significant time commitment for me, so take the length of the album for what you will.
"To Hell and Back"
Earlier in 2014, on my first King's Koncert post (I swear more are coming!), I included Sabaton's "Night Witches", claiming it to be one of the best on the album, which I still believe holds true now, as it is probably the most played song for me from Heroes. Others like the above "To Hell and Back," with its insanely catchy whistle opening and a chorus that glues springs to your feet without your permission, and "Hearts of Iron," with its stomp-clap beat and apocalyptic tone for the heroes being described, fall not far behind. The music is great, as expected, and the new members of Sabaton fit in perfectly. Honestly, I did not even know that many of the band split off until a few months ago when I saw them on tour with Amon Amarth, as Sabaton as a whole sounded just as great, which is all that is important really. The lyrics are what helps me stay closer to this album though, as I am a gigantic fan of history and these stories, many of which I did not know, are very interesting and well told, describing the events perfectly and placing you right in the action of what was happening without reading to you like a historical audiobook.
"Hearts of Iron"
I would recommend to everyone to try and get an extended version of this album, one that includes either the covers of Metallica and Raubtier, or one with the remake of "7734" and the new tribute to the manliest metal band, Manowar, entitled "Man Of War". Though I said the length of the album is actually kind of a point in its favor, having more tracks from Sabaton is never a bad thing. My favorite from the album in terms of lyrics is probably "No Bullets Fly" just from the concept of the enemy sparing a wounded "killing machine" B-17 bomber and actually escorting it back out of the warzone, which is a really interesting topic, and the last line of the chorus "Said goodbye to the Cross he deserved", alluding to the German pilot's award he received to performance/bravery in the face of death. Just about every song, except maybe "The Ballad of Bull" (in my opinion), are just designed to be put on repeat and be listened to over and over again, which you might just do after listening to the album. Its a great album and it will be tough for Sabaton to top themselves once more after this.
"Resist and Bite"
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