Released: 2008, Black Lodge/Sound Pollution
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
THE ART OF WAR is the name of the long-awaited third album by the Falun, Sweden based band Sabaton. The debut album PRIMO VICTORIA silenced anyone who thought that the war-metal genre was dead. ATTERO DOMINATUS followed in 2006 and it pretty much confirmed that this band dominated the genre they revived. Sabaton’s first album was never released because of legal problems and an obstinate record label, but last year the problems were resolved and METALIZER was able to be released. The album which was recorded 2002 is now available as a double-disc album with the band’s early demos featured on the second disc. METALIZER went over really well and topped the Swedish hard rock chart and was followed by a long tour through Europe.
THE ART OF WAR is the fourth album by Sabaton. It is a concept album built around an ancient book called “The Art Of War” written in 600 BC by a Chinese General. Nothing is new when it comes to the music; they still throw out heavy pounding heavy melodic power metal, but my biggest fear came true when I listened to the new album. All of the band’s albums sound pretty much like each other. The music sounds the same, the vocals sound the same with Joakim Brodén shouting and mumbling out the lyrics, and the theme is war-related. If you buy a Sabaton album, you’ll know what the others sound like. But to my surprise I did find some small but distinctive changes in the formula this time. The band has increased the use of keyboards which give the music a lighter sound; it’s still heavy but it’s not at such a grinding tempo as before. There are also more choir parts which along with the calmer tempo makes THE ART OF WAR stand out compared to the previous Sabaton albums. It also sounds like they have matured and refined their songwriting process, but they haven’t lost the essence of Sabaton.
The biggest surprise is keyboard player Daniel Myhr’s much more prominent part on the album. I already knew that the rest of the band are solid musicians but Myhr surprised me in a good way, and this is coming from a guy who normally isn’t very found of keyboards at all. I’m not sure whether I love or hate Brodéns lead vocals; just as before he’s probably the weakest link in the band, but I have to admit that his angry voice chanting the lyrics suits the band’s lyric and approach quite well. It’s easy to get tired of his voice so on the next album I really hope he has something new to offer us vocally.
Amongst the 13 tracks there are three songs that only include a narrator who tells the story about THE ART OF WAR. My personal favorite tracks are “Ghost Division”, “40:1” and “Panzerkampf” that are all really strong songs with very sing-a-long-friendly choruses. Also “The Art Of War”, “Unbreakable”, “Talvisota”, “The Price Of A Mile” and “Union (Slopes Of St. Benedict)” are brilliant songs worth mentioning. The last song includes folk music influences and a church choir that adds a very majestic feeling to the song.
The album is produced by both Tommy and Peter Tägtgren in their Abyss Studio. On the previous album only Tommy produced, but this time the band wanted both brothers to participate in order to take the music a step further. The Tägtgren brothers have managed to achieve the sound Sabaton wanted the album to have. The production is a flawless masterpiece; it’s another feather in the cap of the Abyss Studio and the Tägtgren brothers.
Even though I had my fears about another themed album from this war machine I shouldn’t have worried. Sabaton has again delivered a solid masterpiece that will do many rounds in my CD player. I’ll bet all of the fans are gonna love THE ART OF WAR as much as any of the older albums.