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Sabaton - Carolus Rex Award winner

Carolus Rex
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein / Vasilis Odontidis at 18 June 2012, 9:12 PM

Steinmetal (8/10)

The Swedish based Heavy / Power Metal band SABATON has been through quite a lot in its career. Unlike playing and feeling like a NWOBHM band as like many of their country Metal peers as ENFORCER, STEELWING among others, SABATON went on with something modern, without forgetting the 80s roots of course, melodic and utterly catchy. Furthermore, SABATON, since its second album was transfixed with writing material that its major theme can be summed in one single word: War. Through nearly five albums SABATON centred most their attention on the horrors of WWII. So many Panzers, Stukka planes and German lives were crushed and destroyed under their victorious songs that dripped with the might of the allies and the evilness of the Nazi rule. However, when their last album, "Coat Of Arms", came to my reach, I expected something different and all I got was the same thing all over again, a large sum of WWII in the face. I couldn't stand it though they had a few cool tracks over there, but in short, it didn't pass the 6/10 in my bill. Then came 2012 and SABATON decided it was time to go back in time to the 17th Century, back to their Swedish heritage and the rule of the callous Carolus, their mighty old king that today would have probably been hanged by its own people as it was done not too long ago in several Arab countries that wanted freedom. However, as you know Sweden is Social Democratic country so have no fear.

"Carolus Rex", coming up as album number six, and once again through Nuclear Blast Records, as I told you is a different story of War, Death and Valor in the name of many things that are Swedish. Moreover, with the change of the theme into a new kind of history lesson, this new album turned out to be way better than the previous "Coat Of Arms". In order to celebrate the transference from Nazi Germany, and other places infested with chaos, to a place closer to home, SABATON released the album both in English and in Swedish. Though it started and more or less continued in the same manner of "Art Of War", especially the first few tracks, SABATON hit right in the spot. As always the keyboards weren't there just to lend a hand to the sharp fangs of the rhythm guitars and existed nearly on every stage of each song. Nonetheless, it didn't bother me that much because by now the usage of keyboards isn't just a mere fling when it comes to SABATON, there are even lead solos of the keys under a fine electric atmosphere created by the rhythm guitars. The song structures of the album, just like any SABATON album, were pretty much the same as this group, no matter the line-up changes (yep even with the last one but it doesn't concern the album really), isn't renewing anything just maxing up their chances of being catchy and easy in their deliverance.

"Gott Mit Uns" fired away high power assault on the empire's enemies with all of its might. I must say that SABATON really put a lot of effort in the recording sessions while setting up the choruses. The unending muscular vocal pattern of Joakim Broden sounds so formidable when he is joined by a choir of back up orchestra. I think it is something else if you want to deliver a message of victory. Musically it was more or less in the vein of early SABATON offerings, yet it kicked ass hard in the right spots. "The Carolean's Prayer" made me think of "Panzer Battalion" and"Nuclear Attack" for some reason, both favorite songs mine from SABATON's discography. If you were looking for a chopping hit with straight up chorus filled with the pride of a crowd of Swedes, there you have it. Similar to the tracks mentioned, this one is catchy, simple and accessible. "Carolus Rex" is different mischief. Like the great Metal anthems of the 80s al'a MANOWAR, I think that the old Swedish ruler never got so much recognition in the form of a powerful song. Though he was probably ruthless and merciless, SABATON credited his memory with a bombastic anthem that will keep anyone hypnotized, and so it did. I was looking for something this big from SABATON and after four years, they returned the favor. I can also pack in "The Lion From The North" and "Killing Ground" as two fine tracks to have your way with. Even the cover for the legendary STATUS QUO, "In The Army Now", can be renowned as quite good even if it was a bit dry after the first listen.

"Carolus Rex" sent the message that even the eager and zealous SABATON can update their scripts after a long while. The music hasn't changed that much but the end result provided a line of wonderful tracks. Now it will be interesting to see what the new line up of the band, consisting of four new members, will enable to the warlords from Sweden.

Vasilis Odontidis (10/10)

Epic Swedish battalion force known to the Metal masses as SABATON are back holding tattered banners of battle, rolling canons of mass destruction and bringing forth a new album full of military glory. This time inspired by their own nation’s history they tell the stories of King Karl XII or Carolus Rex (hence the name of the album) gathered in a concept album. Pushing the boundaries a bit further not only they create an album about local history but they dare to create a second version of the album in their native language, Swedish.

This album is the last to have the long standing line up as some days after the completion of the record all members but Joakim Brodén and Pär Sundström left the band. The reasons of this event remain unknown as the band kept a low profile and this is totally respectable. Putting aside the gossips and chit chats we can return back to ”Carolus Rex“. The band eventually decided to concentrate on local events and though people might be surprised that war was ever possible to this country in the recent centuries it has happened - true story. Charles XII was the king of Sweden between 1697 to 1718 and led the Swedish Empire in the Great Northern Wars against the Russian-led coalition. In 1718 he died in the battlefield while attacking the Norwegian fortress Fredriksten.

Musically the album is by far the best music that SABATON has ever written. Be it inspiration and excitement about creating a record about their own nation or be it the culmination of experience of all the years the Swedes appear more mature than even creating a Power Metal anthem. The musicianship is really impressive, the compositions are stunning and the reasons to bang your head are so many. For the lyrics, they utilized the knowledge of the Swedish historian Bengt Liljegren who by the band’s own words gave meaning to the historical facts and helped them create an interesting story to fit in a concept album. The band uses a lot of choirs in Swedish that make the record even more epic and are the common reference point between the English and the Swedish version. From the few Swedish I know the lyrics are equally great and I find no preference between the two versions.

My view is that SABATON is a great band at captivating historical war events and turning them into epic Metal anthems, like the song “Coat Of Arms” which is about the Greek “Ohi Day” against the forces of Nazis. It is logically assumed that if stories of other countries inspire them then stories about their own nation must be the biggest bet for them to create something epic and big. The baritone vocals of Joakim Brodénwith the distinct “r” pronunciation make the band differentiate from the rest of the Power Metal bands creating unique music. The music in the record is performed with great professionalism by each and every band member and the production of Peter Tägtren ensures a solid audio experience. Tägtren also sings in a killer cover of “Twilight of the Thunder God” of the Norse gods AMON AMARTH. They also recorded a cover of “Feuer Frei” by RAMMSTEIN and “You are in the Army Now” by STATUS QUO. ”Carolus Rex“ eventually turned to be the last record of a longstanding line-up of SABATON and their best record up to date and something really different in a genre full of meaningless recycling and smurf-like vocals.

4 Star Rating

1. Dominium Maris Baltici
2. The Lion From The North
3. Gott Mit Uns
4. A Lifetime Of War
5. 1648
6. The Carolean's Prayer
7. Carolus Rex
8. Killing Ground
9. Poltava
10. Long Live The King
11. Ruina Imperii
12. In The Army Now (Status Quo Cover)
Joakim Broden– Vocals
Rikard Sunden– Guitars
Oskar Monetlius– Guitars
Par Sundstrom– Bass
Daniel Mullback– Drums
Daniel Myhr– Keyboards
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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