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“Attero! Dominatus! Berlin is burning ! Denique ! Interimo! The Reich has fallen!” So it begins, the second attack by Swedish power metallers Sabaton. After the first word has been spoken, you immediately feel both comfortable and all fired up. Comfortable, because the first words and the accompanying music tell you that this definitely is going to be another ride on the rollercoaster of heavy metal that is Sabaton. All fired up, because there is so much energy pumped into those first words. The words, shouted with silence in between, are backed up by powerful riffs doing the same start-stop thingy as the words. Buckle up, we’re going to war!
Attero Dominatus is what lovers of Primo Victoria will love as well: straightforward power metal, with very few changes and a surprise here and there. The biggest change is the adding of Daniel Mÿhr to the band as a permanent member. And the other changes are… uh, well, … not so important! The artwork is by the same artist as the one who did the job on Primo Victoria: good. The structure of the songs on the album is the same: the album opens with emphasis on the text, ends with a metal anthem and has a song singing about the death/injury/psychological effect of war on soldiers right before the end. Oh yeah, there are once again nine songs (unless you got the re-release with the extras).
So, the music is basically still the same. I really like Sabaton, let that be made clear, but I never thought them to be really technical. I can’t play any instrument, so I don’t really know about complexity, but from what I hear all as pretty straightforward. Don’t expect to be digging around in the music, searching for new layers, new little sounds and notes you didn’t hear before. I never found them. But the less time you spend digging in the musical structure, the more time you have to let the music roll over you like a tank. Guitars, bass, drums and keys: all do a great job, and they keep it simple.
Sabaton play a heavy type of power metal: they have got Bróden’s great rasping voice, harsher than let’s say Hammerfall’s vocals, but very firm. I have seen the band live seven times now, and I have never heard a bad vocal performance.
The biggest surprise on this album is The Rise of Evil, an eight minute song about Hitler’s rise to power/Joakim’s penis (that’s what he once said about the song, that it’s about his penis). Here the keys are more important than on the other songs of the album, the riffs are slowed down and the drums are also playing at a slower pace. You didn’t hear this on Primo Victoria, but I doubt you won’t like this one.
Songs resembling PV songs are for example: In the Name of God, which resembles Primo Victoria very much in the chorus. During Primo Victoria, which is played at higher pace live, the crowd is asked to jump. That’s the same here, it just feels like jumping. Metal Crüe, which is Metal Machine’s brother. The same lighter feel of it, the lyrics, the title. Live these two are often merged into one song, the Metal Medley. Nuclear Attack is the fastest on the album, but is rather different from PV’s Reign of Terror. The latter is rather aggressive and fast, where Nuclear Attack is just faster. Something as aggressive as Reign of Terror is absent on this album.
If I compare Attero Dominatus with Primo Victoria, I guess I’d choose PV over AD most of the times. It’ll be the melodies that attract me more on that album than on this one, but why would I ever make the definite choice of choosing between a great album and a slighty better album? I’ll just play the both of them! And so should you. If you got Primo Victoria, then you should have Attero Dominatus as well. You’ll love it, since it’s the same awesome sound from the same awesome band.
I have a strong measure of skepticism focused on Sabaton’s alleged greatness amongst current power metal circles, and their 3rd album (or 2nd depending on who you talk to) is the primary source for this uncertainty. I don’t doubt the catchiness, or even the obvious nods to earlier metal conventions which I tend to adore, but the entertainment factor is hit or miss depending on what parts of the band’s limited range of ideas is the point of focus. “Attero Dominatus”, which I would qualify as being the weakest of their efforts, could rightly be seen as a failed attempt to rehash “Primo Victoria” if the songwriting alone were the issue. However, a closer look at the delivery tells a slightly different story.
No matter how one looks at it, this album’s principle problem is that it is actually just a bit too polished for its own good. Apart from Broden’s rough growls, which are still closer to the guttural yet tonal character of “Fist For Fight” than the smoother character that would come in on “The Art Of War”, this comes off in the same sense that Hammerfall’s “Renegade” did in comparison to their first two albums. The dimensions of the sound, from the heavy keyboard presence to the distorted yet highly controlled guitar character, are so smooth that the album starts to sound a bit flat and uneventful, particularly on the supposed faster songs. This is particularly the case on “Back In Control” and “We Burn”, which might otherwise come off as decent references to early 80s Judas Priest, but are rendered limp by the posh production and is not compensated for with any interesting musical twists.
Naturally there are several moments of brilliance to be found on this album, particularly when the band elects to slow things down. Call me crazy, but that classic, down tempo bass line first popularized on Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell” and rehashed by just about everybody from Queensryche to Paragon can’t help but churn out more classics, and that is what emerges in “Rise Of Evil”. It is more of a plodder than the various homage works that Axel Rudi Pell has paid to the classic Sabbath tune, but it tends to resemble Pell’s riffing style with a slightly more evolving approach, but a similarly mellow tone and a strong tendency for atmosphere alongside a melodic, bluesy lead guitar approach. Another obvious winner is “Angels Calling”, which takes a slightly more up tempo galloping character in the drum and riff work, but otherwise maintains that melancholy atmosphere and gives newly recruited keyboardist Daniel Myhr an opportunity to showcase the band’s latent yet still present Malmsteen/Stratovarius tendencies.
In many respects, this album could be seen as something of a contradiction when looking at the rest of Sabaton’s body of work. It tends to work better when the songs are longer and there is more opportunity for musical development to compensate for a somewhat overdone production. There are some exceptions to be found of course, as the opening title song has a very powerful chorus and a good driving sense to it that injects some much needed passion into what is largely a mechanical endeavor. Likewise, the closer “Metal Crue”, in addition to managing to reference over 30 influential rock and metal bands lyrically, is a solid up tempo celebration of melody and majesty that features Broden in fairly rare form, throwing out a few Halford inspired screams that most probably would not think a guy of his vocal character would be capable of. Unfortunately, a good amount of the middle of this album is left wanting, and may cause otherwise rock solid PM fans to use the skip button once or twice.
This isn’t an amazing follow up, nor is it a genuine flop worthy of being tossed under the bus for the fleeting pleasure of seeing a wasted CD shatter into oblivion. It might be a cliché to say it, mostly because this is where the majority of albums tend to fall, but it lays somewhere in the upper echelon of moderate entertaining albums. It comes off as rock solid at first, but loses its luster fairly quickly and is best left for occasional listens. It isn’t a mandatory purchase, but it is a decent pickup. Perhaps one of the perks of being a solid power metal band is that while you may not reach an ultra-impressive zenith when at the top of your game, when you hit rock bottom it isn’t a terribly long fall.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on November 12, 2010.
As with a great many bands, Sabaton are one where you know long before putting the CD on what you're going to hear. Never let that sound like a problem, though, because these Swedes do something very unusual indeed.
On the surface, Sabaton is a power metal band. Big deal, I know. The first major departure from the anticipated "power metal template" is what a friend once described as "a real emphasis on the word 'power'". Gone are the frantic riffs and slightly thin sound that so many power metal acts have. Gone, too, is the tenor voice so common in power metal, replaced by the very distinctive gruff baritone of Joakim Broden.
Broden's voice is important for the band's overall sound, as he frequently sounds like a crazed drill sergeant. This is significant, as the band focuses almost exclusively on military themes, and having them delivered by "the voice of war", as the liner notes describe him, makes the theme sound much less of a put-on than the epic battles described by so many other power metal acts.
The conflicts described herein span most of the last century. We have World War 2 ("Attero Dominatus", "Nuclear Attack", "Rise of Evil"), the Falklands Crisis ("Back In Control"), general terrorism ("In The Name of God") and three tracks about unspecified wars ("Angels Calling", "Light in the Black" and "We Burn", the last of which could theoretically be about the Balkans). Importantly, Sabaton doesn't choose sides most of the time. Of the opening trio about World War 2, "Attero Dominatus" is from the perspective of the Soviet captors of Berlin, "Nuclear Attack" retells the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with if anything a focus on the Japanese, while "Rise of Evil" recounts Hitler's rise to power before the war itself. Lest this seem like a focus on "the bad guys", Broden bathes terrorists in bile on "In the Name of God", shouting for them to "Stand up and show me your face".
The final track ("Metal Crüe") deserves special attention. Eschewing the warfare focus, Broden pays homage to every conceivable hero of metal over the years. Somehow, what could sound like a mawkish closer to the album turns into an entertaining track, with lyrics such as "When the Priest killed the Maiden in the Metal Church" somehow sounding a lot cleverer than they really should.
But of course, this is a power metal album, regardless of subject matter, and all the usual singalong choruses are present and correct here. It might well be a bit of a challenge to sing "Start the Holocaust/The Reich will rise/To last a thousand years" in good conscience, as the chorus of "Rise of Evil" runs, but that bombastic Sabaton sound will probably override any ethical considerations.
As with a lot of metal, particularly power metal, of course, one has to be in the right mood to enjoy this heartily. 41 minutes almost exclusively focused on war can get a bit tedious, no matter how talented the band is, if you're not prepared to chant along.
When you consider the number of crummy metal sub-genres out there, it’s a wonder that ‘war metal’ as has never really taken off. After all, the potent mix of hostility, history and hate isn’t exactly alien to the metal mindset right? Or is it? Maybe at some subconscious level the utter futility of war (whatever your allegiance) rarely repays repeat visits. Unless you happen to play in a band called SABATON that is. These guys are a brainwashed battalion from start to finish. Maybe that’s too harsh. Replace the word brainwashed with knowledgeable. In other words they know their stuff. In all departments. Period.
The band is invariably pictured in military uniforms and brandishing guns. It sorta gets tired after a while. But some decent cover art, half-decent lyrics, and mighty music means they stay on the radar until further notice. ‘Attero Dominatus’ is album number two, and boy were expectations high after a blinding debut effort. The opening track says we’ve gone from blinding to deafening. It’s the title track and the chorus is the first thing you hear delivered in the band’s trademark military choir style performance. The voices are big because of what’s at stake. This song’s about the fall of Berlin and final moments of the thousand year Reich. You know a song’s good when you start to sing along within seconds of hearing it.
“Nuclear Attack” switches focus to Japan and how an American bomb or two changed everything forever. The subject matter isn’t nice, and the melody matches the menace. Frontman Joakim Broden writes virtually everything the band does, and he has an uncanny ear for anthems. But despite what you’ve heard, there’s more than just traditional metal on parade. “Rise Of Evil”, for instance, charts the rise of Nazism in a way that makes it sound like a long, unstoppable, ugly and relentless march. This is a band that plays tight whatever the tempo, and on this occasion the precision doesn’t just get the point across – it keeps it there.
“In The Name Of God” turns the tables on the Holy War argument with Broden demonstrating his signature gravelly vocal style with it’s chameleon turns that inject a growl into anything from a whisper to a war-cry. He also has an attention grabbing ability to sing the words as if he was delivering a speech. We’re talking intonations and emphasis as distinct as any musical inflection. Which is really something when you get to “We Burn”. It’s about genocide (with words by bassist Par Sundstrom). Somehow the subject matter manages to work brilliantly alongside a double kick and unexpected nod to the 80’s anthem chorus. In fact it’s a nod that extends to the next two songs as well.
Despite the title, “Angel’s Calling” is no acoustic side step. Instead you get a prog departure that perfectly mirrors the aimlessness of a soldier who just knows he’s about to die. “Back In Control” takes the battle to the Falklands conflict this time. It’s a route that includes a glimpse into yet another string on the SABATON bow; keyboards in metal means playing metal on your keyboards. No harmony for padding. Try armour for the fight. Which is appropriate when you look at the lyrics of the next song, “A Light In The Black”. Having rendered nations at war, decisive battles, and great and not-so-great leaders – the lyrical focus is now pulled back to the lone soldier returning home to who knows what. So the last thing you probably expected was the fist punching the air chorus that this song actually delivers.
But keep that fist raised for “Metal Crüe”! Remember that suspicious 80’s influence I talked about? Nothing suspicious about it. It was the decade that turned more people on to metal than ever before. And for Broden there’s still something sacred going on. And this is his hymn complete with cock-rock opening scream and clichés so precise they work every time. Oh and check out the lyrics. Count how many metal bands he’s worked into them. The guy’s smart. And so is this release. Do likewise and check it out. Because with a “More Beer?” tab on their official site, here’s hoping the metal battlefield doesn’t take it’s toll on the brain cell count of a band – that more than most in recent years – has emerged as one of the more promising long term prospects in metal.
So the masters of war embarked on a risky, albeit mandatory, step forward and released their next piece of work after the legendary (yes I repeat it LEGENDARY) masterpiece, Primo Victoria, and to be honest, it actually met my expectations. Let's face it: it's brilliant to keep up the good work, but hard to match unsurpassed excellence. However, to clearly view Attero Dominatus, PV should stay out of the way. Sadly, AD suffers the glory of its predecessor.
By far AD is a very good album, and steering clear of PV comparisons as far as possible, I find it highly enjoyable. Broden's vocals are at top gear, with screams and grunts positioned flawlessly: Hey, the guy's voice is unparalleled. I have heard pseudo-Hansi Kurschs, pseudo-Dickinsons, and even pseudo-Dios, but I've never (and probably most metal fans) listened to such a moderately growling, low-pitched, highly emotional voice. While there may be more talented vocals, Broden remains UNIQUE. His genius creates the awesome climax of the choruses – you know you're in for a headbang before it arrives. Riffs are slick and direct, though surprisingly low in intensity, which is the major drawback in the whole work. Guitar solos are beautiful – no shredding wankery. The production is top notch, and the songs are definitive – no redundancy here – even the 8-minute-long "Rise of Evil".
IMO, the album lacks one essential ingredient: momentum.. that is, the force behind the machine work.. you know, the vvvvvvv. With the exception of the magnificent "In the name of God" and the torturing "Nuclear Attack", the songs are great but not power-driven. Even the title track starts wonderfully then fades to mediocrity. Another drawback is that most songs start and end abruptly. I wished "In the name of God" would start something like "Angels Calling".
Highlights? You bet. "In the name of God" is everything that Sabaton is all about. Reminds me of P…ughhh comparisons are odious. Simple but catchy riffing, humorless vocals, and an exceptional chorus. The intro to "Angels calling" is fascinating, only wished the song would live up to its martyrdom theme. Back in control is a nice cooker that gets better with time. "Metal Crue" is an instant classic where Broden is featured for the first time hitting high pitch (or wasn't it him?). This song is a must to wake you up in the morning. But now for the real beef of the album: "Rise of Evil". I love to say that I listened to this track more than a hundred times and I never get enuff of it. Comparisons here are allowed. Yes it reminds me (and you too) of the memorable riff of Sabbath's "Headless cross" – with a light twist. This song is mid-paced heavy metal at its best, with perhaps the best chorus I know, or at least the chorus I repeat the most night and day. Long? Never felt it. The songs meanders and turns with excellent bass and drum work. Broden displays one of his best vocal shows with the band. Absolutely splendid.
If you haven't listened to PV, get this, and then get PV. If you have, it's worth a listen, but with no high expectations. Overall, it's a definitely good effort.
Primo Victoria was an epic - truly a classic among the slew of abysmal metal records being released these days. I remember first hearing them up front, supporting Dragonforce. The gig had had a delay and when they finally came on they blew me away. After 3 songs I was gagging for more. Before I'd heard a few MP3s and didn't think they were that brilliant. Anyways, needless to say I walked away with Primo Victoria.
I quickly became a big fan and was shocked with myself when I realized this follow-up (their 3rd real album, but the 2nd release) had slipped into release without my knowledge. Within a couple weeks I'd acquired a copy for my birthday (what fortunate timing...). I stuck it in my CD player expecting more of the brilliance I'd heard on the first album, hopefully with some new twists and turns mixed in. However, it seems as though they have fallen down the same hole as the band I'd discovered them with - much like Sonic Firestorm to Valley Of The Damned - this offered nothing new.
With the exception of the fantastic opener and the stirring power of The Rise Of Evil (sadly, singing the most hummable part of the song makes you sound like a Nazi...) virtually none of the songs are particularly catchy or memorable - there is none of the grandeur, power and freshness that made Primo Victoria so fantastic and unique.
However, one particularly refreshing part of what made them so great has remained. Unlike their contemporaries (or at least the more famous ones such as Dragonforce) lead singer Joakim BrodÃ©n opts not to emulate the sound of a man with his testes trapped in an iron vice and instead goes for a, while perhaps not unique, memorable gruff singing style. This is not a Dungeons And Dragons geek recounting how his Dragosaurus with a flame thrower beats up Lygers, it is as if you are viewing each meticulously described scene with full commentary by a military general. But so much more dramatic.
Similarly, the instrumentation is still at the high (yet not self-indulgent) standard as before. There are respectable solos and a fantastic creation of atmosphere on some songs (in particular The Rise Of Evil). The lyrics are still the same over-the-top, historically obsessive cheesy goodness as before... The problem is, its just a little too much like before. While respect must be given for not trying to tamper with a winning formula, equally there is clearly no attempt to develop the sound or build on it. Sadly, the big difference is that it just doesn't have the overall energy or quality of the original. Sure its still head and shoulders above 90% of the stuff claiming to be metal these days (Bullet For My Valentine, anyone? Anyone at all? Thought not.). but after setting themselves such high standards, it was inevitably going to be a dissapointment.
This is not to say it is of no use to fans of the genre - power metal is hardly renowned for inventiveness - it just feels like a failed re-hash of the original. If you've been listening to their music somewhere and want to take the plunge and buy a CD, go with Primo Victoria. It offers everything Attero Dominatus does and so much more. If you've already bought Primo Victoria and have subsequently fallen in love with the band, by all means buy it, just don't expect anything you haven't heard before.
Sabaton made a splash with their debut, Primo Victoria, and this is their sophomore release, and to date, the newest one with all original material. While this album is certainly good, I can't say it matches up to Primo Victoria or Metalizer/Fist for Fight. It almost seems at times like they're running out of ideas, what with the lyrical topics being exactly the same as the last release (war, war, war, war, and a song about metal). They're stretching this war gimmick very thin, and if they don't make a few changes, it could get old. It really depends on the individual, but personally I'd like to see Sabaton do at least a few songs per album that don't recount past wars and battles (and that includes songs that are not praising metal, either). But I'd take these lyrics over weepy, self pitying/soulless drivel as demonstrated on Iced Earth's last album.
Not only are the lyrics here rather deriative of the band's debut, so is the music at times. This is essentially the same style used on Primo Victoria, with no changes or innovations at all. No changes in their riff or solo department, and the drumming and bass are still as standard as they were last album. I also have to mention their choruses; Sabaton only seem to use like 3 different vocal lines for the choruses of all of their songs. "Nuclear Attack", "Back In Control", and especially the boring "Light in the Black" all have really weak choruses, mostly because we've heard them on the debut already. I noticed this right away; it could become a problem if they keep doing it on future albums.
"Light in the Black" is a ripoff of "Purple Heart" from the debut. I know it's not considered stealing to re-use your old material, but this song is just weak. "We Burn" is way too short and unmemorable, and "Angels Calling" is innovative for the band, but at the same time is not too exciting at all. "Rise of Evil" is a cool song, but it's pretty long and doesn't really keep my interest for it's 8 minute duration. "Nuclear Attack" is alright, but nothing spectacular; just go listen to anything off the debut instead. Most of the songs here suffer from problems like that; they're just dull and unmemorable. Uninspired. The band could've spent more time then a measly one year in making this album, maybe that's their problem. They suffer from the same problem as Edguy; they don't put enough time into writing top-notch material. This is good/decent, but nowhere near great.
But look at the marvellous, powerful choirs in the title track, very awesome. "In The Name of God" has a killer chorus and is probably the best song on this disc, and "Back In Control" has a lot of pent-up energy that the band probably needed to let out. "Metal Crue" is fun and really fuckin catchy, although a step down from "Metal Machine" off the last album. I like this song quite a lot, though, the chorus is very upbeat and energetic. There is good stuff here, mind you, you just have to dig a bit deeper to find it. I really wish I could say more good things about the songs here, because I like this band quite a lot, and it pains me to write so much criticism of it.
Sabaton is a talented band, but this album isn't the best they have to offer. I'm not going to judge too harshly against it, and I obviously will not write the band off in the least. Their latest album, Metalizer, showcases the band at their best, and I hope that's what their next studio release has to offer. Here's to hoping that the next album from these guys kicks all our asses around the room ten times over!