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Black metal might be war, but the most notable band to obsess over the actual concept of military engagement is of a much more mainline persuasion. In fact, Sabaton’s albums are easier to differentiate via the specific historic conflicts and locales denoted lyrically than by any form of musical evolution to speak of. The formula was pretty well set in stone with “Primo Victoria” and any deviation from it in their expanding discography is localized to the earlier, underground stages of the band when Joakim Brodén was still being heavily informed musically by the 80s, Malmsteen infused tendencies of Stormwind, a band that he had just concluded a brief tenure with.
The up and coming event that will be “Carolus Rex” (the Latinized name of Charles XII of Sweden) would seem to be a typical affair for this band if the single that also bears its name is any indicator. Much like the retro power metal outfit Axel Rudi Pell, this band tends to build albums by tinkering around a bit on the edges of a long established and predictable formula, though Sabaton differs greatly in the sound they’ve adopted, which while near equally oriented in 80s trappings, carries a massive, Wagnerian character that is much more bombastic than the humble, almost ambient character of ARP. Nevertheless, this song is an exercise in maintaining tradition, and literally sounds like it could have fit in just as well on “The Art Of War” or “Coat Of Arms” just a few years prior.
But for all the lack of newness to be found, this song does manage to be just a little bit more colossal than a number of comparably slower, heavy edged predecessors. Brodén’s vocal delivery is equally as deep and raspy as ever, but everything else around him sounds so larger than life that it sounds like the whole arrangement is doubled and tripled at every instrument. Perhaps the closest song to the way this thing strides at a punishingly slow tempo with its massive chord hits and hall-filling keyboard sounds is “Wolfpack”. It’s a song that impresses almost entirely by how ridiculously catchy it is, and while it may get itself lost in the growing sea of similar sounding songs in the band’s past, it commands enjoyment for its entire duration, not to mention sneaking in some history of Sweden for everyone not schooled in the subject.
The recently released 6th album will most likely prove to be a sufficient draw to all the faithful, but anyone who wasn’t won over by any of the previous albums will find that much like Hammerfall and Dream Evil, this is a band that tends to be taken or left in its entirety. There were better songs on “Coat Of Arms” and “Primo Victoria”, but plenty of lesser ones on “Attero Dominatus” and “The Art Of War”, so forgive the old cliché of the truth being somewhere in the middle, but that’s the basic story with this song. Prepare to march mighty troops, and remember to tell the band not to change up the beat too much.