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Sabaton - Carolus Rex - 87%

Lord_Lexy, May 25th, 2012

At the end of the Last Battle of the World War tour, the tour supporting Coat of Arms (2010) in Antwerp (Belgium), Sabaton told the fans that the band would start recordings in a few weeks. As a teaser, the artwork of what now is the special edition was shown to the audience. The snippets and fragments we heard throughout the following weeks and months all sounded very promising and finally the title song of the album was released. It was a song that easily matched previous material in quality, so the rest of the album would turn out fine. And it did.

What I want to tell you right away is that Carolus Rex is pure Sabaton: the same ingredients, but the mix and the sound are spiced up. Expect 45 minutes of heavy power metal characterized by Joakim's harsh, but powerful vocals and some keyboard tunes in the background. The entire album is built of this elements, but the band sounds more epic than before. The returning use of choir singing (o.a. Long Live the King), the use of Swedish and Latin lyrics (Lion from the North, Ruina Imperii)...it all adds to the grandeur of this album. And next to that, the band sounds as always, even recycling some of its own music, but Carolus Rex doesn't sound like a makeover of an older album. Sabaton proves that music can be interesting without complicated melodies or difficult riffing. Let's be honest here, Sabaton makes really simple music, but it works and that is what counts. Shout-along choruses, lots of verses that allow for headbanging...that is what Carolus Rex offers.

Carolus Rex is a concept album about the life of the Swedish king Charles XII, and has a clear story in both music and lyrics. The album begins with a short keyboard intro which vaguely reminds me of Nightwish, and continues with something hard and fast. That is starting to look like a habit of the band: open with a firm song that allows for some shouting ("Libera et impera!") and the fans are captured throughout the length of the album. It worked on The Art of War and on Coat of Arms, and it works on Carolus Rex. And after that, the band takes you with them for 45 minutes of fun (or a multiple of that).

A few times I get the impression that Sabaton has been listening to The Art of War during the recording sessions, which is something good. There are no spoken interludes, but the "atmosphere" of the songs is at times reminiscent of TAoW. You can clearly hear traces of Union in Gott Mit Uns for example.

But there also are a few new elements: the fast Killing Grounds is a Sabaton song the like we have not heard before, and producer Peter TÃĪgtgren can be heard as guest vocalist in Gott Mit Uns (which is definitely a plus for the song). And then there is the more dramatic A Lifetime of War: Cliffs of Galipoli and The Final Solution were two songs that showed a more "emotional" side of the band, and A Lifetime of War nicely fits in with these two songs.

But even better than that is the melancholic Long Live the King: Carolus is dead, what happens now? With despair in the verses and even more despair in the chorus, where Joakim is supported by choir vocals, this songs earns the band good grades. Both in A Lifetime of War and Long Live the King you can still hear power: the day Sabaton writes a ballad is still far away (luckily!) but they can provide us with these type of powerful and more emotional songs.

The songs are of course carried by the instruments, and there is nearly no change in those. I do have the idea that some changes have been made to the sound of the keys more on the background and some changes in the sounds themselves, like the solo in Lion..., the strings in A Lifetime..., the organ in The Carolean's Prayer). Joakim's voice still is the most important characteristic of the band, and it has not changed. As always, the vocals are harsh but clear, powerful and compelling. It is a pity that four out of six band members left Sabaton after the recordings, so I'm curious about how the new album will turn out live. But if the coming concerts are bad, it will not be due to bad material.