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Nothing new on the Swedish front - 58%

MetalGuard, September 5th, 2012

In recent years, few acts in the metal scene have been able to enjoy the amount of success and polarization at the same time as the Swedes of Sabaton have. For the better part of a decade, they have been playing every stage, club and rathole from the polar circle to the southern coast of Italy, and they have never once compromised their style and always delivered action-packed live shows and entertaining performances. However, if there is one thing one could critizise about Sabaton, then that their musical radius is about the size of a bottlecap. Now don't get me wrong - most bands tend to develop their own style and formula, and then stick to that through the years; the problem that I've been having with Sabaton however is that their particular style and formula are inherently so very limited, that it almost makes it hard to comprehend how they manage to release album after album and still get people to regard every one of those records as a "new" album.

And that is also the main issue I have with "Carolus Rex". It was clear from the get-go that after the band skyrocketed in the wake of the release of their "The Art of War" album back in 2008, that not only the very particular style of Sabaton - a combination of oratorical vocals by a less-than-talented singer, lots of cheesy keyboards and huge, huge sing-a-long choruses - had struck a nerve with metal fans all over the world, but that this success also meant that Sabaton would never really be able to move away from that unmistakable style ever again.

One could argue that defining your own "sound" is what makes a great band in the first place, and there is certainly some merit to that. However, once you've heard the umpteenth incarnation of one and the same song, even a supposedly tried-and-true formula can and will get boring.

To Sabaton's credit, the new album "Carolus Rex" at least tries a few new things. In "Gott Mit Uns", they employ some folk elements into their sound that hadn't been there before, and "A Lifetime of War" is actually - believe it or not - a bona fide ballad; arguably the first in the career of Sabaton, and not at all a bad one at that. However, where there's light, there's also shadow - and in the case of "Carolus Rex", that shadow comes in the shape of several songs that have just been heard over and over again from the Swedes. The title track "Carolus Rex", while able to once again deliver a big chorus, just sounds like a remake of the title track of "The Art of War" at times, and songs like "Killing Ground", "Poltava" and "The Lion from the North" leave an equally recycled taste in your mouth.

On the funnier side, though, Sabaton have recorded a set of interesting cover songs for the limited edition of the album, namely "Twilight of the Thundergod" by the mighty Amon Amarth, and - a bit less surprisingly - "In the Army now", the undying classic by British rockers Status Quo. Another interesting fact that deserves mentioning is that the band actually recorded both an English version of the album, and one entirely in Swedish. However, the song "Ruina Imperii" is available only in Swedish on either version of the album.

All in all, "Carolus Rex" certainly isn't a bad album; it would, however, be considered a much better album if there hadn't been several Sabaton albums before it, all of which sounded pretty much the same and had pretty much the same songs with marginally altered lyrics on them. This album is a definite buy only for die-hard fans of the band, everyone else should probably give the CD a few spins before deciding on whether to purchase the record.