Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

To protect the empire, we must destroy it. - 79%

hells_unicorn, August 21st, 2012

There is this cliché condition that many tend to find themselves in after a long period of conflict known as war fatigue. Many are feeling it with regard to what can only be described as the longest and most ridiculously justified occupations in American history known affectionately as the wars of the Bush doctrine (aka Afghanistan and Iraq), and yet it seems to just drag out regardless to what people say or do. Cynicism is the obvious result, stemming from report after report in the corporate media about how things are moving forward as bodies pile up day by day, people whose names I will never know, yet people whose lives were ended with helped by me paying taxes. The only real solace that can be taken from this eventuality is a fool’s hope that one day people will crack open a history book and modify their politics according to the lessons that will be consequently learned in the process.

For those who haven’t the time or inclination from doing this the old fashioned way, a number of metal bands have taken on the historical narrative as a lyrical outlet, among the more well known of them being Sabaton. They’ve consistently told the tales of military history in the 1st person, giving them a sort of appeal that, when combined with the formulaic, old school heavy metal sounds that produces something very close to soundtrack music, makes for a very vivid experience where the images of fleeting life and glory abound. Though most of their albums have tended to seek after objectivity rather than outright protest over the corrupt politics that pave the way for the foolhardy heroics of so-called free men turned soldiers, things are looking a little different of late.

“Carolus Rex” tells the history of Charles XII of Sweden, among one of the more exclusively militaristic of Europe’s long line of monarchs. To be fair, his side did not initiate hostilities between itself and its surrounding adversaries (Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Saxony-Poland-Lithuania), but his insistence upon a indefinite conflict after successfully defending his empire in order to crush his enemies resulted in the absolute collapse of Sweden’s monarchy and the loss of much of its territory, not to mention the end of his own life (one has to wonder what lay in store for my own native U.S. given the massive overreaction to 9/11 that still drags on to this very day given this particular piece of history). The music accompanying the lyrics generally follows typical Sabaton fair of putting the keyboards on equal footing with the guitars, emphasizing a dense, multi-layered atmosphere comparable to the lofty terrain of the battlefields of the north that this story is set upon, and resulting in 10 very catchy and easy to follow songs that convey a sense of fatalism, as if the impending downfall was known before the first round was fired.

While the message contained in this ambitious concept album is very poignant and time appropriate, the musical contents actually take the band’s underlying formulaic approach to an exaggerated extreme. There is literally no chord change or guitar solo to be found on here that can’t be predicted by simply recalling the same basic approach typified in “Primo Victoria”. A couple of songs such as the up tempo “The Lion From The North”, the down tempo coaster straight from 1980 Black Sabbath “The Carolean’s Prayer” and the happy medium experienced on “Poltava” manage to stand out as being better than much of the band’s work since their 2005 label debut, but apart from a more elaborate subject, this is the same basic song and dance. Nevertheless, this limited approach has always served the band well, and I would argue that scaling back the massive instrumentation would expose Joakim Brodén’s gruff-infused and largely limited vocal capabilities way too much anyway.

If you could stomach my anti-war rhetoric, you’ll have an easy time getting into this album as apart from the mildly preachy “A Lifetime Of War” it’s told mostly from an objective historical standpoint. But it does hit pretty close to home for anyone who spends too much time worrying about the present goings on in the world. It’s not quite Sabaton’s best, but it will definitely satisfy the rank and file who haven’t missed a song since “Primo Victoria”.