So the mighty Sabaton are back again with Carolus Rex, an ambitious and possibly conceptual album about the rise and fall of the Swedish empire. Of course the band is fixated with all things military but this time they've decided to base their latest offering on their homeland's epic history.
To be honest I am not really too fussed what the songs are about as long as they are true Sabaton songs and stick to their tried and tested formula. The first thing I noticed about this release is the fantastic production from Peter Tagtgren. He made the band sound huge once again so props on that count. Secondly the thing I noticed most about the general mood of the album was that it was not really a joyous or happy in feel and in fact rather moody and emotional. Sure the riffs are bouncy on occasion but the general pace is fairly slow and allows the songs to make more of an emotional impact on the listener.
Having said all that after the epic slow intro (which actually reminds me of the theme music of Pirates of the Caribbean), the album starts off with the fastest song on the album, The Lion From The North. The pace is fast and riffs crisp until we reach the chorus which is sung with choirs backing Joakim in latin, Gustavus! Haroldus! etc etc... sounds epic and stratosphere bursting. The mid section choir build up is also typical Sabaton and has been heard in many previous songs. Perhaps not the most amazing Sabaton opener but after repeated plays I am liking it a fair deal but the best on this album is yet to come believe me.
Track 2 Gott Mit Uns was an instant classic as I heard it with it's sweet mid paced, glorious verse leading into an amazing chant along chorus. This song is just superb and made to be sung out loud at their gigs and they'd be mad to not play this live on their next tour. The feeling this song gives you as you listen is one of pure power and joy. The riffs are so melodic with a slight Celtic feel at times but it's that chorus that will get you in the end.
A Lifetime of War I thought was boring the first couple of times I heard it. It's actually a very sad song and I'm guessing won't be played live cause it will lower the mood somewhat. The keyboard is king in this song. The tempo of the song is close to songs like The Price of a Mile or The Final Solution. Speaking of that song I dearly love it and I wanted to love ALoW as much but I don't quite, not yet anyway. Although it is still an amazingly emotional song with chanting choirs helping Joakim with the chorus throughout.
1648 is up next and one of my fave songs on the album. It reminds me of material from The Art of War cause it's a bit more upbeat. It sounds a little like bit of 40:1 mixed with Attero Dominatus the song. Maybe they are ripping themselves off a bit but I don't really care really when the result is so amazing sweet on the ears.
The Calolean's Prayer sounds like The Art of War the song in all but name. However the song is completely amazing. It is my favourite song on the album. It is a slow military pumping beat with Joakim once again calling the Carlolean's to glorious, victorious battle. The keyboard is just magnificent in this song and sends chills up my spine however the chorus makes me want to take up arms and march alongside! The lyrics are awesome in this tune as well..."See the white in their eyes Carolean's are marching on!..." The song builds and builds to an almighty climax with Latin choirs piled on thick and a gorgeous solo and a return to that haunting call to arms chorus. A monument in the Sabaton song catalogue make no mistake.
Next is the title track which I've worn out since it was released as a promo song before the album's release and yet it is still a hugely epic and emotional slow build of a song. The riffs in this song are crushing when you pump them out loud and make you feeling like King Carolus himself! The self empowering chorus turns you from a pauper to a prince in a matter of seconds as it beckons you to bellow along. The song is of similar pace to the preceding song but it never bores you even for a second. This song must be played live and will go down a storm of that there is little doubt.
Of course the pace had to pick up after two slow songs and what a brilliant way to pick it up with the awesome tune Killing Ground with it's sweet galloping guitars and Joakim's heartfelt powerful vocals. The chorus is one that will stay engraved on your brain after the first listen as you feel the power pulsing through your veins. The song is about Swedes killing the Saxons and ripping them a new one so to speak! An amazing song that I love to death and it's not even my fave on the album!
Poltava is a fastish paced tune again with a bouncy riff reminiscent of Ghost Division although not as heavy. The chorus rears it's big gorgeous head soon enough with chants of Poltava! and counterpoint lyrics making it catchy as a bad rash. Great stuff again and would be perfect live. This song is about a battle between the Russians and the Swedes although it's painful loss for the Swedes as they suffered countless casualties at that particular battle.The subject matter maybe a bit depressing but the song is truly memorable.
Long Live The King is again a slow and sad song with lyrics dealing with King Carolus's last days and finally his demise and death. The song is based around those famous Sabaton slow pumping riffs and rumbling bass lines whilst Joakim delivers the vocals with emotional depth and power. The chorus is epic and full of feeling as is the whole song. The solo in this tune is very beautiful too with an understated yet anthemic feel. I like the song but don't love it as yet but they may come with time. I guess because Carolus Rex the song and the Carolean's Prayer are so amazing that I am slightly down on this one but it's still and amazing slow song and a fitting end although the last track completes the story in truth.
Ruina Imperii is that final song proper although it feels more like an outro even though there are lyrics. The feel is mystical with Joakim using deep vocals with Latin and Swedish lyrics mixed although I'm not quite certain. The song is an interesting and moody end although I would have liked a more conventional or even epic 10 minute song to end with but that's me being greedy!
The bonus version of the album ends with a cover of Status Quo's In The Army which is heavified in the Sabaton way. I don't mind the song and it's cool but it doesn't do anything for me really. I guess it's probably a bit of a theme song from Joakim and Co and they've probably always wanted to cover it so I'm not gonna complain too much when the album before it rules so much.
Is this the best Sabaton album ever? I don't know about that yet. I think The Art of War is maybe still a tiny bit better but it is as good if not better than Coat of Arms with ease. I can't wait to hear how some of these songs will transfer over into the live arena of course and hopefully that will happen later on in the year. Until then I will be playing the crap out of this disk!