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Sabaton - Topic

The Art of War Play

Swedish power metallers Sabaton take their inspiration from military history, using depictions of key historical battles and campaigns to color their epic, keyboard-driven heavy metal. Their fifth album, The Art of War, is inspired in part by Sun Tzu's definitive strategic handbook, and the album's 13 tracks feature intermittent quotations from the manual. If that sounds like a flimsy concept for an album, it most assuredly is. Thankfully, though, The Art of War differs little from its predecessors in that it focuses not on the art of war but on concrete events. "Panzerkampf" is the album's clear highlight: a passionate account of the Soviet Army's defeat of Wehrmacht forces on Russian soil in 1943 that perfectly showcases singer Joakim Brodén's throaty Germanic brogue with the chorus "Into the motherland, the German army marched/Comrades stand side by side to stop the Nazi charge!" Despite the quasi-nationalistic fervor whipped up by "Panzerkampf," delayed opener "Ghost Division" looks at events from the German side, celebrating the seeming invincibility of the Seventh Panzer Division. It's not just thematically that the album feels a little disjointed, however; if "Panzerkampf" and "Ghost Division" represent power metal at its most epic, the likes of "Union" and "Cliffs of Gallipoli" are relatively banal by comparison, and for that reason The Art of War is less than a fully satisfying listen. ~ Dave Donnelly, Rovi

Coat of Arms Play

Not all power metal is epic power metal, but there are certain power metal albums that make a point of being as epic as possible -- and Sabaton's Coat of Arms is one of them. Everything about this 2010 release is epic and proud of it; we're talking epic melodies, epic hooks, epic lyrics, and big, fist-pumping epic choruses. Short of Manowar, one would be hard-pressed to find a more epic power metal disc than Coat of Arms. But while a lot of power metal operates in the fantasy realm lyrically, Sabaton's lyrics deal with actual historic events -- specifically, events during wartime. War has been an ongoing obsession of this Swedish band, and most of the songs on Coat of Arms were inspired by things that actually transpired during World War II. Sabaton, in fact, get really specific, addressing the Battle of Britain on "Aces in Exile," the Warsaw Uprising on "Uprising," and the Siege of Baston on "Screaming Eagles." One of the tracks, "The White Death," is an ode to the heroic Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, who killed hundreds of Soviet soldiers during Finland's 1939/1940 conflict with the Soviet Union. Despite its historic perspective, Coat of Arms still has the overblown campiness of a Hollywood adventure/action movie; if grindcore is the metal equivalent of a slasher flick and gothic metal is the metal equivalent of the darkly romantic gothic horror of Dark Shadows, power metal and progressive metal have often provided the sort of larger-than-life escapism one gets from epic fantasy or science fiction films. But again, Coat of Arms deals with history rather than fantasy, and in that sense, this 39-minute CD has more in common with an epic war film than it does with, say, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sabaton obviously put a lot of thought into Coat of Arms, which, despite its Hollywood-like pomposity, easily qualifies as one of the most intriguing and well-constructed power metal releases of mid-2010. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi
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