Metal Masters: Sweden’s Sabaton relies on historical references

When you think of Sweden, what comes to mind? For me, I visualize PewDiePie (the world’s most subscribed YouTuber), Amon Amarth (a heavy metal band), and elk (the country’s national animal). However, there’s more to Sweden than plentiful animals and tasty foods.

Hailing from Falun, the Swedish power metal band Sabaton has been creating music since 1999, when they formed. They have released eight studio albums, their latest being The Last Stand, which was released August of this year.

Sabaton only appeared in Swedish music charts for their first four albums, then “Coat of Arms,” their fifth studio album, appeared on Austrian, Finnish, German, Swiss, and Polish charts. “Heroes,” Sabaton’s sixth studio album, was the first to debut at first on Sverigetopplistan, Sweden’s national record chart, though “Coat of Arms” and “Carolus Rex” both hit #2 when they debuted. However, “Carolus Rex” is their pride and joy, since it reached platinum within a year of its release.

The band currently consists of Joakim Brodén (vocals, keyboards), Pär Sundström (bass, backing vocals), Chris Rörland (guitar, backing vocals), Hannes van Dahl (drums), and Tommy Johansson (guitar, backing vocals). There are seven former members of the band.

Sabaton uses war and historical battles in most of their songs, with the exceptions being covers. They have also won several awards, all in the space of three years (2011, 2012, and 2013).

The album I recommend the most is “Heroes.” While the band’s other albums have focused on larger battles, this album is quite unique. Each song (excluding their cover of Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls) creates an image of specific individuals “who we think basically went beyond their call of duty,” Pär Sundström said. “Night Witches” gives attention to the all female Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment, dubbed Night Witches. “Smoking Snakes” is a tribute to Arlindo Lucio da Silva, Geraldo Rodrigues de Souza, and Geraldo Baeta da Cruz. These 3 Brazilian Expeditionary Force soldiers were separated from their unit and battled a contingent of Germans on April 14, 1945. Instead of resigning to defeat, the three soldiers fought to the bitter end, right up until they were killed. “The Ballad of Bull” speaks of Corporal Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen, a soldier who rescued twelve injured American soldiers during the Papua New Guinea campaign of WWII. He was awarded the US Silver Star for his bravery.

These are just three songs, but Sabaton easily molds vocals and instruments into something resembling stories throughout all of their songs, so that we can always remember what happened all those years ago. Even if metal isn’t exactly your schtick, I’d still ask you to give this Swedish power metal band a listen.

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