Album Title: The War To End All Wars
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 4 March 2022
You may recall the incredible coincidence that saw Haken release an album entitled ‘Virus’ in 20xx right in the midst of the biggest global pandemic in generations. Well, it has happened again. Swedish power metal juggernaut Sabaton are about to release their tenth album upon the world just as Russia launch an invasion into Ukraine. The title of this new album? ‘The War To End All Wars’. Admittedly, there is rarely a year that goes by without two factions, big or small, waging war – it’s a sad inevitability it seems of the human race. However, it has been a long time since something of this magnitude has occurred, and Sabaton have unwittingly timed their new album perfectly. Mind you, it’s less of a coincidence when you consider that the vast majority of Sabaton’s music has a war theme.
The war that Sabaton are talking about here is, of course, World War I, but it’s depressing to think that we’re living at a time when, once again, war is happening, and we’ve seemingly learned nothing as a species in the intervening century.
I’m fascinated by history and could spend the entire review focused upon the subject matter of Sabaton’s latest creation. However, manofmuchmetal.com is a music-based website, so I’ll change tack at this point and switch my attention to the eleven tracks that make up ‘The War To End All Wars’, Sabaton’s tenth album.
It’s at this point where I ought to declare that Sabaton have never been one of my favourite bands. For one, they pinched their drummer, Hannes Van Dahl, from my favourite band back in 2014 which is never a good move in my eyes. Mind you, it has all worked out perfectly, so that’s water under the bridge now. But secondly, I always found the Sabaton sound to be quite average. A great live act they may be, and a lot of fun at summer festivals they certainly are. But musically, I have never been blown away by their brand of melodic power metal. However, I felt it was time to see if I could be persuaded, and what better time than the present.
On to ‘The War To End All Wars’, an album that continues the World War I exploration begun on 2019’s ‘The Great War’, it quickly becomes evident that there is no sea change in terms of the Sabaton modus operandi. If you are familiar with previous output, you’ll not confuse this record with anyone else. As such, listeners are met with an eleven-track, 45-minute blast of rousing, anthemic, and catchy melodic power metal, led by the unmistakeable and expressive deep croon of vocalist Joakim Brodén. With a relatively stable line-up over the years, and a niche that they’ve carefully carved for themselves during their two-decade career, it would have been a bigger shock if their musical output experienced a major reboot – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, as the saying goes.
‘The War To End All Wars’ is not put together in any kind of chronological order as far as I can tell. However, what I really like about this album is the way that it is bookended by two tracks that feature spoken-word narration, and speak of the beginning and the end of the war respectively. On ‘Sarajevo’ the music is dramatic and cinematic, benefitting from Brodén’s keys and orchestration skills, as well as a rousing chorus and a beautiful lead guitar solo that carries an air of sorrow with it. The narrator talks of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and it sets the tone well for the main body of the record.
With the scene set, in comes ‘Stormtroopers’ with real energy and is driven by urgent riffs from guitarists Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson, accompanied by an equally energetic rhythm section comprised of drummer Hannes Van Dahl and bassist Pär Sundström. The mid-section that features choral vocals and a lovely lead guitar solo is the only point at which the pace slackens because for the remainder of the song, including a vibrant chorus and further flamboyant lead guitar solos, Sabaton are marching on all four cylinders, in full attack mode.
‘Dreadnaught’ begins in a very different fashion, as the sounds of waves washing up upon the shore are met with a deliberate min-tempo stomp, as the band tell the story of the British battleship of the same name. Laced with bold synth sounds, the chorus is an immediately catchy, hook-laden affair, albeit laced with a sense of sadness and darkness.
In true European power metal style, ‘The Unkillable Soldier’ bounds along with a irresistible gallop, telling the tale of a British soldier who suffered many serious wounds at the Battle Of The Somme and at Passchendaele but who refused to give up, fighting on despite his grave injuries. The galloping pace and the choral vocals convey a sense of deep pride and match the will of this incredible human perfectly. It’s easily one of the most pompous and over-the-top tracks on the album, but rightly so.
As ‘Soldier Of Heaven’ kicks in complete with a Euro-pop feel thanks to the use of electronic drums and bold 80s style synths, I begin to realise that maybe the music of Sabaton is more subtly varied than I first thought or gave them credit for. What at first feels like a very one-dimensional record does, with time, prove to be anything but. There is a good ebb and flow to the album that keeps me listening from start to finish. And this is a good thing because it is clear that ‘The War To End All Wars’ is an album designed to be listened to as a complete body of work rather than a record to be dipped in and out of.
To highlight the variety that slowly becomes apparent, I have to mention the thrash-like opening riff that brings ‘Hellfighters’ to life, not to mention the overall heaviness of the song as a whole. It is still catchy as hell with a bombastic chorus, but the riffs and pounding rhythms are what draw me in. Even the swift lead solo wails and screeches like you’d expect from a thrash metal band.
And then there’s the truly wonderful ‘Christmas Truce’ that deserves a special mention. It’s not strictly a ballad, but it does have some of the trappings of a classic power metal ballad, merged with an undeniable festive feel. Most of us will have heard stories of the football matches that were played between the two foes on Christmas day as guns were temporarily lowered. Well this is Sabaton’s take on those events and many others at a most remarkable moment of warmth and humanity at its best amidst a nightmarish reality. I love the opening rousing melody that is then reprised throughout, but I also like the feeling of hope and positivity that is conveyed within the song.
I’m pleased that I gave Sabaton another chance because the reward has been the discovery of an enjoyable, and genuinely interesting power metal record. ‘The War That Ends All Wars’ hasn’t completely and utterly won me over, and time will tell how many times I come back to play the album over the coming weeks and months now that my review is complete. However, this record proves to me once and for all that there is significantly more to Sabaton than mid-tempo, paint-by-numbers power metal, and a larger-than-life live show complete with drum tank. ‘The War To End All Wars’ is a surprisingly varied and professional affair that will delight existing fans and may well bring a few more to their cause.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: