I’ve had roughly two months to sit with Heroes, the newest release from SABATON, and I can say that over that time it has gone from a good album to a fucking great album. It is every bit as good as Carolus Rex, and that’s an album I really love. Featuring longtime members Joakim Brodén (vocals, keyboards) and Pär Sundström (bass), this time around they are joined by Chris Rörland (guitar, backing vocals), Thobbe Englund (guitar, backing vocals) and Hannes van Dahl (drums) the band is still knee-deep in its unique blend of war history and storytelling, managing to be over the top without overdoing it, if that makes sense.
The first tracks that jumped out at me were “To Hell and Back” with as Brodén puts it, a “spaghetti western” feel to it, “Resist and Bite”, and “Smoking Snakes” The first one was my instant favorite with a pretty badass guitar solo and “Bite” has this insane dual IRON MAIDEN-type guitar line running through it that pretty much had me at hello. “Snakes” has arguably the most majestic, raise-your-goblet/chalice/beer bottle pump the fist chorus of the lot, and is just a fun, fun listen again and again. A more straightforward power metal approach is taken with “Soldier of 3 Armies” to glorious results. THIS is the song that I would use to rev myself up if I were ever to march into battle (not likely, but still!) while uttering some vainglorious oath to vanquish mine enemies in the name of this or for the glory of that…on second thought, that sounds like too much work. I’ll just sit here and have another beer while I listen, cool?
As far as openers go, “Night Witches” is a great way to shake the listener awake and give them a rap on the mouth while they’re at it. And when next song “No Bullets Fly” came on I just knew I was gonna love this record. Chugging riffs and a fluid solo are ALWAYS a great combo in The Maestro’s book, so score another winner here. The march of “Inmate 4859” also features a bit of pomp and circumstance that isn’t anything out of SABATON’S realm, but it has a cool vibe to it. And I have to admit, I wasn’t into “The Ballad of Bull” at first. I’m just not sure that Brodén should be singing over just a piano. His voice is better-suited for all the bombast that is a mainstay of this band. But a funny thing happens midway through. When everyone joins in, it’s actually a decent song, but nowhere near as good as the rest of the record.
“Far From the Fame” is all heavy metal gallop and closer “Hearts of Iron” is the kind of song that you listen to when you know you’ve just done something good and you want to sit back and enjoy it. It’s a fine send-off and a high note to end on. Throughout their career SABATON have had some ups, some downs, and some in-betweens, but they have always had their own sound that sets them apart. I am happy to say that this trend continues on Heroes, and the boys have delivered a sure-fire winner, due out May 27 via Nuclear Blast Records. Get yours!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “No Bullets Fly”, “Resist and Bite”, “To Hell and Back”, “Soldier of 3 Armies”, “Smoking Snakes”