Sabaton - The Art Of War
Black Lodge
Battle Anthem Power Metal
13 songs (49:28)
Release year: 2008
Sabaton, Black Lodge
Reviewed by Ross
If ever there was a dictionary entry for the phrase ‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it’ it would probably have – see also under Sabaton somewhere in it. Right from their first album Metalizer, which was in fact their last album (just to confuse you), they have created songs in much the same musical style using the same theme – War! And, because of the nature of Mans’ inhumanity to fellow Man, it doesn’t look like they will run out of material to write songs about anytime soon.

The title of their latest opus, The Art Of War, comes from the writings of the same name penned by Sun Tzu somewhere between 544 – 496 BC, and a translation of some kind is probably essential reading in military training academies all over the world even today. According to Wikipedia, examples of Sun Tzu’s military writings being used in recent times are:

Mao Zedong partially credited his defeat of Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists in 1949 to the Art of War. It strongly influenced Mao's writings about guerrilla warfare, which further influenced communist insurgencies throughout the world. A further example of its explicit modern influence is its use by General Norman Schwartzkopf during Desert Storm, where the general put to practice Sun Tzu's principles of deception, speed, and attacking the enemy's weakness.

But I digress, this is about the musical version of The Art Of War, not a history lesson. (But if anyone is interested in the Sun Tzu’s treatise The Art Of War, a couple of websites to start with are - and The album starts and ends with quotes from Sun Tzu and there are also a few quotes sprinkled throughout the album. As I mentioned in my review of Sabaton’s Attero Dominatus, I felt the message throughout the album was “War is a futile, senseless act of madness.”, but I don’t get that message so much with The Art Of War; though I feel they are still not ‘Glorifying’ the murder and mayhem of warfare which is a good thing.

The lyrical content of each track is still about actual historical events and delivered with power cranked way up to 11. Joakim Brodén’s vocal style is a critical ingredient in Sabaton’s music, being extremely powerful yet clear and symphonic; almost operatic at times. When it comes to the choruses his vocal style has a rousing effect that demands you join in. And though his vocal proficiency is still pretty awesome, it seems to have lost a fair bit of its ‘Rawness’. Whether this is down to Joakim doing some natural adjustment to his voice or some overproduction in the mixing and mastering at Abyss Studios I’ve not yet decided; but I’m leaning towards the latter (The Art Of War was produced by both Tägtgren brothers, Tommy and Peter, whereas it was only Tommy who was involved in previous production duties). It’s not a huge problem but if they get away with it once who knows what they’ll fiddle around with next. Remember, ‘If it aint broke...’.

Musically the album is pretty much what you’d expect from Sabaton - Oskar Montelius and Ricard Sundén twin lead guitars weave their usual magic of melodies, harmonies, sweeps and soars with the solos fitting-in just right. This time though there is also Daniel Mÿhr adding a tad more keyboards, giving the guitars something other than themselves to interact with. You would perhaps expect the increased use of keyboard to somewhat ‘lighten’ the overall sound, but this is not the case; The Art Of War and Panzerkampf have a distinctly increased keyboard presence yet are two of the ‘heaviest’ tracks on the album. In fact, there are one or two places in the album where Children Of Bodom spring to mind; somewhere in the second, faster half of Unbreakable is one such instance. The rhythm section pairing of Daniel Mullback, drums, and Pär Sundström, bass, keep everything together and tightly wrapped. I’ve not figured out what effects are incorporated in Pär Sundström’s bass, maybe just overdrive, but whatever he’s using, it gives the overall sound a rich, deep depth.

I’ve had Attero Dominatus hanging around my playlist since I reviewed it, playing it when the mood fitted. I could be real corny and say some shit like “And now I’ve got a replacement!” but somehow The Art Of War doesn’t quite float my boat the same as Attero Dominatus does. I think it’s the robotic female voice quoting Sun Tzu throughout the album that puts me off; it makes it sound all ‘Concept Albumy’ and I have a bit of an aversion to concept albums. (Except Manticora’s Black Circus of course!) But then you could say all Sabaton’s albums could be construed as concepts as they all cover the same theme and subject. I’m thinking of running the album through one of my sound editing programmes to remove the Sun Tzu quotes, see if that helps me any; because musically, The Art Of War is an excellent album. If you’ve never heard anything from Sabaton before you can hear the complete album via the player on the Media page of their Website though you have to keep clicking on the play button every 30 second, which gets to be a pain in the ass after a while. There’s also a couple of tracks on their My Space Page and get some visuals at You Tube. If, however, you’re already a Sabaton fan or have heard some of their earlier stuff and liked it, then you might as well just go out and buy The Art Of War cos you know what you’re gonna get and you know it’s gonna be good.
Killing Songs :
Ghost Division, Cliffs Of Gallipoli, Panzerkampf, Firestorm
Ross quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Sabaton that we have reviewed:
Sabaton - The Last Stand (Limited Edition) reviewed by Chris and quoted 87 / 100
Sabaton - Heroes reviewed by Chris and quoted 100 / 100
Sabaton - Carolus Rex reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 89 / 100
Sabaton - World War Live: Battle Of The Baltic Sea reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Sabaton - Coat of Arms reviewed by Chris and quoted 92 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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