Sabaton – The War To End All Wars Review

There’s something strangely exotic about a band as committed to its aesthetic as Sabaton. Appreciating the differences from one album to the next is less about stylistic shifts than about pace and tone. Not that anyone, myself included, would call The War to End All Wars high art, but if you’re familiar with an artist who has a distinct point-of-view you learn to spot the subtle deviations. And there’s a fun in that exercise that’s independent from the music in and of itself.

Release date: March 4, 2022. Label: Nuclear Blast Records.
Though The War to End All Wars is a continuation of its predecessor, The Great War – at least in the sense that its focus is World War I – it’s the subtle deviations that make it a more satisfying listen. There’s room to breathe within these songs. The Great War sounded at times like a band fighting through some growing pains, which is an odd observation given that it was the Swedes’ ninth album. For every tasty riff in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and “A Ghost in the Trenches” there were slight misfires like “The Red Baron” and “The End of the War to End All Wars.” The awkwardness was a blip on an otherwise very enjoyable album.

However stilted a few songs may have felt on The Great War, the awkwardness is gone on The War to End All Wars. And if the solos here are Tommy Johansson – I am assuming most are based on his work in Majestica – then perhaps the band benefited from this being his second full-length with the band. Not that they are a new phenomenon to the Sabaton sound, but the relatively outsized presence of solos here is hard to ignore. Not only do they add a weight that was missing from most of The War to End All Wars, but this specific strain of shred (“The Valley of Death”) is almost neoclassical. It’s subtle, no doubt, but it’s a subtlety that fans will surely pick up on.

An abundance of solos isn’t the only notable deviation from The War to End All Wars. Outside of the opening seconds of “Soldier of Heaven,” the band has largely abandoned its proclivity for schmaltz. Not that it’s a complete abandonment; it’s an inextricable part of the Sabaton charm. But we’re listening to a more careful incorporation of keys. Even the aforementioned “Soldier of Heaven,” with its obvious bounce, feels more riff- than key-based with a killer solo at the 2:10 mark.

The War to End All Wars’ pacing feels a little more even-keeled than the somewhat potholed path of The Great War. Even the slower songs such as “Versailles” and “Race to the Sea” maintain a certain momentum that was lacking in The Great War. The War to End All Wars is proof that you don’t need a stockpile of slower tracks to create a more cinematic listening experience.

Sabaton’s tenth album sounds like an inspired veteran band playing to its strengths. The more dominant role solos play in the band’s overall sound is striking, but the core elements that are Sabaton’s signature are still the engine moving things forward. As much as I enjoyed Heroes, The War to End All Wars may prove to be my favorite release since Carolus Rex.

Posted by Chris C

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