Hot off the Press

Sabaton | Carolus Rex

by Justin Gaines
Staff Writer —

2012 is a very interesting time for Swedish power metal band Sabaton. At a time when the band is arguably on top of the world – impressive sales numbers at home and abroad, steady touring and being one of the only real breakout power metal bands in the US since perhaps Dragonforce – they also faced serious inner turmoil. Aside from bassist Par Sundstrom and vocalist (and chief songwriter) Joakim Broden, the rest of the lineup split to form a new band (with the unimaginative moniker Civil War). The lineup stayed together to record Carlous Rex, though, which is easily Sabaton’s most ambitious album to date.

For Carolus Rex, the band’s sixth studio album, Sabaton opted to make another concept album. Sure, they’re all concept albums to the extent that every Sabaton album is focused on war, but like 2008’s The Art of War (which was based on Sun Tzu’s famous work), Carolus Rex focuses on a central theme, namely the Swedish Empire. Swedish historian Bengt Liljegren, who helped with historical accuracy, assisted the band. The other reason Carolus Rex is so ambitious is that the band opted to sing entirely in their native Swedish. This caused quite a stir until they later revealed that an English language version of Carolus Rex would also be released. The copy we received for review was the English version, so we cannot comment on the Swedish version.

Regardless of the language, Carolus Rex still sounds very much like what you expect a Sabaton album to sound like. Once you clear the obligatory instrumental introductory track and “The Lion From the North” storms in, you know you’re in familiar territory. This is the same kind of marching, anthemic melodic power metal we know from previous Sabaton albums, but the nature of the themes and lyrics means there’s not the easy shout-along accessibility of older Sabaton classics like “Masters of the World,” “Primo Victoria” or “Metal Crue.” The flip side of that is that the band had to work harder to make these songs sink in, and for the most part they succeeded. Carolus Rex captures the signature Sabaton sound, but it really has a grander, more epic feel to it, and feels like a conceptual piece even without the lyrics confirming it. The keyboards in particular seem more inspired on this album, and Joakim Broden sounds like he’s reaching deep and feels a great deal about the subject matter he’s singing about.

“The Lion From the North,” “A Lifetime of War” and “Killing Ground” are the most accessible, raise the fist for metal type songs on Carolus Rex, but the album’s finest moment comes from the one-two punch of “The Carolean’s Prayer” and “Carolus Rex,” which somehow manage to capture the spirit of the whole album in just eleven minutes. The rest of the album is just as solid though, and aside from that opener there’s really no filler.

While it doesn’t vary much stylistically from the previous five Sabaton releases, Carolus Rex absolutely feels like a more focused, more inspired album than, say, Coat of Arms was. It’s a very strong melodic power metal album all around, and one that should not disappoint the growing legion of Sabaton fans.

Edition Notes: There are multiple configurations of Carolus Rex available. The English language version is what you’re most likely to find in stores, but you can also find the Swedish version, a 2-disc edition containing both versions (plus a bonus track) and a deluxe edition with two discs, three bonus tracks and a book online.

Genre: Power Metal

Par Sundstrom (b)
Oskar Montelius (g)
Rikard Sunden (g)
Joakim Broden (v)
Daniel Mullback (d)
Daniel Myhr (k)

Track Listing:
1. Dominium Maris Baltici
2. The Lion From the North
3. Gott Mit Uns
4. A Lifetime of War
5. 1648
6. The Carolean’s Prayer
7. Carolus Rex
8. Killing Ground
9. Poltava
10. Long Live the King
11. Ruina Imperii

Label: Nuclear Blast


Hardrock Haven rating: 8.75/10