Review: Sabaton - Carolus Rex
In all my time of knowing about the Swedish power metal sextet, there's been an immense sense of excitement that comes with them. Several friends of mine (Hey Peter and Steven and I forget who else was there) saw them live when they performed at Fat Sam's in Dundee supporting DragonForce. Supposedly that evening, their performance blew DragonForce to the ground. Well, in my opinion, that was never going to be much of a struggle. So, by force I have listened to a decent amount of the metallic war epics, so it's safe to say that their sixth album Carolus Rex is just as strong.
And that's a claim that has undoubtedly been met by some cynicism. The band has experienced something of a major lineup change with only frontman Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström remaining in the lineup, it seems surprising that the group would already go straight to recording an album, but then, nothing is ever done realistically in power metal.
With war being the sole theme of the band's lyrics once more, Carolus Rex takes on the war experience of the Swedish Empire, so this is probably the closest the band will get to having a personal record since it's their homeland they're singing about. Needless to say, right from the opening of The Lions in the North, the guitar hooks from new axemen Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund leap into action with a crushing delivery that can only deliver a sense of gloriously over-the-top triumph. It's in the squealing lead guitar, it's in the amazingly cheesy backing keyboards and the dramatic wails of Brodén. It makes the song completely energetic, gripping and makes you want to pick up your sword and charge into battle with Sabaton to defend your homeland of Sweden.
Or wherever you may reside.
Naturally, this kind of attitude is on display across the album, from the stomping breakdowns of The Carolean's Prayer and the dramatic gut-wrenching charge of Long Live the King, which all create a sense of indestructible warrior pride.
And with that being the overriding album theme, it would be hard for me to say that it stands strong for the entire experience. There's always a metallic strength and rush of riffs to be found but the constant repetition starts to make the album drag on. And well, no one wants to be in a battle at war that drags on.
While there's no denying that Carolus Rex is an undeniably strong effort from Sabaton, it's far from being their freshest or most edge-of-seat. It doesn't really touch the kind of performance they gave on Attero Dominatus or Coat of Arms and I suppose the fact that I got into the might and dynamism of Turisas way before I did with Sabaton doesn't help either. Sabaton are still going strongly in spite of their new lineup, but is this album as likely to impress my friends if they return to Fat Sams? Seems less likely...
Sabaton's Carolus Rex is out now via Nuclear Blast.