The Swedish band Sabaton have been making quite a name for themselves over the last few years with their war-themed power metal, and on their latest Nuclear Blast release, Carolus Rex, the band again are telling a conceptual tale, this time it's about the rise and fall of the Swedish imperial period. For some of us non-Swedish folks, we've often had a problem with Sabaton's vocals in their native tongue, but thankfully with Carolus Rex, the band has included English vocals, with lead singer Joakim Brodén doing a fine job, which makes digesting this grand tale of the history of ancient Sweden all the easier. In fact, the singer is one of the few original members left, as Sabaton recently did a drastic overhaul of their line-up prior to this album being released, so the touring version of the band will be quite a bit different than the ensemble that recorded this album.
Style wise, not much has changed here since the last time we heard from the band, so expect those huge choruses, choirs, galloping rhythms, crunchy riffs, orchestral keyboards, and arrangements that prompt the listener to headbang as well as raise your pint glass to the heavens. Though not overly different to bands like Hammerfall or Rhapsody of Fire, Sabaton offer a less cheesy delivery to the former and less technical & bombastic formula than the latter. Tracks such as "A Lifetime of War", "1648", and "The Carolean's Prayer" contain plenty of drama from a lyrical/vocal perspective and glorious heavy metal arrangements, while the title track and "Long Live the King" contain vocal heights that we normally associate with the majestic Blind Guardian, as Brodén soars above some well executed backing vocals and choirs. Very rich and layered, these textured vocals work so well with the grandness of this concept piece.
As fun and enjoyable as Carolus Rex is, chances are if you haven't already jumped on board the Sabaton ship, chances are there isn't anything new being brought to the table here that's going to convert you as an instant fan. The English vocals might be something on the plus side, but otherwise this is tried and true Sabaton, so either you love this sort of thing or you don't. It's well done, cinematic, symphonic, melodic power metal that tells a grand story of Swedish history. Take the ride if you so dare.
1. Dominium Maris Baltici (0:29)
2. The Lion From The North (4:42)
3. God Mit Uns (3:15)
4. A Lifetime Of War (5:45)
5. 1 6 4 8 (3:54)
6. The Carolean's Prayer (6:14)
7. Carolus Rex (4:53)
8. Killing Ground (4:24)
9. Poltava (4:03)
10. Long Live The King (4:09)
11. Ruina Imperii (3:21)