Review Summary: Epic. Fun. My balls may be frozen stiff but at least this album makes them warm and fuzzy and happy.
I'm Canadian and I'm at my grandmother's and it's so ***ing cold I can't feel my god damn toes.
And so I sit here, under an inadequate blanket, listening to Sabaton's Attero Dominatus. Released in 2006, Attero Dominatus is their second album, and it doesn't disappoint. It's your basic power metal lineup - lots of keyboards, some snazzy guitarwork, a more or less audible bass, and a very audible double bass.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, allow me to summarize it in one word: cheese. Power metal is cheesy by nature. It's like a god damn cheese pizza that you put in the oven with extra cheese on top because you simply want more cheese. It's a ***ing cheese sandwich if it came up mounted atop a noble steed and punched you in the face before stuffing a magical guitar down your throat. Most power metal acts explore fantasy themes. Magic swords, tribes of orcs raping the cattle, pillaging the women and killing the villages, mighty warriors slaying dragons, and so forth. To me, power metal is good for one reason, and one reason only: it's just so damn FUN. Cheese is ***ing awesome sometimes. If you've ever tried the cheese in Holland, then power metal is exactly like that, just...musical. It's musical dutch cheese. It's fun. And oh so cheesy. But fun, nonetheless. Delicious. Smells like pure awesome. It's the cheese your cheese wishes it could smell like.
Sabaton's brand of power metal, however, is quite different from what you'd hear from bands like Rhapsody of Fire. The power isn't in the fantasy themes which are absent here. The power, instead, lies in the darker themes Sabaton explores, the most prevalent being war. This closeness to regular heavy metal, to me, is what sets them apart from the pack. The cheesiness becomes less of a "Save the princess from Globtrom the Flatulent Wizard!" sort of cheesiness, and more a "Stop the hun!" sort of war propaganda cheesiness. This is due in large part to Joakim Brodén's loud, booming vocals. Try to picture Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson if he was younger, Scandinavian, slightly less high-pitched and wore camo pants all the time. That's probably a bad comparison. I don't know. I don't care. It makes sense to me. I digress. Brodén's lyrics, while lacking in sophistication, are big. They're loud. They evoke a male chorus set to a Soviet World War II propaganda movie.
Indeed, World War II is the most recurring theme in Sabaton's music. The first three songs of Attero Dominatus are about the Battle of Berlin, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the rise of nazism, respectively. The fourth and fifth tracks, for their part, reference the wars in the middle east. The next two are centered on the First World War and the Falklands War, respectively. The eighth closes up the war theme by depicting the war in the middle east from the point of view of a soldier on deployment. These eight songs help Attero Dominatus maintain a certain consistency, but there's enough variation available in the armed conflict theme to keep every track fresh and different. As for the last song...I'm not sure if it's some rap-styled beef with every metal band on earth or a tribute. I think it's a tribute.
Musically, Attero Dominatus excels. The music on the album is loud, fast, and bombastic, which fits the subject matter just fine. Every song is like an uplifting version of Iron Maiden's Paschendale. The guitarwork is absolutely top notch across all of the album's eight tracks, and the solos give you the urge to grab the nearest broom, tape a knife to the handle, and lead a one-man bayonet charge into the living room to *** up the scrabble game going on between your mom and your grandma. If only it wasn't so damn cold.
The drumming is energetic, charismatic, upbeat, cheery, and it works well. There isn't much more to say other than "it's good and I didn't realize I was pretending to play the double bass with my legs until I got a muscle cramp holy *** the pain ***************[and so forth]". The bass guitar, as is the case in most power metal outfits, isn't entirely noticeable so there isn't much to be said about that either.
The keyboard works nicely. It's used a bit more subtly than in most power metal bands, which is good. This puts the guitarists front and center, with the keyboard augmenting the power of the music rather than detracting from it.
The lyrics, naturally, are cheesy, but they're clear and easy to decipher, and they sure make good motivation. Another thing about the lyrics is they don't sugarcoat anything. They fit the theme of war and destruction nicely. Angels Calling paints a suitably bleak portrait of trench warfare. Meanwhile, Back In Control captures the grim determination of the British troops in retaking the Falkland islands, and Rise of Evil does a good job depicting the absolute madness of Nazism. And Metal Crue...welll....it does whatever it does. Uhm...yeah...
All in all, I would say this is a solid power metal album from one of the genre's most unique and accessible bands. I'm a serious history enthusiast, and I'm glad to say that Attero Dominatus isn't cheesy to the point where it feels like revisionism. It's suitably dark, but also upbeat. The eponymous album opener is epic, and the insane album closer is fun. Together, they summarize Sabaton's music fairly well - epic and fun.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I must apologize to my grandmother for the ruckus I caused when I bayoneted her piano.
My balls are still cold.