Like a deranged history teacher who converts the chapter on World War Two into a classroom metal show, Sabaton blasts away about war, war and more war. Call it war metal or battle metal or what have you, but these Swedes are obsessed with the topic and their fifth album Coat of Arms keeps the artillery barrage firing without mercy. Coat of Arms brings you ten new tales of historical battles and famous soldiers in their unique heavy metal/power metal style without much in the way of change from 2008s The Art of War release.
Sabaton is usually labeled a power metal band although they are quite different than most artists of that genre. Helping set Sabaton apart are the unique vocals of Joakim Brodan. Mr. Brodan uses a deep, low-register delivery that fits the military themed material well as it sounds like he is shouting orders on the battlefield. Only Dark at Dawn’s Thorsten Kohlrausch has a style anywhere near it. To compliment the commanding vocals, Sabaton employs heavy guitars that veer toward Fear Factory staccato riffing at times, along with heavy keyboard flourishes for extra dramatic effect. As on The Art of War, these elements merge to create a very dense wall of sound and at times sounds very industrial.
While I did buy into Sabaton’s earlier albums (especially Attero Dominatus), I admit to growing a little tired of their approach and one trick pony lyrical theme by the time The Art of War came along. However, there were a few stellar songs on that album that I still spin regularly while neglecting the rest. The same will likely be true for Coat of Arms. There are a few standout tracks and some that will be forgotten quite quickly. Songs like the title track, “Midway,” “Screaming Eagles” and “Saboteurs” all showcase what Sabaton does very well. These are rapid fire, heavy and fist pumping but still manage to be catchy as hell. Each of these tracks would be perfect to crank while working out because they really fire you up and gets the blood flowing. If Coat of Arms had more songs of this caliber (sorry, bad pun), it would garner a high rating.
Sadly, several tracks fall prey to sub-standard writing and a few are sabotaged by awkward, cheesy choruses (“The Final Solution,” “Aces in Exile,” “Wehrmacht”). Also putting a damper on my appreciation of Coat of Arms is the nagging feeling this is too much of the same thing over and over. From album to album and track to track, Sabaton is rehashing one limiting theme without variation and although war is a great topic for metal, this singular thematic focus is getting old for me.
Worth mentioning is album closer, “Metal Ripper.” As on past albums, Sabaton throws in a tribute to classic metal with a song that’s essentially a mash-up of famous riffs and lyrics. Fun can be had picking out the myriad of metal references. It’s actually a decent song too and saved this from a 2.5 rating.
If you loved The Art of War, you should feel pretty much the same about Coat of Arms. There isn’t much difference between the two albums. If you are unfamiliar with Sabaton, give it a shot. They hit the target more often than not, but like war itself, too much of it can leave you shell shocked and disoriented.