Sabaton_heroes(b)We here at AMG (mainly AMG and myself) pretty much lost our collective shit over the last Sabaton album, Carolus Rex. The combination of an interesting historical concept and inspired song writing really made that platter explode and we showered it with praise, adoration and fanboy kisses (of iron). This all came as a big surprise to me, because I always found the band to be average and despite a unique style and sound, they seemed incapable of producing consistent albums. Releases like Coat of Arms had a few awesome tunes and a bunch of others that were either forgettable or bad. The same occurred to a greater or lesser extent on their older albums as well. So what is a metal maven to expect on Heroes, the typical Sabaton or the new and amazing version? Take a wild guess, oh jaded ones. But fear not, the battle isn’t totally lost.

First thing to take note of is the return to their old “generalized war” theme. You get songs about this battle or that, that hero or some other one, not particularly connected in any meaningful way. After the sweeping historical saga of Carolus Rex, this is a tough bullet to swallow. Thankfully, the songs themselves hit the intended target more often than not and things are more consistent than on their older works. Numbers like “Night Witches,” “No Bullets Fly” and “Smoking Snakes” are typical, overblown Sabaton that pack extra bullets and bombast come chorus time, but they all work and stick in the head. “Inmate4859” sounds like leftover Carolus material and has that same infectious sense of grandeur and cheesy pomp. Closer “Hearts of Iron” also channels that larger-than-life sensibility and pays big dividends, as does the Celtic flavor running through “To Hell and Back.”

In a sure sign of growth, even the awkward power ballad “Ballad of Bull” doesn’t implode and sink the ship, and while I don’t love it, I don’t exactly hate it either. The rest of the songs slot somewhere in-between good and very good and on balance, things rock along well. It also helps that Heroes is a short album at just 37 minutes, which prevents things from growing stale, becoming filler heavy and inducing PTSD. Smart.

sabaton_2014aAs with every Sabaton outing, Joakim Broden’s vocals set them apart and gives them a unique sound. He doesn’t scream to the rafters or preen about like the typical pirate shirted power diva and that makes the subject matter somewhat believable. However, his baritone delivery makes ballads a bit sketchy and they’d do best to avoid them entirely. The turnover in guitarists hasn’t made much of a dent in their armor either. Chris Rorland (Nocturnal Rites) and Thorbjorn Englund add the proper crunch and weight to the songs and even throw in some vaguely AC/DC flourishes at times that work rather well.

As awesome as Carolus Rex was, I had a hunch it was Sabaton‘s high water mark and that’s borne out on Heroes. They still have a unique sound that sets them apart from most power metal and the writing is more consistent than on the earlier albums, so that’s partial recompense for a the fall off in quality, I suppose. This is superior to The Art of War and Coat of Arms and it’s an easy, likeable listen. Just don’t approach it expecting another Carolus and you won’t step on the dreaded landmine of disappoint. Soldier on, boys.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU][NA]
DR: 6  | Format Reviewed: 271 kbps MP3
Websites: sabaton.net  |  facebook.com/sabaton
Release Dates: EU: 2014.05.16  |  NA: 05.27.2014

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  • Rob Liz

    I love Sabatons body of work but this album for me was a regression back to the earlier works and probably the cheesiest of all of their albums. It might do them some good by taking an additional year between albums to get back to songs and themes like Carolus Rex. This felt like they were throwing songs out there to keep the fans satiated instead of really trying to craft excellent music.

    • Well, it’s clearly a regression, but I think on balance it’s better than most of their earlier stuff.

  • MPC

    Long story short: Not as good as Carolus Rex, but better than rest of their material. I would personally give them 3.5 (because Carolus Rex is, in my opinion, 4.5 – Excellent album) for Heroes. It has some killer stuff with interesting stories.

    • Almost went with a 3.5 but it just missed it.

  • Juan Esteban Mendoza

    I was waiting for this review and I had a hunch i wouldn’t be as good as Carolus. Specially since I heard the first single which was very disappointing. I still have to listen to the whole thing though, maybe I like the rest more.

  • Andres Pintos Nocerino

    i prefer carolux , this is less power and more melodic

    • I’m fairly sure 99.9999% of metal folk will prefer Carolus.

  • Matus Dust

    Lets face it. Civil War is where its at now.

    • Having heard their record, I strongly disagree. They lack the songwriting talent of Joakim Broden, and their vocalist is a wash. No thanks.

      • Really cannot cope with their vocalist. I don’t think the songwriting lacks, but gonna have to be honest that Brodén is worlds better even if he seems to be the reason for the split.

        • Matus Dust

          He reminds me of Dio a lot; completely different spectrum than Broden. Not a bad thing as far as I am concerned, sounds to me like he pours his soul into his performence. It seems like to most people it is a love/hate kind of thing, similar to Bobby Blitz or others with very distinctive voice.

          • Ralph Plug

            He’s a bit Dio, a bit Jorn, and for me personally, the high point of an otherwise above-average record. The vocalist really takes it to another level.

  • I think Carolus Rex was a spectacular album for many different reasons, and it stands apart from their catalog with its heavy symphonic elements, conceptual structure, and dual language release. But Heroes, as a standard (so to speak) Sabaton record is pretty strong. Some really great songs on here. I just reviewed this one at my blog and have a fairly higher appraisal of it, but I can say “fair” to your criticisms. Three out of five according to the scale here is still pretty strong.

  • Zadion

    Wow, weird. I love this album and almost gave it a 4.5; Carolus Rex was good, but it didn’t grab me at all like this one. I guess I’m in the minority.

  • Saw these guys open for Iced Earth recently and, not being that familiar, had pretty low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised as they were a hella-fun band live.

    • john

      This exactly. I saw they were opening for IE and I checked out one tune on youtube and thought “eeeeh too cheesy for me.” But they rocked the fucking house in Toronto. Incredibly good in a live setting.

  • Angel of Deaf

    I agree with you, i was a bit disappointed when i saw the name of the album and expected they would get back to their old stale sound. It’s the old sound but it’s more consistent and the decision to make the songs shorter makes the album considerably better. Sadly, Carolus Rex is usually a once in a lifetime album for most bands :/

  • MetalMartin

    I like the smell of Cheez Whiz in the morning…

    • You should have a doctor check that out.

    • Alceste Delacour

      Please take a shower ASAP.

    • Ralph Plug

      Did you get my Cheez Whiz, boy?

  • Ernesto Aimar

    I couldn’t agree more with this review. It’s as if I wrote it myself. Some nice tunes, but nothing else, whereas Carolus was AWESOME. I remember spending some days in Stockholm for holidays, and listening to the whole Carolus album in the Vassa Museum….*goosebumps*

  • Agreed. I enjoy this album, and I am glad for that. After Carolus Rex and the lineup changes I think everyone predicted a drop off in quality.

    Heroes is better than I expected and I am looking forward to what Sabaton does next.

  • Tanuki

    I guess my opinion on this one is lower than average. I didn’t make it through the whole album on the 1st sitting as I simply got bored. Repeats haven’t improved things much. A few good tracks and some snoozefests. That Ballad is freaking awful too. The good tracks I’ll come back to quite often I think at least.

  • It’s really hard being the record that follows up a striking success. Heroes already had the deck stacked against it, and then it was kinda flat. So. Looking forward to the next time around.

  • Mike Eckman

    I think that the band made a wise choice to “take a step back” with this release with all of the lineup changes.

    Four out of the band’s six members left after Carolus Rex necessitating a replacement at drums, both guitarists, and keys. I think that it would have been too much to take on had the band tried to make a true followup to Carolus Rex, after this degree of change.

    Its still very plausible that even without lineup changes, Carolus Rex could be the band’s pinnacle, but I’ll at least give them a bye on this one. Not that its bad. I agree with the 3.0 / 5.0 rating here, but we’ll have to see if the band can keep a stable lineup between this one and the next to see if they are able to truly followup the masterpiece that Carolus Rex was.

  • hardysponge

    Am I the only one who believes that Ballad of Bull sounds very much (!) inspired by Manowar’s Heart of Steel (which is about the only Metal Ballad I can tolerate).

  • King_Eric

    I have to agree with most comments. It’s a good album with a few excellent songs (Hearts of Iron, Resist and Bite, Night Witches,…), but as a whole not as strong as Carolus Rex, which was a masterpiece.

    I do think it’s a better album than those preceding Carolus Rex though, so I’m not really that disappointed. And it is still growing on me, even after the 15th time.

    Absolutely looking forward to seeing them live again soon. One of the best livebands around in my opinion.

  • JimminySnakeTits

    Obviously I’m a bit LTTP on this one, but I feel like Carolus was massively overrated. I think Art of War was their best album – it might not be as consistent as Carolus, but it has their strongest and most memorable tracks, imo. They play by far the most songs from Art of War when they tour. Just saw them last week and they played 3 from AoW and only one from Carolus.

    As for Heroes, I think the review is pretty spot on – it’s a solid album with some pretty strong tracks (Hell and Back stands out the most to me). I definitely agree with the comments about the ballads.

  • General USA

    Nightwitches is my favorite song, It was the first Sabaton song I had heard of. I like almost all of their songs including In the Army Now and Twilight of the Thunder God (those are covers), and I have actually finally learned stuff about WWII and so on. Their music has helped my depression (mostly usual teenager stuff plus problems with parents) and weirdly set me on course to do my work in and out of school. I give the album and Sabaton in general a 4.7. I just wish that more people have heard of them where I live and not be prejudiced against it for being power metal.