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Power Metal: Sabaton Are Here To Broaden Your Horizons

Monday, 19 May 2014 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Power metal. Did your skin crawl as you read that? Did the breath rush from your lungs? Did your lip curl in disgust? If so, then relax. Please. Sabaton are here to change your mind about a publicly mocked, fantastically silly genre.

Bassist Pär Sundström was on hand at the Nuclear Blast’s UK headquarters in London a couple of months back, ready to dispel preconceptions and promote the Swedish superstars' upcoming seventh album, 'Heroes'.

“Sabaton are usually classed as power metal, which makes a lot of people abandon it without even listening to us,” Sundström admitted. “Power metal is associated with high-pitched vocals and fantasy lyrics. Sabaton is none of these things. We take influences from thrash, classic metal, power metal. We have memorable choruses, ballads, fast songs. There will be something to like.”

Well, he's not wrong there. With 'Heroes', Sabaton have not only crafted their strongest set of songs to date, they've also managed to pack a whole load of variety into the record. Amid the usual pomposity of the band’s sound, there are a few tunes that may raise uncombed, bushy eyebrows among the band's dedicated fanbase. One such song is To Hell And Back, which sounds like it'd sit better in a wild west flick than on a Sabaton album.

“The guys in the band were having a party. Joakim [Brodén, vocals] wouldn't come because he wanted to write a song,”  Sundström explained, glancing at the frontman, who was asleep, recovering from a vicious bout of food poisoning. “He contacted us in the night, saying that he had an idea, and when we heard it, we all had big smiles on our faces.

“We could see Sabaton playing the song live and having the crowd jump up and down. It's a happy, uplifting song, and it's the one that we've chosen to be the first single. There are songs on the album that people will talk about more or less, but everyone comments on To Hell And Back. It's so different.”

'Heroes' also marks the start of a new era for the band. Brodén and Sundström are now the only original members and have been joined by Chris Rörland, Thobbe Englund and Hannes van Dahl [guitar and drums respectively], who stepped up to the plate following the departure of their predecessors in 2012. But, as Sundström tells it, the shake-up was positive for Sabaton.

“The recording process was a little bit different,” he said. “It went a bit smoother. After all, when we were looking for new guys to play with Sabaton, we were looking for the best musicians in Sweden. I mean to say nothing bad about the guys who used to be in the band, but we have improved a lot. The recording was a lot smoother, which gave us more time to work on the production, the vocals, choirs and so on. We had more time to perfect the album.

“The new guys were all contributing to the writing process – not all of those songs ended up on the album, but we definitely saw new possibilities for the future. In the past, Joakim was doing everything, but there were several really cool ideas from the new guys on this album. A few of those songs made it to 'Heroes', but none of the new guys can actually write a Sabaton song, if you know what I mean. When we all come together, we can take their various ideas and put them together to create a Sabaton song.”

These days, any fool can swan around claiming that their new album is their best to date. In Sabaton's case, they can swan around all they please. 'Heroes' is their crowning glory, encapsulating everything that's great about the band. It's like what you've heard from them before, but better.

“I could say that Hearts Of Iron is my favourite song, but not by far,” he said. “We sat down and were trying to figure out which songs to rehearse and which to play live. We had no clue. Normally, someone will say they want to play a particular song, but this time, nobody said anything.

“We want to play all of the songs. So, once 'Heroes' is released, we're going to sit back, relax and see what the people want. For the new guys in the band, playing those songs will be great. Instead of playing songs that somebody else recorded, they can play the songs they helped to write.”

In truth, that momentum has been building for a while. Just one example of this is the band's annual Sabaton Open Air festival, which has evolved in recent years from humble beginnings to its current incarnation as a three day, three stage beast.

“It's an international gathering,” Sundström said. “It's unique in that way. It brings fans from all across the world. There are other festivals that obviously do this, but not to this level, where people basically come to just see Sabaton. We see people from around 30 different countries each year, and all the different fans come together to create an absolutely magical atmosphere.

“When we applied for the government license to hold the event this year, they told us that we weren't allowed to do it as they hadn't received the police report from last year. We asked the police why they hadn't sent it, and we were told that there was nothing to report. We had three days, five thousand people per night, and nothing happened.

“That is unheard of in our country with so many people gathered in one place. That sums up the atmosphere of the festival. It's got the friendliest atmosphere in the whole world, and the bands that we have on the bill are usually friends of ours, bands we've toured with and bands we're fans of. It is so important that the fans, the bands, and the volunteers all have a good time. We put a lot of effort into making that happen.”

As a band who have their own festival, release a new album every two years and are constantly on tour, it’s reasonable to assume that a life in Sabaton is a stressful one. Well, that’s not really the case. Sundström loves it.

“I love to be on stage. It's amazing,” Sundström said. “However, I think that the best thing is that we are allowed to do what we want. I call it a blessing, but a lot of colleagues from other bands complain about it. Waiting at airports, waiting backstage, soundchecking...I think that everything is fun, because I can simply relax.

“You have six hours of free time at an airport – what do you do? There must be so many people on this planet who must dream of just spending six hours listening to music and relaxing. We have that possibility, and I think it is so ungrateful of bands who complain about it and just want to play the shows. It's part of the game – touring is part of what you do as a musician. I think it should be appreciated instead of complaining. That's how I see it, and it makes life easy for me.”

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