Sabaton - Primo Victoria - 2005 - Black Lodge Records
1. Primo Victoria 2. Reign Of Terror 3. Panzer Battalion 4. Wolfpack 5. Counterstrike 6. Stalingrad 7. Into The Fire 8. Purple Heart 9. Metal Machine
It seems like war and battle has always been a dominating theme running through heavy metal records. Longtime bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Sodom, and even Metallica have made a living off of that type of storytelling. It seems like stories from the frontlines mix well with the chaotic, rather brutal sounds of raging heavy metal. This genre just seems to absorb the most extreme and effective forms of writing based off of the supernatural, fantasy, and wartorn fields both past and present. Sweden's Sabaton has developed that rich storytelling, delivering an emotional trek through battles, digging deep into the listener's emotions to really hit home just how brutal war really is, and the loyalty and determination of our troops through history.
"Primo Victoria" is one of the best albums my ears have been exposed to in quite some time. I've dwindled in the sounds of Sabaton in the past, really exploring their first album "Fist For Fight" in 2001. I've always enjoyed their work but for some reason never really felt the need to completely "dig in". The band recorded "Metalizer" in 2002 with producer Tommy Tagtgren. For some reason the album never saw the light of day, and after failed attempts to get the record on the shelves the group just decided to start all over again. "Primo Victoria" is now a reality, produced once again by Tommy Tagtgren, who really brings an epic feel to these Swedes. With this new record comes a more power metal feel, the band still sticking true to their fast dash roots but for the most part have built a more mature framework. You will still hear that speedy Teutonic style, clearly evident on "Reign Of Terror" and "Counterstrike", but the group really hammer home the same ideals as Edguy and Blind Guardian. Along with the incredible songwriting, Sabaton use huge chorus parts and arrangements to build a Titanic vibe. Think of the bigger Blind Guardian styled arrangements, but leave out a lot of the progressive, keyboard friendly stuff that those Germans believe in. Sabaton is about the epic structures but they really try to keep the keyboards to a minimum.
The reason "Primo Victoria" really catches my ears is obviously the phenomenal music, but a big part is the songwriting. My family is deeply rooted in the military, with my father and uncles serving in Vietnam, grandparents fighting in WWII, and relatives today still serving their country in places like Germany and Poland. War stories have always been a part of my history, with many family functions spent recalling America's "fighting spirit". Now Sabaton have gone one step further and brought those stories to the metal forefront. Each track on the album is written about certain periods of our history, from the hot jungles of Vietnam to the beaches of Normandy, this band really captures the patriotic feel of those times. They never really address the negative, choosing to instead celebrate and pay tribute to the men and women who died fighting for freedom. Sabaton in a very small way has done their part in fighting for freedom, by throwing out a rally call to fans worldwide.
I would have to say that this record's opener, "Primo Victoria", is really one of the finest "opening" tracks to any album. A huge chorus greets us from the word go, soon enough whirling us into the chaos and destruction of D-Day. The track's use of fast and furious guitar, huge chorus parts, and emotional songwriting really sets the mood, driving home the horrors of battle while commending those who lost their lives there. This is an amazing song that could really be on the same page as Iced Earth's "Gettysburg Trilogy", although it isn't nearly as long. "Counterstrike" follows with a rapid one-two punch that recalls the band's first album "Fist For Fight". From there we move into the 40s again with "Panzer Battalion", another slower more epic track with a crushing groove. Sabaton seems to have found their niche with these types of songs. The first half of the album ends with "Wolfpack", a tale of submarine warfare in World War II. This song really mixes it up like the album's opener, creating a real epic feel through wicked guitar grooves and stellar songwriting. This song reminds me of Jag Panzer's "The Mission".
The second half focuses more on modern warfare, starting with the Desert Storm piece "Counterstrike", a faster, more Teutonic styled song that is reminiscent of the band's earlier material. From there we get "Stalingrad", retelling the Battle Of Stalingrad from World War II. This cut is probably the slowest piece on the album. With plenty of atmosphere the song really helps to mix up the album a bit. My two favorite cuts follow with "Into The Fire", a horrifying story dealing with Napalm air-strikes in Vietnam and the patriotic "Purple Heart", a track that every American should hear. The album ends on a lighter note with "Metal Machine", a song that is a tribute to heavy metal, using many song and album titles in its delivery.
Sabaton have created an absolute masterpiece here, one that should really be heard by any young person who just needs to better understand our roots both as Americans and as humans. Every track here is a dramatic creation revolving around warfare and its historic place in our society. The material is done with style and grace, really moving this band into the next tier in my opinion. Sabaton are on par with the likes of Edguy, Voice, Blind Guardian, and to a degree Rhapsody in their ability to create epic and memorable pieces. "Primo Victoria" is their finest work to date and one that will be in my player for a long time to come.
Note - The band's "Metalizer" record is set for release this year through Underground Symphony.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details