In their twenty plus year career, the Swedish power metal band Sabaton has written about wars and battles from various eras of history. Their previous album, 2019's The Great War, was about World War I. That's also the case with their latest studio effort The War to End All Wars. So why did they decide to revisit World War I?
According to vocalist Joakim Brodén, there were still stories left untold. "In some cases," he explains, "we just didn't have the right music, and there were specific stories we had wanted to tell, like 'The Christmas Truce' and 'Hellfighters.' Also, once we went on tour in support of The Great War, we met and heard from so many fans who told us about other great WW1 stories we'd never heard before, stories that were just so good, we kept asking ourselves, 'how did we miss this?'"
Sabaton's blend of rousing music and interesting lyrical topics has made them a successful band. They follow a musical template that has served them well, deviating enough with each new release to keep things interesting. That's what they have done with The War to End All Wars. Opener "Sarajevo" sets the stage, featuring narration about the beginning of World War I. It has both subdued cinematic parts and a memorable chorus that's a slight variation of the album title. It also features extended instrumental breaks. It's somewhere between an intro and a traditional song.
Sabaton shifts to more traditional power metal beginning with the uptempo "Stormtroopers." They feature some interesting moments and people of World War I on this album. "The Unkillable Soldier" is about Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart, who suffered gunshot wounds to several different body parts and was involved in numerous plane crashes, but fought on. "Hellfighters" spotlights the 369th regiment that was mainly African American and Puerto Rican soldiers, while "Lady of the Dark" is about Milunka Savić, a Serbian woman who took her brother's place in the army and became one of the war's most decorated soldiers.
One unique thing about this album is that in addition to songs about battles and heroism, there's a track about peace. On Christmas morning of 2014, British and German soldiers left their trenches and met in no-man's land to wish each other a merry Christmas, take photos and even exchange gifts. "Christmas Truce" recounts this brief moment of peace and harmony. It's the mellowest song on the album, though there are moments of bombast.
The War To End All Wars is streamlined, while still being epic in scope and attitude. It covers a lot of ground in just 45 minutes. Shifts in tempo and intensity keep the album flowing nicely, with a big, crisp production. It's guitar driven, but choirs and atmosphere provide additional depth. It is similar to The Great War, but manages to carve its own path. The music and lyrics are both compelling.
You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy Sabaton's music. But those who are can dig even deeper into the subjects of the songs. Thought the band has a YouTube channel called Sabaton History that takes deep dives into the background of dozens of their songs, including "Christmas Truce" and "Soldier of Heaven" from this album. Which is always helpful.