Based on Sun Tzu's Art of War this same titled album in corporates extracts into its songs to emphasize their by now well know style of singing about historical battles from the twentieth century. Sun Tzu says "The Art of War is of vital importance to Sabaton. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin" and in this case it is most certainly a road to safety.
So, what is good about this installment in Sabaton's story? All of the songs are polished and done in the typical 'epic' power metal way - they're either fast rockers with lots of double bass drumming and constant barrages of riffs, such as the opening Ghost Division and 40:1 or they're slower, grim 'power ballads', such as Cliffs of Gallipoli or The Price of a Mile. Relying heavily on Joakim's expressive yet powerful voice to evoke emotion in the listener we can tend to ignore the instrumentals and the music itself but this is rarely the case in this instance as we are swept along to battles past.
The 'glorious' feel most of the songs have is seen by many as a standard of Sabaton songs but here it is taken to a whole new level. Union, Cliffs of Gallipoli and Price of a Mile come to mind immediately. It's mostly achieved through clever use of keyboards giving the songs an operatic atmosphere and quality, Broden's layered vocals give the feel of a wide range of vocalists contributing to the album furthering this feel. In Panzerkampf this 'choir' like style is used to great effect giving the song the feel of a Soviet Military choir.
However, it is notable that the only thing making it stick out from other Sabaton albums is the woman reading exerts from Sun Tzu at the start of each song which gives the premise of each song. There is little or no experimentation or development in the songs but Sabaton do have the obvious luck of having achieved a winning formula early on in their career. The final song on the album 'A Secret' only lasts 37 seconds and seems to be there predominantly for the last 10 seconds where a robot says 'Illegal download detected executing spyware droid...' perhaps a nod towards the current trend of downloading albums off 'questionable' sites?
Overall: 4.15/5 - An classic installment in Sabaton's history, not for everyone and the lack of originality may annoy you at first but given time it will grow on you and before you know it it'll be on your playlist and you'll randomly start singing the lyrics (hopefully not at awkward moments).
Buy it here
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