Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Ah Sabaton…how I love thee so. The great war machine known as Sabaton rolls forever on enchanting listeners with their unique blend of power metal and war history. So, now the boys from Sweden have given us their first live recordings of some of their classic tunes with ‘Swedish Empire Live’ from their extremely successful tour supporting their latest album ‘Carlous Rex’. The live album was recorded at Poland’s massive metal festival Woodstock which boasts crowds as large as 900,000 people. Being honorary Polish citizens, for writing the song ‘40:1’, Woodstock’s massive audience seemed the logical choice to record this album.
So let’s get down to brass tacks shall we. How does Sabaton sound live? In studio, bands can sound like a well oiled machine of death while live they suck shit. Do Sabaton fall into this category or do they bring the metal machine to the head banging trenches ready to destroy! Well strap on your helmet, grab your rifle and bayonets and find out what the price of a mile really is!
Now before I go further I will preface this by saying I have seen Sabaton live twice, interviewed and met members of the band and even photographed them live. So I know personally how they are live, in studio and on this live recording. So with that out of the way let get to it.
When I judge a live album I have two main criteria. How clear I can hear the musical notes/riffs of songs so as they don’t get lost in the ‘wall of sound’ and how well the album captures the energy of a live setting. In regards to the latter Sabaton does a fantastic job capturing the live feeling of their shows. You can feel the joy of the crowd as they sing along and also the charismatic nature of Sabaton’s singer Joakim who does such an excellent job of interacting with the crowd and speaking to them what he can in Polish which gives the CD a nice personal touch. Joakim always reminded me of a guy who seemed like a 12 year old kid trapped in a grown-ups body that has found himself in a metal band and is living out some sort of man-child dream. I mean that in no bad way. I have met the guy and he is super nice and just seems to have a love for life and a love for what he does and I can’t help but get a good chuckle when I seem him jump around like a crazy person on stage. Kudos Joakim for living your dream!
On the musical side of things I have to give some HIGH marks here. The album I have to say is one of the best live albums I have ever heard. The sound is distinct and clear. You can hear the guitars shred and the solos soar, the vocals are distinct and clear and everything is near perfect. There is no mistaking when you hear the live version of a song here that you will know it’s Sabaton all the way and could be forgiven if you might think one or two would be a studio recording at first. As I mentioned earlier I have seen Sabaton live twice and they sounded absolutely fantastic and seems to genuinely love what they do and that always translate to your performance and it transferred here on the live album.
Now as a reviewer I have to point out a few things that seemed a little off. One thing was some of the backing vocals as some of them seemed out of sync (which may be in part from some of the guys running around and trying to hurry to get back to their mic to sing their part). This is a minor thing but here and there I noticed it and some just seemed to be spoken words instead of ‘singing’. But really not a big deal.
Another thing I noticed in some songs Joakim seemed like he wasn’t singing the songs as full of passion
or energy as normal, not that he is singing them poorly just somewhat restrained. This seems to be on towards the middle or end of the album, which knowing how Joakim runs around on stage like someone rubbed napalm on his nuts he might be winded when he singing. Again this isn’t a deal breaker for me I just know the passion and charisma Joakim brings to the table as a singer and I think he got super excited and got tired running around hahaha!
My third point is purely a personal issue and not a knock against the album. And it’s song selection which really, what can a band do here? What I like other will not and so on. There were a few songs I would have liked to have heard and some that I wished were left off but I can’t dock points for that. To rectify this for me or you as a reader this album comes out alongside their LIVE DVD of the same name that has some 4 hours of footage and extra songs. Which I hope to be able to see!
So with a few issues aside, ‘Swedish Empire Live’ is a fantastic live album ranking up there with Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death! I consider Sabaton one of the elite bands that will continue to fly the flag of metal into a new era the genre will be coming into in just a few years, as the bands we have grown to love finally retire and we don’t have them to look to anymore.
Well done Sabaton. You have secured a place in my heart as well as the hearts of many others around the globe. You honour us with your respectful tributes to war history (I hope to one day hear a song from you honouring my hometown hero Alvin C. York.) and your respectful treatment to us, your fans.
Joakim Brodén | vocals
Pär Sundström | bass
Chris Rörland | guitar
Thobbe Englund | guitar
Robban Bäck | drums