Sabaton are the manliest thing to happen since testosterone. They’re five blokes saluting the classic heavy metal formula of Manowar and Judas Priest then making it even butcher by singing about tanks. Is it any wonder that they’ve won over so many metalheads that they now regularly decimate arenas?
For this Swedish militia, it’s been a 24-year campaign to conquer their genre’s mainstream, during which time they’ve unloaded 10 albums. Almost all of them are packed with armour-plated anthems about guns, battles and stories of dudes shooting other dudes – but which one is the most bulletproof of the bunch? Here is Metal Hammer’s ranking of every record Sabaton have blasted out.
10. Metalizer (2007)
Sabaton recorded Metalizer as their debut in 2002, before their music started putting the “bomb” in “bombastic”. Then issues with their label postponed its release for five years. By the time it was unearthed post-Primo Victoria and Attero Dominatus, it lacked the militaristic purpose of its predecessors, replacing tales of battlefield bravery with grunts about Lord Of The Rings and motorbikes.
Factor in a lack of powerhouse hooks and Metalizer does little to elevate Sabaton above the countless other bands out to emulate metal’s 80s idols. You can’t blame the band for omitting its songs from their setlists or, from the second they properly debuted, saying they never wanted it released.
9. Primo Victoria (2005)
‘Through the gates of Hell! As we make our way to Heaven! Through the Nazi lines! Primo Victoria!’ With those four baritone-throated bellows at the start of their debut album, Sabaton instantly announced themselves as a grittier alternative to the sword-and-sorcery power metal landscape. The opening title track was such a muscular statement that it still forces its way into the band’s encores to this day.
The remainder of Primo Victoria hasn’t endured through time. Sometimes, in the case of thrash metal barrage Panzer Battalion and Into The Fire’s callous-shredding guitars, that’s a shame. No one’s nostalgic for the plodding Purple Heart or the awkward chugging of Stalingrad, though.
8. The Last Stand (2016)
The concept driving Sabaton’s eighth album is often more fascinating than its music. As the title suggests, The Last Stand is a tribute to, well, historical last stands, from the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae to the Swiss Guards that died during the Sack Of Rome.
That against-all-odds drama translates into metal that’ll empower you to bench-press a continent during songs like Sparta and The Last Stand. Yet, often overwhelming the odes to ancient valour is the sound of Sabaton’s wheels spinning. Although there’s nothing wrong with Last Dying Breath, Hill 3234 and The Last Battle by themselves, none of them raise the bar when it comes to the band’s melodicism, heaviness or big, synthy silliness.
7. Attero Dominatus (2006)
Much like Primo Victoria before it, Attero Dominatus is kickstarted by a title track that’s one of Sabaton’s best songs. Those Latin cries, staccato riffs and dramatically refined synth sounds make the music an aptly grandiose soundtrack to those lyrics, which are about the entirety of Berlin being decimated by the Soviets in 1945.
The album never recaptures that initial blast of excitement, but it quickly becomes more daring and dynamic than the one Sabaton released the prior year. The scope and marching pace of Rise Of Evil evoke Queensrÿche and Justice-era Metallica, while Angels Calling was such an early realisation of the band’s operatic potential that they recently re-recorded it with Apocalyptica.
6. Heroes (2014)
Shortly after finishing Carolus Rex, two-thirds of Sabaton’s lineup – guitarists Rikard Sundén and Oskar Montelius, drummer Daniel Mullback and keyboardist Daniel Mÿhr – were honourably discharged. Heroes was the first offering by “new” Sabaton and, although it doesn’t fully relive the glory of its forerunner, it frequently touches it.
Night Witches is an all-metal attack that showed this next-gen lineup were no softies. Then, Inmate 4859 complements one of Sabaton’s most heart-wrenching stories by building itself around a devastating keyboard melody. To Hell And Back and Resist And Bite are similarly triumphant, to the point that Heroes’ misses (The Ballad Of Bull and Far From The Fame) feel inconsequential in the grand scheme.
5. The War To End All Wars (2022)
The Great War saw Sabaton laser-focus on World War I and create their first no-filler album in years. So, there was concern that the similarly-themed The War To End All Wars would merely be a collection of last time’s b-sides. In the end, it was Aliens: not quite as special as the original, but still pretty fucking stellar.
Even with recency bias aside, Race To The Sea and Soldier Of Heaven are all-time top-shelf Sabaton achievements. Christmas Truce is a rare heavy metal holiday single that isn’t cringey enough to make you feliz navisad. Plus, Dreadnought matches the hulking size of the ships it sings about with the heaviness of its riff.
4. The Art Of War (2008)
The first Sabaton album to have a concept deeper than “songs about guys exploding”, The Art Of War is themed around a Sun Tzu text and benefits from the sharpened focus. Knowing Cliffs Of Gallipoli, Ghost Division and 40:1 inside-out is practically a prerequisite for being a fan. Beyond that, though, so many deep cuts shine.
Panzerkampf follows a militaristic call to arms with a twiddling guitar lead in one of this band’s most underrated moments. The title track perfected the interplay between their metal and their keyboard melodies, and Union (Slopes Of St Benedict) is an addictive, folkish jaunt. No wonder Sabaton signed with big time metal label Nuclear Blast after this came out.
3. The Great War (2019)
Somebody must have laced Sabaton’s coffee with a lot of extra sugar as they were writing The Great War. Despite coming off two occasionally-by-the-book albums, the band somehow made this their most high-octane output in nearly a decade.
From opener The Future Of Warfare to the larger-than-life End Of The War To End All Wars, there’s no space for filler or pace-softening ballads here. Instead, Great War’s choirs explode out of the speakers and Attack Of The Dead Men layers an enjoyably complex vocal line on top of its pulsing synth beat. In between, Seven Pillars Of Wisdom, A Ghost In The Trenches and Fields Of Verdun condense classic Sabaton banger-making into its most episodic form.
2. Carolus Rex (2012)
After Coat Of Arms marked Sabaton’s major-label conquest and charted all over Europe, they went big beyond the parameters of their music. Carolus Rex remains their most ambitious concept piece, chronicling the timeline of the Swedish Empire. The album was also released in both English and Swedish versions, the risk of which was rewarded when it went platinum in the band’s home country four times over.
Musically, Carolus Rex stretches from the jolly (Gott Mit Uns) to the downtrodden (Ruina Imperii). Casting 1648 against The Carolean’s Prayer reaffirmed this was a band unafraid of both speed and slowness, while the title track hammered its way to immortality with that unforgettable chorus.
1. Coat Of Arms (2010)
After The Art Of War sent Sabaton to number 5 on the Swedish charts, the band signed to the aptly militaristic-sounding Nuclear Blast. They quickly proved to be a worthwhile acquisition when Coat Of Arms rocketed to number 2 in their homeland, and charted in five other countries to boot. The war machine was at full steam.
The album deserved to be a breakthrough. From start to finish, it’s the sole Sabaton album where every song could have been an invincible live mainstay had they wished it to be. Screaming Eagles is the most dramatic they’d been by then, diving right into choirs, strings, barrelling drums and Joakim Brodén’s barks. Midway, Saboteurs and the title track are full-frontal assaults that stop as suddenly as they start. Uprising deadens to a crawl, but that cry of ‘Warsaw, rise!’ could motivate a pacifist onto the battlefield.
Before or since, no Sabaton album has been this perfect at everything the band have tried their hand at. The fact that it took almost ten years for its songs to be heard in arenas means some booking agents somewhere deserve a good court martial.