This is the bands 9th studio album and their first since 2016 "The Last Stand". It is also the first album to feature new guitarist Tommy Johansson.
The album is based entirely around the First World War.
There are multiple versions of the album available. The standard edition, the History Edition (featuring a narrated intro to each song) and the Soundtrack edition (featuring the orchestrated instrumentation of each track) but for this review I will be focussing on the standard edition.
I have never been a huge fan of power metal but I can assure you that I have given this album a fair shot and will review it accordingly.
Joakim Brodén - Vocals
Pär Sundström - Bass
Chris Rörland - Guitars
Hannes van Dahl - Drums
Tommy Johansson - Guitars
The Future of Warfare
This is a song about the introduction of tanks into modern warfare. Not only would this change how battles would be fought but also an advancement in technology that would change things forever.
On the 15th of September 1916, tanks were used for the first time in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette (fought during the Battle of the Somme).
"A desolate wasteland
Infernal depiction of hell
The birth of a new way
September 15, 1916"
The song itself is a huge, bombastic sounding affair that perfectly introduces the subjects to come.
The musicianship is clearly of a very high calibre and frontman Joakim Brodén sounds impressive.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom was a book written by T. E. Lawrence AKA “Lawrence of Arabia” about his experiences in Arabia.
Some very intricate riffing throughout this and sounds like an amped up version of Maiden. As is often the way with power metal we get a huge, glorious chorus.
"As the darkness falls and Arabia calls
One man spreads his wings, as the battle begins
May the land lay claim on to Lawrence name
Seven pillars of wisdom lights the flame"
I wasn't a huge fan of the verses of the song but there is no denying that chorus.
82nd All the Way
This is a song about Sergeant Alvin York and the 82nd Division.York was one of the most decorated USA soldiers of the First World War, receiving the medal of honour for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking at least one machine gun, killed at least 25 enemy soldiers and captured 132.
A huge 80s influence on this song (it sounds like a song but I can't quite think what it is) and yet again we get a damn chorus catchy.
"Into the fires of hell, the Argonne, a hero to be
Entered the war from over the sea
Intervene, 1918, all the way from Tennessee
The Attack of the Dead Men
A song about the Attack of the Dead Men which occurred on April 6th, 1915. The German army launched several gas attacks on the Osowiec fortress, killing all but roughly 60-100 men. In a last ditch effort to send the Germans back the men inside charged out of the fortress, many coughing up blood, and sent the Germans running mostly out of fear of their appearance, that being of dead men charging, covered in rags soaked in blood, guts, and vomit.
"Osowiec then and again
Attack of the dead, hundred men
Facing the lead once again
Hundred men charge again, die again"
I wasn't a huge fan of this one. The vocal cadence has a Gregorian chant quality (which I more often than not enjoy) but I found it to be a little jarring in this song.
Ripping guitar solos though!
The term Devil Dogs was coined in April 1918 by the Germans during the Battle of Belleau Wood. The nickname remains to this day.
I struggled with this song as well. It is just too bombastic for me. I understand that it is totally in line with the militaristic theme, but it is not the sort of music that I enjoy. That being said I really did enjoy the bridge section and the inclusion of the line
"Come on, you sons of bitches, do you wanna live forever?"
which was yelled at the battle by Sergeant Daniel Daly before charging the Germans.
The Red Baron
A song about the Red Baron (obviously) Manfred Von Richthofen, the greatest aerial ace of the Great War, with over 80 kills attributed to his name.
Richthofen painted his aircraft red, and this combined with his title led to him being called “The Red Baron”.
Starts out with . a very old school, Jon Lord style keyboard intro. I enjoyed this song a lot. As bombastic as previous songs but there was a real energy that I loved about it from start to finish.
"Higher, the king of the sky
He’s flying too fast and he's flying too high
Higher, an eye for an eye
The legend will never die"
Obviously a song about World War 1, though perhaps more specifically, the horrors experienced by the soldiers.
"Where dead men lies, I'm paralyzed, my brother's eyes are gone
And he shall be buried here, nameless marks his grave
Mother home, get a telegram and shed a tear of grief
Mud and blood, in foreign land, trying to understand"
A touch of Dio's "Holy Diver" or dare I say "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. This was probably my favourite track on the album. I have listened to this so many times at this point.
A Ghost in the Trenches
Francis Pegahmagabow was an aboriginal Canadian sniper and scout during The Great War. He was the best sniper of the War with 378 confirmed sniper kills and over 300 captured prisoners.
After the war, he campaigned for equal rights for aboriginals in Canada.
"Under fire, a ghost that roams the battlefield
Move between the lines, a soldier breaking the confines
Just another man and rifle, a marksman and a scout revealed
Makes his way from trench to trench alone, moving undetected"
I wasn't so keen on this one. All the bombast, but it didn't have the catchy vocal pattern that grabbed me.
Fields of Verdun
The song is about the Battle of Verdun, a battle during WWI that took place from February 21st to December 18th, 1916. The Germans attacked countless times but continued to be pushed back by the French defenders.
A very Iron Maiden style intro (with a hint of Megadeth thrown in)
One of the things I truly enjoy about this album is the way the lyrics truly paint a picture of the battles they are portraying.
"As the drum roll started on that day
Heard a hundred miles away
A million shells were fired
And the green fields turned to grey
The bombardment lasted all day long
Yet the forts were standing strong
Now the trap's been sprung and the battle has begun"
The End of the War to End All Wars
"The War to End All Wars" was how many refereed to the 1st world war which ended on November 11th, 1918. It was one of the most destructive wars in history, with an estimated 15-19 million casualties.
Musically speaking, I could have done with more of this. It sounded heavier than a lot of the other songs, had an Eastern tinge to it and the orchestration (especially in the intro) had hints of Devin Townsend.
I loved the way the song built in intensity and the inclusion of the choir was fantastic
"November 11th settling the score
From 15 to 20 million
Almost half of the dead civilian
A new world will dawn from empires fallen
The end of the war to end war"
In Flanders Fields
This is a recreation of the classic poem by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, done using a choir.
Flanders is a region in Belgium, where heavy fighting took place during WWI. The fields of Flanders become covered with the red poppy flower during the war, because the soil was fertilised by the bodies of the millions of soldiers who died. The poppy flower had already long been symbolic of death, and it soon also became symbolic of the war as a whole.
"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields"
A truly haunting way to end the album and a poignant reminder of the horrific loss of life for people who simply sought to serve their beloved country.
When I put my lists together of upcoming albums, every now and then I get albums that I know I have to review but I’m not overly bothered by. This was one of those albums but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this album.