Travis Green
MMA Special Collaborator · Power, Symph and Prog Metal Teams
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2173 reviews/ratings
DYNAZTY - Renatus Power Metal | review permalink
DRAGONFORCE - Maximum Overload Power Metal
ADRANA - The Ancient Realms Power Metal
EVERGREY - The Inner Circle Progressive Metal
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal
ANCIENT BARDS - Soulless Child Power Metal
ARMORY - Empyrean Realms Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Beyond Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Eternity Power Metal
FREEDOM CALL - Stairway to Fairyland Power Metal
CIVIL WAR - Saint Patrick's Day Power Metal
XANDRIA - Neverworld's End Power Metal
DARK MOOR - Ancestral Romance Power Metal
DAWN OF DESTINY - Praying to the World Power Metal
DREAMTALE - Epsilon Power Metal
MINDMAZE - Back from the Edge Power Metal
VANDROYA - One Power Metal
DALRIADA - Jégbontó Power Metal
DALRIADA - Kikelet Folk Metal

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 841 3.99
2 Progressive Metal 321 3.89
3 Symphonic Metal 217 3.90
4 Heavy Metal 152 3.52
5 Gothic Metal 91 3.91
6 Thrash Metal 91 3.62
7 Folk Metal 69 4.26
8 Melodic Death Metal 64 3.81
9 US Power Metal 36 3.78
10 Alternative Metal 35 3.41
11 Hard Rock 32 3.67
12 Non-Metal 29 3.48
13 Death Metal 20 4.00
14 Metal Related 16 4.06
15 Melodic Metalcore 15 3.27
16 Symphonic Black Metal 12 4.38
17 Metalcore 11 3.82
18 Technical Death Metal 11 4.00
19 Groove Metal 11 3.05
20 Technical Thrash Metal 10 4.45
21 Heavy Alternative Rock 9 4.67
22 Trance Metal 9 3.50
23 Industrial Metal 8 4.50
24 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 4.06
25 Speed Metal 8 3.94
26 Doom Metal 5 4.00
27 NWoBHM 5 4.50
28 Melodic Black Metal 5 4.00
29 Heavy Psych 4 3.75
30 Death-Doom Metal 4 3.88
31 Deathcore 4 3.38
32 Glam Metal 4 3.88
33 Nu Metal 4 3.75
34 Traditional Doom Metal 3 3.83
35 Avant-garde Metal 3 3.67
36 Black Metal 1 0.50
37 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
38 Crossover Thrash 1 3.00
39 Stoner Metal 1 4.00
40 Sludge Metal 1 4.00
41 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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Some albums are challenging and complex, meant to force the listener to spend several hours of their time with them, before fully opening themselves up. On the other side of the spectrum are albums which immediately engage the listeners from the first play, but do little to keep them interested over a long period of time. And then there is the rare masterclass album that manages to instantly impress on first listen, while still proving to be just as addictive and mindblowing as ever some 30 listens later. Honestly, I don't usually get to the 20 listen mark with most modern albums, not because I don't enjoy them enough, but because I spend so much time listening to various new albums every year, finding the time to go beyond that point is tough, and yet one such album that has managed to not only pull that feat, but go further and approach the 35 listen mark in less than four years, is Heroes, the sixth full length album from Sabaton, which also happens to be the last of their albums I have left to review, at least until their inevitable next album is released (and as of the time of this review it's already said to be in the works.) While the band has always been one of my favorites, with The Art of War in particular standing out as an exceptional album, Heroes is by far my most played of all their albums, and is also by far my most played overall since I started tracking that stat back in 2013.

Following the comparatively more complex and ambitious Carolus Rex, Heroes is a very simple, very quick and to the point kind of album, clocking in at just under 37 minutes (excluding bonus tracks,) and it's definitely the kind of album that works best when played around 3-5 times in sitting, so the songs have enough time to pound their way into your head and never let up. I've always found Sabaton's music to be extremely fun and catchy, even as far as power metal goes, but Heroes is by far their catchiest and most addictive album ever, with only two songs going past the four minute mark, and every song on the album is designed to kick in, impress with their fun riffs, melodies and choruses, and then end before even beginning to drag on. This is an album that's all about the flow, as it moves seamlessly from highlight to highlight, with no less than amazing moments on the entire album, and not even a single second is wasted. It does somewhat continue trend Carolus Rex started, of Sabaton moving more towards slower songs, but unlike its immediate successor, The Last Stand, which reaches a point where I get a bit tired of all slower songs after a while, on this album the track placement is so perfect, I'm always getting exactly what I want at every point of the album, with the faster songs being spaced out enough and slower songs kicking in exactly when they should, with even “The Ballad of Bull” kicking in at the absolute perfect point just past the halfway mark. While it's not a full scale concept album like Carolus Rex or The Art of War, the album does have a over arching concept, with each track being focused less on battles and more on individuals and squads who performed some particularly heroic deeds in battle. This leads to a very cheery tone to the album overall, which fits the music perfectly, and when you combine these lyrics with the catchiness, epic melodies and pure fun of a Sabaton album, you know you have an instant classic on your hands. I don't even need to give a full paragraph for vocals at this point, as my thoughts are obvious, as once again Joakim Brodén is absolutely perfect and the accompanying choirs are also amazing and help makes the choruses even more than they already are.

Moving on to songwriting, then, and that's where this album absolutely knocks it out of the park, without a single less than perfect song to be found. I already mentioned the album having a perfect flow, so it's no surprise that things get off to an explosive start with the super hard hitting, incredibly addictive opener “Night Witches” quickly pounding its way into your head. This track is of course about an all women military squad, which is pretty cool. After a brief tease at its chorus, the riffs kick in quickly and the track speeds up, moving at a frantic pace, with Joakim and the choirs leading the way, bringing us to one of the catchiest and most pure fun choruses I've ever heard, and every time it appears throughout the track I just get more and more into it every time. There's a really nice guitar solo in the middle, and overall it's simply a super fast, heavy and just plain ass kicking opener, that ranks right up there with “Ghost Divsion” and “Lion from the North”.

After that incredible opening, “No Bullets Fly” keeps the momentum going, moving at a reasonably fast, though slightly more relaxed pace, with some excellent melodic leads. This album on the whole strikes a nice balance between the heavier sound of their earlier albums and the really light, keyboard driven sound of The Last Stand, and this track is a perfect example of that, as it's not as heavy or intense as some of the band's work, but it still has some excellent guitar work, including an excellent solo and some nice riffs during the chorus, and it certainly has more speed and energy to it than most tracks on the latter album, while still having some excellent melodies and of course an absolutely epic and unforgettable chorus. Next is the unbelievably cheery and upbeat track “Smoking Snakes”, one of the most triumphant sounding metal songs I've ever heard, with some incredibly happy sounding melodies, while still hitting pretty hard with its riffs. It moves at a slightly faster pace than “No Bullets Fly”, though still not quite as fast as “Night Witches” and it's another super addictive track, with Joakim and the choirs completely stealing show during the chorus, where the title of the album appears, and it's possibly the very best chorus on the entire album, while the bridge section is only even more epic. This is a case where the song would easily be my favorite even on the absolute best albums by just about any other band, and yet here it's just one among ten masterpieces, which are pretty much all impossible for me to rank.

The pace slows down a bit with “Inmate 4859”, the darkest track on the album. It's a slower paced, more keyboard driven track, though keyboards take a more atmospheric sound to them than on most Sabaton tracks, and even the choirs are used to add a bit of a haunting feel to the song, with Joakim singing in an even lower pitch than normal. The track is very subdued, but still has some pretty heavy riffs as well some awesome melodies, especially during the instrumental section in the middle, and of course the chorus, while more laid back than usual, is still absolutely incredible. After that is the lead single “To Hell and Back”, which has a pretty upbeat and playful sound at the start, before settling into a nice groove, settling into a mid paced rhythm, with some fun verses where Joakim steals the show, before opening up for a huge, unforgettable chorus that stands as another one of the album's best. It's certainly energetic, fun and super catchy, making it the perfect choice for a single, and it only gets better during the final run through at the end.

Perhaps the most controversial track on the album is “The Ballad of Bull”, a track I've seen many people criticize, but it's actually one of my absolute favorites. It's a beautiful piano ballad, where Joakim's voice gets to shine throughout, and while the melodies, vocals, piano sounds and chorus already make it epic, the lyrics also help make it a big highlight. The track is about Australian Corporal Leslie “Bull Allen”, who saved twelve Americans during World War II, and hearing this amazing tale set to music and being sung so amazing by Joakim just makes all the more inspiring and epic. Plus, anyone who says it's out of place on the album clearly needs to look at the album name,“Heroes”, read the lyrics, and then understand exactly why the track fits in perfectly.

The pace picks up again after that, with “Resist and Bite” being another mid paced track that has a ton of energy to it, opening with a light intro with just Joakim and some lead guitars, before everything else kicks in over time. The verses are fun enough, but again it's the chorus that stands out for being super addictive, melodic and catchy, with an amazing use of choral vocals. It's a track like the title track of Carolus Rex, which uses minimalism in very effective ways, and is definitely another great pick for a single. The last speedy track on the album is “Soldier of 3 Armies”, a typically hard hitting speedy track from Sabaton, with a great mix of keyboards, lead guitars and vocals. The riffs hit hard, the melodies are great and the chorus is amazing, super melodic and catchy as always, making it another instant winner. After that is the slower paced but super epic “Far from the Fame”, which opens up with some nice drum rhythms, before settling into a nice groove. It again has some nice lead guitars, while also being one of the lighter, more melodic and more keyboard driven tracks on the album, with of course another stunning chorus, an amazing guitar solo in the second half. Lastly, we have “Hearts of Iron”, which opens up with a huge choral section that briefly teases at its chorus, before slowing down and settling into a nice groove, with some great drum work and awesome vocals from Joakim. It's another surprisingly laid back track for being the closing track, but then the chorus hits and is absolutely gigantic, with some incredible choir vocals, some insanely catchy vocal lines and an incredible performance from Joakim. In the middle of the track is an unbelievably epic choral section that brings the epic factor to its absolute maximum, and overall the track is the perfect ending to a perfect album.

While The Art of War stands as the best, most cohesive and possibly the most varied Sabaton album to date, Heroes has overtaken it to become my favorite, due to its super addictive, quick and to the point tracks, which strike the perfect balance between immediately engaging and still holding up perfectly after 30+ listens. It's by far the most addictive album I've heard since I've been actively listening to metal, and it offers a perfect mix of speed, energy, heavy riffs, great melodies and incredibly catchy and epic choruses, while also taking it to the next level with some inspiring and uplifting lyrics. I doubt Sabaton will ever top this album for me, but that's okay, because it would take a Timeless Miracle for any power metal band to pull that off again, I think.

SABATON Carolus Rex

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
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There are some albums by my favorite bands that I respect as much, if not more so, than I personally enjoy them. While it's hard to say that about a band I love as much as Sabaton, where all their albums entertain me greatly, that is somewhat the case with their fifth full length album Carolus Rex, which many of their fans consider to be their all time best. Obviously, I love the album as well, and definitely understand why some folks would think of it as a masterpiece. However, as much as I enjoy the album, I have to admit that personally, I find it doesn't quite entertain me as much as most other Sabaton albums, with even its predecessor, Coat of Arms, ranking slightly ahead of it for me. It's hard to talk negatively about a band as great as Sabaton, though, so don't get me wrong: There's definitely quite a few incredible tracks here, including three of my all time favorites, and overall it's certainly an album I'd take over the majority of all other power metal bands, as well as being miles ahead of the band's own weakest effort, The Last Stand.

In terms of ambition, Carolus Rex is certainly an impressive release, as while the band had done a concept album before in The Art of War, this one is a full scale narrative concept, chronicling the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire, specifically focusing on King Charles XII, from whom the album gets its title. Lyrically, I find the album quite interesting, as instead of focusing on different themes or on one particular theme but scattered across different battles, this release tells a full story and does quite a great job of it, with some very emotional moments, and it even has the first ballad the band released since their demo days, which unsurprisingly manages to be one of the best and most powerful tracks on the album. Another interesting thing about this album is that the band actually recorded two separate versions of it, with a “full” English version and a full Swedish version. It's not too surprising when bands do multiple versions of one or two tracks, but to have two “full” versions of one album in different languages is pretty awesome (and yes, those quotation marks are deliberate and I will explain their presence much further into the review.) Musically, the album continued where Coat of Arms left off, except it feels even more epic, with the symphonic keys being more dominant than ever, giving quite a few tracks a symphonic feel, and the band uses choir vocals quite a bit, to excellent effect. It's also quite the varied release, having a good mix of speedy tracks and slower tracks, as well a few of the most unique tracks the band has done in quite some time. For the most part, the songwriting is amazing as always, but I find this release has two weaker tracks which stick out just a bit, and help prevent the album from reaching the heights it could have. One last thing that must be noted, is that this was the last album for the band in its original form, with everyone except vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström leaving to form Civil War. As a swan song for them, it's an excellent album and a great way to go out, even if I don't consider it to be one of my personal favorites by the band.

Obviously, the vocals are not a problem, as Joakim Brodén sounds amazing as always, delivering his epic, deep, powerful and melodic vocals as smoothly as ever. The use of choir vocals is quite prominent and comes in many forms throughout the album, but these are always used to great effect and help enhance the choruses, which are of course outstanding as always.

One area that's almost never a problem for Sabaton is the songwriting, and as expected, that's largely the case with Carolus Rex as well, with the majority of the tracks offering up the same mix of heavy riffs, epic keyboard melodies, incredible vocals and huge choruses as always. The album certainly comes firing out of the gates, with a brief but nice orchestral intro giving way to “The Lion From the North”, one of the band's most symphonic influenced songs ever, with some pretty epic choral arrangements during the chorus. It charges along at a blazing fast pace, with heavy guitars and epic keys, and has a super fun and catchy chorus, further enhanced by those choirs, as well as an absolutely stunning section in the middle where the choirs fully take over, until Joakim briefly appears near the end to steal the show again. Overall, it's an explosive and stunning opening track that certainly sets the bar high for the rest of the album, and I'd even go as far as to say it ranks up there with “Ghost Divison” as one of my two favorite Sabaton openers ever.

The quality doesn't drop from there, though, with “Gott Mitt Uns”, being one of the band's most unique tracks to date, moving at a nice pace with some very smooth rhythms, while the guitars have a very folk feeling to them, which enhances the melodies and makes it more epic than it already is. Even Joakim attempts some slightly higher notes than normal and of course nails it, as always. The chorus is spectacularly catchy, and overall the track is another instant winner. Next is “A Lifetime of War”, an epic ballad enhanced by some symphonic elements, and of course dominated by an incredible, very emotional and powerful vocal performance from Joakim, with the chorus in particular being absolutely stunning. It's a beautiful track that really shows the potential in the concept of the album, and it only gets more and more epic and stunning as it goes along. it's definitely one of my all time favorites by the band, along with “Lion From the North”. Surprisingly, the quality still doesn't drop off much from there, with “1648” being the kind of super fast, hard hitting yet melodic and super addictive track the band specializes in, with energetic riffs and a very powerful, super catchy chorus.

Unfortunately, the quality does drop off a little bit on the next track, “The Carolean's Prayer”, the longest track on the album. It has an epic opening and it definitely has some great melodies and a pretty awesome chorus, as usual, but I find it to be one of the times where they tried so hard to recreate something like “Wolfpack” or “The Art of War” and came up just a tad short, with verses being a little bit on the boring side, at least by Sabaton standards. It's still a great track overall, with the symphonic elements enhancing it and the chorus really is amazing, but overall I find it to be just a bit below the usual Sabaton quality. One track that sure doesn't come up short is the title track, which starts off with some pretty epic drums, and only gets better from there. It's a bit unique, as it is one of their slower songs, but it has a more minimalist approach, throughout, dominated by vocals, drums and somewhat by keys in the background, but it doesn't have the full sound one would expect from a Sabaton track, instead slowing building up tension until chorus comes and completely blows your mind with how awesome and incredibly epic and badass it is. The vocal section near the end is also stunning, and overall it's a really awesome track, that stands as my third and last personal favorite on this album.

While the title track is the last absolutely incredible song here, the album doesn't lose much steam afterward, with “Killing Ground” being another winner, moving at a pretty fast pace and having some epic melodies, though it has its own unique feel to it, being a bit more of a harder hitting, classic metal feeling track compared to usual. The chorus is awesome, as is the big vocal section towards the end, and it's definitely another excellent track that stands out quite a bit. Next is “Poltava”, another speedy track that has some heavy riffs, excellent vocals and a great use of keyboards, as well as another super addictive and extremely catchy chorus. It's probably my favorite of the last few songs on the album. After that is a slow but very epic track in “Long Live the King”, which is pretty close to being a ballad, though it has just enough heaviness to not quite be one, I think. Either way, it's a slow moving track with some awesome melodies and another extremely powerful and emotional performance from Joakim, with the chorus being one of the highlights of the album, and overall it's an amazing track, for sure. Lastly, we have “Ruina Imperii”, which sadly ends the album on a bit of a disappointing note. Musically it just never did much for me, being the one and only Sabaton track where I find the keyboards to be slightly annoying and overdone, and while Joakim sounds great as always, it reminds me of “Wehrmacht”, in that the vocal melodies simply lack the kind of hooks and epic moments I expect from the band. It also feels odd that this the one and only track on the album to not be recorded in English, which is disappointing, because as someone who doesn't understand a word of Swedish, I can follow the entire rest of the album and then have no clue how the story ends, which is quite the letdown, indeed. Honestly, I think I'd go as far as to say that outside of their demos, this is my least favorite Sabaton track ever and it really brings the album down a bit. I haven't really been mentioning bonus tracks in these reviews, but one rather amusing one is here in the form of “Twilight of the Thunder God”, a cover of the Amon Amarth track, which officially confirms the theory I've always had, that if Amon Amarth were to ditch their growls and only use clean vocals, they'd essentially be a very hard hitting power metal band. Which would of course be awesome!

Overall, Carolus Rex is Sabaton's most ambitious album to date, being a full scale concept album telling the story of the rise and fall of The Swedish Empire, released in two languages. While one particularly weak track keeps it from being among my favorites from the band, it's a very entertaining album overall, with all the great melodies, choruses and epic war anthems fans have come to expect from the band, as well as some as their most emotional and powerful tracks. It'll never be my favorite Sabaton album as it is for some people, but overall it's still a must hear for fans of the band and it's an excellent album with three of my all time favorites by the band.

SABATON Coat Of Arms

Album · 2010 · Power Metal
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One rule I find that applies to music is that the first album I hear by a band, no matter how its quality stacks up when compared against the rest of their discography, always ends up having a special place in my heart, if only because of the fact that it was my gateway for getting into the band. Sometimes, this can happen even with a fairly lackluster album, but thankfully in the case of Sabaton, the band has absolutely no weak albums (except arguably The Last Stand, though even that's very good when judged on its own merits,) so no matter what album I had started with, I definitely would have been impressed. So it Is with Coat of Arms, their fourth full length album, and one that can easily be overlooked by some, due to the fact that it comes in between their two most ambitious albums to date. I was of course greatly impressed the first time I heard it, and it immediately made me fell in love with the band, from the epic keys, to the speedy guitar driven power metal, to the epic choruses, war themed anthems and of course Joakim Brodén unique and awesome vocals. Over time, while other albums like The Art of War, Attero Dominatus and Heroes have overtaken it, I still consider it to be an excellent album, which I'd place roughly within the middle of the band's discography, and of course a middling album for Sabaton is an incredible album for basically any other band.

While Coat of Arms is far less ambitious and immediately surprising when compared against The Art of War and Carolus Rex, it still has its own feel to it at times, being the first time the keyboards started to give the music more of a symphonic feel, with the title track in particular being a perfect example of this. This album was around when the band's music started to get a bit softer, more melodic and more epic than ever before, though it still packed a serious punch at times, especially with tracks like “Midway” and “Screaming Eagles”, which hit as hard as ever. In some ways, this album feels like a bit of a precursor to the more simplified sound the band took with Heroes and The Last Stand. Obviously, their music has always been very catchy and vocal driven, but this album was their shortest at the time of its release, due to each track having a fairly short running time, and this leads to the album having an absolutely perfect flow, moving from one highlight to another, with only one track overstaying its welcome, and that's more because it's a slightly lackluster track compared to the rest, than it actually being overlong. Still, in comparison to many of the band's other albums, there aren't any obvious threads connecting the tracks, and instead it's simply a collection of fun, epic war themed power metal songs, with nine of the ten tracks being pretty much perfect, and so it's an album that breezes by quickly and is very easy to listen to over and over again.

I really can't say much else about Joakim Brodén that I haven't said already, but I was especially impressed by him on this album, due to the fact that it was my first time ever hearing him, and his deep, powerful yet melodic vocals instantly blew me away. Over time he has become one of my absolute favorite metal vocalists, and this album was the start of that. As always, he's in very fine form here, with some of the track really bringing out his accent and making perfect use of his super deep, yet smooth voice. It could be just because it was the first Sabaton album I heard, but I'd definitely consider this album to be one of his absolute best performances.

At this point, Sabaton was already on quite the hot streak, coming off of two consecutive masterpieces, with The Art of War in particular being one of my all time favorite power metal albums, so it wouldn't have been too surprising if this album had seen a drop off in the songwriting. Thankfully, though, that isn't really the case, as once again the majority of the tracks here are absolutely fantastic, with a few of them even ranking among my favorites by the band. First up is the title track, which begins with some super epic keyboards, that immediately give the music a slight symphonic feel, before the track picks up the pace and Joakim shows up to steal the show, as always. The verses are fast, driving and help get you ready for a big chorus, which the band is always happy to supply, and overall it's fast, fun and addictive track that gets the album off to a flying start. After that is the short, but very sweet “Midway”, the hardest hitting track on the album, which charges out of the gates with some pulverizing riffs, and instantly bulldozes its way into the listener's head with a brief tease at the chorus, before dialing up the epic factor to an eleven later, when the full version finally arrives. It's over too quickly, but aside from it's an incredible track, for sure.

Next is one of my personal favorites in “Uprising”, the first slower track on the album, but it's certainly a memorable one. It opens up with some nice keyboards before settling into a similar rhythm as tracks like “Wolfpack” and “The Art of War”, but I find the vocal melodies here to be some of the band's absolute most inspired and they really do an amazing job in taking advantage of Joakim's voice, with even the verses being incredible, while the chorus is one of the band's absolute best ever, and even a vocal section that shows up near the end, where choir vocals are added, is absolutely incredible. The pace picks up again for “Screaming Eagles”, one of the more traditional power metal tracks on the album, which charges away at a blazing fast pace, and has some energetic drums and riffs, being another one of the heavier tracks on the album. It has an amazing chorus, as always, and is a super addictive track. Speaking of tracks with super addictive choruses, next is “The Final Solution”, another slower, more keyboard driven track, with a nice rhythm to it, though it's the vocals and epic keys that drive the track throughout, giving way to yet another ridiculously catchy chorus, with some pretty epic lyrics. Towards the end all music fades away except drums, giving way to Joakim and some epic choir vocals, and the result is absolutely stunning, helping to make it another one of my personal favorites.

Things don't exactly go downhill from there, either, with the next track “Aces in Exile” being another hard hitter, being a bit slower than tracks like “Midway” and “Screaming Eagles”, though it still moves at a nice pace and has some great rhythm guitars, while the chorus is super addictive, as usual. It gets extra points for mentioning Canada towards the end, and lyrically it's a pretty great track. Next is “Saboteurs”, a speedy track with some nice melodic guitar work, and it's definitely another one of the more straight-forward power metal tracks on the album, with a speedy, super catchy chorus, fun verses and a nice solo section. The one weaker track is next, that being “Wehrmacht”, a darker, slower paced track with some nice keys, though I find the guitar sound to be a little too thick and off putting compared to most Sabaton tracks, and the song simply lacks the kind of melody and hooks I've come to expect from the band. It's actually a solid track musically, but vocally it lacks the spark all other tracks on the album have. Thankfully, though, that track is the one exception here, as “White Death” quickly gets things back on track, moving at a nice pace and having more driving guitar riffs, nice rhythms and an epic chorus where Joakim really shines. Lastly, we have “Metal Ripper”, the final part of the metal trilogy. This one seems to take random quotes from different songs, and I find I don't get most of the references here, unlike with the other two tracks in the trilogy, though there are references to tracks like “Highway to Hell” and “Mr. Crowley”, as well as an obvious nod to “Crazy Train” during the instrumental section. Musically, it's the slowest in the trilogy, though it still moves at a decent pace and has a nice mix of great riffs and keyboard melodies, as well as a super catchy and fun chorus, as always, with the last run through being especially awesome.

Overall, Coat of Arms in yet another amazing album from Sabaton, which kept the momentum going after arguably their best to date in The Art of War. While it doesn't quite reach the level of that album, and can easily be overshadowed due to coming in between two far more ambitious albums, it's still a must hear for fans of the band, offering up a ton of excellent war anthems, as always, and having a few of my personal favorites from the band. As my introduction to Sabaton, I definitely have a soft spot for it, though I do think I'd find it to be a very high quality release regardless of when I had heard it, as some of the songs are simply to amazing to not be impressed by.

KAMELOT The Shadow Theory

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
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As someone who listens to a large amount of music every year, I’ve piled up a ton of favorite bands, some of which I’d say I can always rely on to produce an excellent album, while others fall into more of a long shot category, where sometimes they’ll disappoint me, but other times they’ll pull through and blow me away. One of the main bands I place into that category is American band Kamelot, one of the most well known and prolific power metal bands in all of North America. They’ve released three of my all-time favorite albums over the years in Epica, The Black Halo, and Silverthorn, but they’ve also released some disappointments like Ghost Opera and the total snooze fest, Poetry for the Poisoned. They’re one of those bands where every time I start to either lean towards loving them for all their great works or being a bit hard on them for their disappointments, they always manage to turn things around on me fairly quickly. So it’s no real surprise that after their last release Haven ended up letting me down a bit after the masterful comeback album Silverhorn, to the point where I started doubting the band again, their upcoming 12th full-length release The Shadow Theory has yet again managed to pull me back in. It’s not quite on the level of some of their all-time best works, but it’s a more consistent, more cohesive, yet somehow more varied and interesting album than Haven, which in some ways pushes their sound forward a bit, while also celebrating everything they’ve been in the past.

For a while it’s felt like Kamelot hasn’t quite known what to do with their sound, with the likes of Ghost Opera and Poetry for the Poisoned experimenting with melodic heavy metal and progressive metal respectively, neither of which quite worked for the band, while Silverthorn represented the return of their classic power metal sound in all its glory, paired with an increased focus on symphonic arrangements. At the time, I was expecting future albums to continue with that direction, but somehow Haven pushed the power metal elements into the background, while keeping the symphonic elements as the main focus, and so it ended up feeling like a slightly better version of the two aforementioned weaker albums, while still ultimately falling short of my expectations. Obviously, I had no clue what to expect from The Shadow Theory, but in the end, it has proven itself to be their most varied release in quite some time, possibly ever, combining elements from all their past releases, while also including some new elements at times.

Most notably, the keyboards seem to be a greater focus than ever before. Obviously, they were always there on past albums, but this time around they become the main focus a bit more often, along with the symphonic elements, of course. While they sound more typical on some tracks, others like “Ravenlight” and “Amnesiac” have a much more modern sound to them, almost giving the music a slight trance metal feel, which has never been there before. The guitar work is also a bit heavier and more modern sounding on some tracks, especially on “Phantom Divine” and “Kevlar Skin”. At the same time this is a Kamelot album, and so there’s still a ton of great melodies here as well, with some excellent melodic guitar leads, great guitar solos, epic symphonic arrangements, and huge vocal melodies and choruses. In fact, this album has some of their best melodies in quite some time, especially on some of the speedier, more power focused tracks, but even a slower, darker track like “Burns to Embrace” has an incredible chorus. As far as the songwriting goes, there’s a little something for everyone here, with fans of their classic power metal being given quite a few great tracks to look forward to, while fans of their slower, darker and more melodic tracks have quite a few songs to look forward to, and of course there’s a couple more progressive tracks as well as two ballads. Most importantly, though, where Haven had a couple tracks that bored me, this time around every song is consistently engaging. The musicianship is of course top notch as always and the production is absolutely perfect, as fans would expect.

The one element of Kamelot that’s consistently been excellent is the vocals, and of course, The Shadow Theory is no exception there. I’ve always loved Tommy Karevic’s vocals, and while I personally prefer his more emotional, higher ranged vocals he uses with his other band, Seventh Wonder, he’s done an excellent job of fitting in with Kamelot’s sound over these past three albums, and each time he sounds more and more comfortable. At this point, he feels like he seamlessly blends in with the band, doing an equally great job on the speedier, more upbeat sections and on the slower, darker sections. Perhaps the one thing I miss is some of the more dynamic vocal performances he gives with Seventh Wonder, as he seems to be more and more focused on channeling Roy Khan here, singing lower and darker than normal, which he, of course, does a great job of, but it does feel like some of his talents are largely being left untapped. Make no mistake about it, though, he does an excellent job on this album, and if anything my criticisms are more due to personal taste than anything else.

Of course, the biggest concern for any Kamelot album is whether or not the songwriting holds up. Thankfully, this time around the band has produced a collection of excellent tracks, which cover all aspects of their sound and it feels like they did their best job of giving everyone a little something to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, there’s both an orchestral intro and outro, both of which are quite nice, and in between those are 11 songs of varying sound, but each of them is memorable in different ways.

Fans of speedy power metal are in for a treat right away with “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”, which has a brief keyboard intro before the orchestra and guitars kick in and it quickly speeds up, before slowing down for the slow but heavy verses. Once the chorus hits, though, it goes full speed ahead, with an excellent, speedy power metal chorus that fans of the band will instantly fall in love with, as Tommy delivers some epic vocals that bring Khan to mind in the best way possible, and from there the song keeps getting heavier and more intense as it goes on, with the second half of the track featuring the first of two appearances from Once Human vocalist Lauren Hart, who provides some pretty epic death growls. Overall, it’s an excellent track, which kicks things off in style. Next is “Ravenlight”, the first song released and it kind of represents a middle ground, largely being more of a darker, mid-paced track with some pretty heavy riffs and nice modern sounding keys, but it speeds up dramatically towards the end, for its most impressive section. Overall, I find the track to be solid, but it doesn’t fully grab my attention as the melodies are nice but not fantastic, and the main riff isn’t especially memorable. However, the final 45 seconds, when the song fully speeds up, are absolutely fantastic and help take it to the next level.

Other speedier tracks include the oddball “Amnesiac”, a fun and upbeat track which doesn’t quite reach full power metal speed, but it does move at a nice pace, especially during its chorus. It starts off with some very heavy guitar work, before giving way to some very trance-like keys, which lead the way through much of the track, especially the chorus, which is upbeat and very fun. It’s a bit of weird track, being a bit lighter and more keyboard driven than normal, but it’s actually very effective and feels fresh and new, while still having just enough of the classic Kamelot sound to fit in with the rest of the album. A more traditional power metal track is the hard hitter “Kevlar Skin”, which charges out of the gate and delivers some of the heaviest guitar work on the album, only slowing down a bit for the verses, before really speeding up during the intense and super addictive chorus. The guitar work only gets heavier as the track goes on, and the instrumental section is pretty damn intense and awesome. My favorite of all is “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)”, the most classic symphonic power metal sounding track here, as it’s a track that constantly rolls along at a fast pace, mixing heavy riffs with epic orchestral arrangements, and it has an absolutely incredible, super melodic chorus, where Tommy delivers some of his best-soaring power metal vocals. Even the one slower section in the second half stands out due to how dark and heavy it gets, and it makes for a great contrast with the rest of the track, while the instrumental section that follows goes back to being speedy and super melodic. Definitely my favorite song here and one I’d proudly put up there with some of the band’s all-time best. After that is the last full song here and also the longest and most progressive, “The Proud and the Broken”. It’s a more complex song, which starts off with a nice piano section before quickly speeding up. It goes through many transitions throughout, largely being a progressive power metal track, but it’s a bit lighter and more melodic than one would expect from the band, and it has some very nice softer sections, as well an excellent chorus, as usual. It’s definitely the most progressive track here and is another one of my favorites.

On the slower side, the first big stand out is “Burns to Embrace”, one of the band’s darker, more atmospheric tracks, but where I found the tracks like this on Haven to be a bit forced, this one actually works much better, pairing dark and heavy verses with a huge and epic chorus, and the track builds up tension nicely as it goes along, starting off calm and soft during its first verse, before picking up during the chorus and then finally going all out during the second verse. It’s a song that gets better as it goes along, with the instrumental section being great and then at the end the band brings in a children’s choir for the last two runs through the chorus, which is something I usually don’t like on a metal album, but here their voices combine with the lyrics to give the song a chilling and powerful effect that really elevates the track from being solid to being one of absolute best on the album. Unsurprisingly, things calm down with the next track, “In Twilight Hours”, a nice ballad which has some great vocal melodies, as well as some excellent guest vocals from Beyond the Black singer Jennifer Haben, who works very well with Tommy and helps to elevate an otherwise decent but forgettable track. She especially excels during the final run through the chorus, which is the best part of the song. The other ballad on the album is “Stories Unheard”, a largely acoustic track which has some very soft and excellent vocals from Tommy, as well as another excellent chorus. I find it to be a better written and more engaging track than “In Twilight Hours” overall, though both are pretty nice. Also on the softer side is “Static”, a track which starts off with some nice piano melodies and symphonic elements before getting slightly heavier during the opening verse. It’s a fairly light and calm track, with just a slight metal edge to it, and it has some nice vocal melodies, as well as another great chorus. It feels like the kind of thing they were trying to do on Poetry for the Poisoned and parts of Haven, except here it’s much better executed and more enjoyable. Also similar to much of Haven is “Mindfall Remedy”, a more mid-paced but very heavy track, with some great riffs and modern keys. It has a very fun chorus, as well as some more growls from Lauren Hart, and again it feels like they took the sound they had on much of Haven, except here the riffs hit just a bit harder and the melodies are just a bit more engaging, so the track ends up being much better than most of that album.

Overall, The Shadow Theory is an excellent album, which has a bit of everything for all Kamelot fans to enjoy. It once again brings back some of the band’s classic speedy power metal, as well as features some of their heaviest tracks, while also featuring some very modern keyboards and some darker, slower paced tracks, as well as some more relaxed and more melodic tracks. It’s definitely one of their most varied releases to date, while also feeling fresh in spots, and after Haven let me down, this one managed to win me over once again. I wouldn’t place it up there with their all-time best, but I’d certainly take it over anything else they’ve done since 2005, aside from Silverthorn.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/03/31/kamelot-the-shadow-theory-review/

SABATON The Art Of War

Album · 2008 · Power Metal
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There are some albums that take a long time to fully open up and show themselves to be amazing. And then there are albums like The Art of War, the third full length album from Swedish power metal band Sabaton, that just completely blow your mind right on the first listen, immediately proving themselves to be masterpieces, with subsequent listens only managing to somehow impress you even further. During my early days of exploring Sabaton's discography, I found myself largely impressed by most of their material, but the one album that always impressed me the most and left me blown away every time, was The Art of War, both because of how well it takes its over arching concept and connects it so perfectly to the music, and because of how damn catchy and impressive every single song on the album is. In short, while their later album Heroes may be their most addictive album as well as my most played album in quite some time, this one is probably their most impressive and most consistently awesome release to date.

While their first two albums laid the foundation for the band's sound, The Art of War is the album where they really broke through and where their formula was fully unleashed in all its glory, with future albums trying to match it, and not quite getting there. Everything from the speedier tracks to the more mid paced affairs, all feel like the beginnings of tracks the bands would make on later albums, but here they're all executed to perfection. Gone is the darker tone of the previous release, as while the album does have some heavier sections, it's a more melodic and much more triumphant and heroic sounding album on the whole, with even the songs dealing with sad situations sounding lighter and more epic than most tracks on their first two releases. This album felt like the perfect middle ground between the speedier sound of their debut and the slower sound found on Carolus Rex and both albums they've done since, with a nice variety to the tracks, and everything is done perfectly. The album is based around an ancient Chinese military treatise titled The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, with each track being focused on a particular chapter from the book. In between songs, a woman briefly narrates quotes from the book, which gives extra context to the tracks and I find this to be quite cool, as it adds an extra layer to the songs, and I think these quotes fit in perfectly with the lyrics of the songs, making the already epic and at times emotional lyrics of the album all the more powerful. In fact, while Sabaton has always had some epic lyrics, I find this album to be their best in that area, as some of the tracks are surprisingly very emotional and touching, and they do a great job of showing the effects war can have on people.

Of course, one area where the band always delivers is the vocals, and Joakim Brodén is in top form here, sounding very smooth and very powerful at the same time. His signature deep and powerful vocals are in full force and his delivery is even smoother than on Attero Dominatus, with his vocals on the more melodic sections being absolutely perfect and really adding some extra power to melodies and choruses that are already fantastic. He truly is the star of the band, and this album definitely proves that, once again.

While some Sabaton albums took a bit of time to grow on me, The Art of War is definitely not one of them, as it blew me away right from the first listen and hasn't let up in the least ever since. It's their one album where every song already impressed me on first listen, and I always enjoyed the narrations, as they're brief, effective and add a bit of extra context to the tracks, without ever getting in the way, so it was always a perfect album for me in every way possible. The album starts off with a brief narration track that introduces the concept, before launching into the first full song “Ghost Division”, which is an absolute killer. Opening with an awesome drum roll, the track quickly speeds up, with its triumphant sounding keyboards and heavy riffs at the front of the mix, and it charges along with some great melodies and an excellent performance from Joakim. The verses and keyboard solo are certainly awesome, but the best part is the chorus, which is not only catchy, but also super heroic and just plain badass, opening with the excellent line “We are the panzer elite, born to compete, never retreat, Ghost Division.” It's extremely hard to write lyrics that cool and awesome, but someone Sabaton always manages to do it again and again, though even by their standards, this track is one of their absolute best.

Next is the title track, which again has some nice narrations, before the keyboards take over and it turns into the kind of mid pace track the band has excelled at since “Wolfpack” on their debut, though here it's more polished and fully fleshed out, with some nice rhythms during the verses and the chorus is absolutely fantastic. It's definitely a song they've attempted to outdo on future albums, but this is one of their best mid paced tracks, for sure. After that is the super speedy “40:1”, which briefly teases at its chorus before quickly speeding up and turning into one of the heavier, speedier and more guitar driven songs on the album, definitely having more of a classic power metal feel to it, though the keyboards are still very much present, Joakim sounds very energetic throughout the track, and the chorus is super addictive, super badass and super catchy, once again. The closest thing the album has to a slow burn is “Unbreakable”, which starts out fairly slowly, with some nice guitar melodies and moves at a slow pace throughout most of its duration, with Joakim dominating on vocals, and it has a great chorus, of course, bu then in the second half the pace suddenly speeds up dramatically and from there the music gets intense and super epic, and it becomes the kind of super fun and epic track Sabaton are best at, though it's more complicated than anything they've done since, and is also a clear highlight. After another brief narration track, we get “Cliffs of Gallipoli”, which has a slightly playful sound to it, with some theatrical sounding piano sounds used throughout the verses, and it's actually one of the more emotional songs here, with Joakim sounding very powerful and talking about the death of war heroes and people mourning their loss, and its sung with such passion, it's hard not to feel it. Easily one of the best on the album, with an incredible chorus, despite also being quite sad. Even the guitar solo in the middle is very emotional, and again it reaches heights the band, or any band really, can rarely ever manage to reach.

The pace picks up again on “Talvisota”, another speedier, heavier and more classic power metal feeling song, with epic choirs during the verses, and it has a very heroic sound to it, like a typical Sabaton track. After what comes before it, the track definitely gives off a burst of energy and is yet another highlight. After that is “Panzerkampf”, one of the slower and heavier songs on the album and has a slightly darker tone than most tracks here, though it's still more melodic than most songs on Attero Dominatus, and it has another excellent chorus, with slightly harder hitting vocals and rhtyhms than normal. Another highlight is next in “Union (Slopes of Benedict”, a fairly upbeat and slightly folk infused track, which sounds happy and triumphant compared to some tracks on the album, with an extremely epic and super catchy chorus. It manages to fit the bands sound perfectly, while still sounding unique, and is definitely another easy favorite, with the folk melodies adding an extra layer to an already amazing track.

Nearing the end of the album, my favorite and perhaps the single most powerful song the band has ever done is next in “The Price of a Mile”, a slow but very hard hitting track, with some of the heaviest riffs on the album. It has a similar sound to the title track, except its riffs hit harder and it just feels all the more epic, with Joakim again delivering some very emotional vocals, and the lyrics are again very sad and a bit tough to take, but they're delivered so damn well. The line where the song's name showed up in particular is just amazing, while the chorus is absolutely incredible and probably their best to date. Overall it's simply a stunning, powerful track that the band has tried to recreate many times, but not quite managed to match it. After such a somber track, it makes sense that the band would speed things up one more time before ending the album, with “Firestorm” being an absolute scorcher of a track, moving at a frantic pace and having more heavy riffs, great melodies and a super intense and addictive chorus, making it the perfect way to end the album,before one last bit of narration come in to officially end it.

Overall, The Art of War is an absolute masterpiece, which simultaneously moves the band closer towards the more melodic and super catchy war anthems the band has become famous for, while also being their most cohesive work to date, thanks to an over arching concept that is executed perfectly. It has a perfect mix of speedy, instantly catchy tracks as well as some slower, more powerful tracks with some surprisingly emotional lyrics, and overall it's tough to argue against it being the band's greatest album to date. It's tough to say which I prefer between it and Heroes, but both are absolutely incredible, and this one probably is better from a technical standpoint.

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