Power of Metal.dk Review

Swedish Empire Live
Style: Power Metal
Release date: 20 September, 2013
Playing time: 78:22

There are a few things to consider - this is Sabaton's first live album, and the first outing with the new line-up, vocalist Joakim Broden and bassist Par Sundstrom remaining the only constant members. Also, this is an audio only review of an album that is being released as a live DVD/Blu-Ray.

While the vocal talents of Broden are never really tested in this performance, I very much enjoyed the vocals, harmonies and accompanying vocals in general. Most songs are in a lower key, too. Probably done just to sound heavier. Whatever the reason, it works.

It does appear that significant attention has been weighted on the new arrivals. They have confidently taken over the reigns from their predecessors and Sabaton clearly want to demonstrate this. Broden mentions to the crowd that they are very thankful for the reception the new additions have received throughout the tour. The guitarists are given the chance to demonstrate their skills which they do very well, it must be said - though unfortunately this not so much the case for the drums, which are often slightly overpowered throughout the album. In fact, in terms of the overall sound it's quite keyboard heavy, even for Power Metal, and in a few places that does blot out most other things, but it is very intermittent.

The album also feels a little jumbled to me in places - the formula tends to be slow song to a faster song to a slow song to a faster song which, to me personally, becomes a little tiresome. I admit I do not know if this is something that is usual for Sabaton gigs. Besides, this is an album review, not a live gig review, so you might think "Why is the order of songs important on a CD?" Well to me it's due to this: I, like many, have a tendency to imagine what it would be like to be at the show when I am listening to a live recording. I get charged up with songs like The Lion From The North and then it's a different kind of energy as you listen to the crowd chanting along in the slower tracks, like The Price Of A Mile. I could picture myself chanting along and having a good time doing it. It is this way for a little too long, though, in my opinion.

One point I must address, which adds a little to my reservations about the way the album flows, is the theme of the chosen selection of songs. It is a bit difficult to get in to it unless you're passionate about such themes, which I am not, and in that regard the flow of the album is in question again. Even though it is live it feels almost like a concept album. Kinda like Maiden have done before. It might be easy to criticise a band that, lyrically, are very well known for their tendency to focus on war themes drawn from specific battles and real life historic events. That's why I was quite relieved when the pace changed. I mean, if you're singing about very similar themes throughout,  and you're going from song to song in a sprint/walk/sprint/walk manner (but not enough "CHARGE!"), there isn't really anything new. This is the pattern from the start, but refreshingly once we get to Midway (a song the crowd chose) the stop/start progression of the set list comes to an end and it's not a moment too soon. From that point on we do get the aforementioned charge I think many people listening to this might be waiting for. I think the DVD/Blu-Ray has to make up for this and probably will, coming from a person who has only listened and not seen.

Overall - sound balance issues aside - it sounds fairly average, and bear in the DVD/Blu-Ray release is not just of this Woodstock (Poland) gig, which over half a million people attended - they also have extra performances from this tour in 3 other cities which I am looking forward to seeing. If this was a compilation album rather than a live recording I would be giving it a fairly average 60/100 for the reasons mentioned. But, the live factor does generate enough intrigue to compel me to watch the DVD/Blu-Ray which I think will be a similar case for fans of Sabaton and the Power Metal genre. They could have made a bit more effort with the artwork, too. Fairly bland, my rating of that reflects the fact that it's left me ambivalent. I don't like or dislike it.

01. The March To War
Ghost Division
Gott Mit Uns
Cliffs Of Gallipoli
The Lion From The North
ThePrice Of A Mile
Into The Fire
Carolus Rex
White Death
12. Attero Dominatus
13. The Art Of War
14. Primo Victoria
15. 401
16. Metal Crue.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Distribution: Sony Music (Denmark)
Artwork rating: 50/100
Reviewed by: Matt Fabi
Date: 8 September, 2013
Website: www.sabaton.net