Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sabaton - Poltava

The first song by Sabaton I ever heard was “Poltava” and it remains my favourite. In fact the entire album “Carolus Rex” is one of the albums I have enjoyed the most in recent memory.

War is an exciting topic; I needlessly elaborated this fact on my review of Sabaton’s “White Death.”

It is should be unnecessary for me to explain how and why war is so exciting. It is the ultimate eclipse of death and violence, and thus the ultimate horror to civilization and tragically the greatest test of heroism any warrior could embark on. With this combination of emotions that go with war there is a vast open avenue for artistic expression. Contradicting emotions can easily be invoked when depicting war in art; fear and courage, glory and shame, hate and admiration. For the Swedes the battle of Poltava was a disaster, and Sabaton has created a song that aggressively describes this nightmare, that is both energetic and sorrowful, both courageous and terrifying.

The battle of Poltava was fought between the Swedish empire led by Carolus Rex and the Russian empire lead by Peter the Great. Poltava is modern day Ukraine, and this final battle was the end of expansion of the Swedish empire and defeat was so brutal that it marked the end of Sweden being a major power in Europe and the beginning of Russia’s presence as a one.

The song “Poltava” is epic in its delivery. Everything about it is perfect for a metal song. It has a fantastic heavy rhythm section. The guitar work is fast and skillful. The structure feels forceful and deadly, like war. Though the strongest feeling provoked is the intensity of combat and somehow there is also room for the bitterness and sadness for the Swedes, making “Poltava” both a badass song to rock out to and a heart full ballad about the soldiers who bleed the ground red and the eventual downfall of the mighty expanded Swedish empire of Carolus Rex. Basically it is a perfect song for what it is trying to be, but more than that, “Carolus Rex” the album, is basically a perfect album for what it is trying to be.

"The Lion of the North"
Gustavus Adolphus
The album “Carolus Rex” is a metal musical detailing the rise and fall of the Swedish empire. It starts with songs like “The Lion From The North” introducing Gustavus Adolphus who is credited for turning Sweden into a great power by leading Sweden to victory through the Thirty Years War, and is often considered one of the greatest military commanders of all time. Before his death in 1632 Gustavus he managed to make Sweden the third largest empire in Europe, after only Russia and Spain.

“Gott Mit Uns” (god with us) is about the Battle of Breitenfeld which was the first major victory the Protestants had against the Catholics in the Thirty Year War, and also solidified Sweden’s involvement in the war for the coming years. Evidently the Protestant Swedes and Prussians believed god to be on their side.

My second favorite song on the album has to be “A Lifetime Of War” describing the misery caused by the Thirty Years’ War. I really like the line,

“When all of Europe is burning what can be done?
They've been to war a decade two more to come.”

Carolus Rex (King Charles)
Then Carolus Rex is introduced with the title track. Born 1682, Carolus came to power at age fifteen and immediately war was thrust upon him when the king of Denmark-Norway declared war. Carolus was able to defeat his enemies in Norway and Zealand and force a peace between them. The same day peace with Denmark-Norway was made Russia declared war on Sweden and a grim series of battles began like the battle of Fraustadt depicted in the in "Killing Ground" and ultimately the song of the hour "Poltava."

The album ends with two sorrowful songs "Long Live The King" a song describing the funeral march for Carolus Rex which understandably is very sad for the Swedes, presumably including the ones in the band Sabaton. Carolus was wounded in the battle of Poltava or as Joakim Broden put it:

"Russian armies blocked their way,
Twenty thousand lost that day,
They bled the ground,
Peace they found.
There's no sign of victory.
King Carolus had to flee.
And leave the land,
Leave Command."

As the ruined remains of the escaped Swedish forces fled back to Sweden Carolus died from his injuries.

"Bringing Home the Body of Charles XII" by Gustaf Cederstrom
Lastly we have "Ruina Imperii" the fall of the empire, which is the final salute on the album "Carolus Rex."

Needless to say I learned a lot about the Swedish empire and the thirty years war from listening to "Carolus Rex." We do not cover the various empires that rose and fell in Europe after Rome in Canada's education system and it was very interesting to put a lot of important events and rulers to these moments in history. What better way to learn about history then through badass metal? I have literally received an educational lecture by listening to Sabaton as if I needed any additional reasons to like them. This is one of the great charms that Sabaton possesses, if Blind Guardian’s discography is like a metal library of fantasy and fiction then Sabaton is a metal history encyclopedia on the most exciting topic of all, war.

- King of Braves

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