Sabaton – ‘Primo Victoria,’ Military History Metal

Primo Victoria - **** Stars

 

Sabaton is a brilliantly themed metal band and I picked their album Primo Victoria to highlight here because it was the first one I randomly downloaded off EMusic.com (I try all sorts of new bands off that site). What has impressed me recently about the metal genre is the trend towards themes such as pirates, mythology and even literature and therefore when I read the description of the album it was a must-have. Primo Victoria is a collection of songs, nay anthems, about military history. 

One could argue it may be a glorification of past wars, but I believe Sabaton is better than that. All military history buffs tend to glorify specific battles  and historical figures, but they usually circle around to temper their glorification with an understanding of how horrible the violence was. It is a morbid fascination, but one that reflects our humanity and the way we behave and I believe such explorations within art are legitimate. It also reminds us, despite the crop of fatalistic Christians who think our world is getting worse and headed towards Armageddon, that we are actually on the decline in terms of overall violence. Human empathy is increasing. 

Primo Victoria as a whole focuses on several aspects of war, from invasion to tanks to submarines, and mainly covers WW2, though “Into The Fire” appears to be about Vietnam, “Reign of Terror” is about Operation Desert Storm, and “Counterstrike” is about the Six Day War  involving an Israeli-Arab conflict (what else is new?). The title track “Primo Victoria,” which I provided a YouTube video for below so you can hear it, is about D-Day and the liberation of France. 

  

The music, if available at the time of the invasion of Normandy, could have been listened to by the troops to encourage them forward into battle. The main anthem goes like this: 

Through the gates of hell
As we make our way to heaven
Through the Nazi lines
Primo Victoria
 

Ironically, the band is from Sweden and Sweden doesn’t bring to mind stories of war, but no matter. Primo Victoria is their second album and while I must preface that progressive metal combines influences of eighties hair and power metal with a modern twist and therefore can sometimes feel “cheezy” to some, I think overall the lyrical content is intelligent and the music is addictive. Certainly it is better then yet another love metaphor or sex anthem from the latest MTV featured band. There’s also something about the way lead singer Joakim Broden belts out the words with rolling r’s and a throaty-raspy sound that is different and bold. It borders on campy but is saved by the entertaining and almost uplifting manner in which the songs are done and I honestly love it. A throwback to tough metal touching on very real situations of blood and guts and not demonic imagery or references to Satanism for shock value. It’s as if a military historian with respect for the stories of the past stepped out of his study and plugged in an electric guitar. 

Now again, there may be a debate here amongst humanists if this is a glorification of war and violence, but I think freethinking history buffs who like progressive metal will “get it.” History is a fascination most of us share without having to approve of the horrible things done to our fellow man. Sabaton does also seem to let their bias through on some of the songs so this isn’t merely historical observation. The listener will have to take that into consideration and explore their own feelings on each piece, which to me makes the music very Freethunk. Regardless of any debate, as a metal album, Primo Victoria is a unique and dare I say original specimen and I highly recommend it. 

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