Swedish power metallers Sabaton take their inspiration from military history, using depictions of key historical battles and campaigns to color their epic, keyboard-driven heavy metal.
Their fifth album, The Art of War, is inspired in part by Sun Tzu's definitive strategic handbook, and the album's 13 tracks feature intermittent quotations from the manual.
If that sounds like a flimsy concept for an album, it most assuredly is.
Thankfully, though, The Art of War differs little from its predecessors in that it focuses not on the art of war but on concrete events.
"Panzerkampf" is the album's clear highlight: a passionate account of the Soviet Army's defeat of Wehrmacht forces on Russian soil in 1943 that perfectly showcases singer Joakim Brodén's throaty Germanic brogue with the chorus "Into the motherland, the German army marched/Comrades stand side by side to stop the Nazi charge!" Despite the quasi-nationalistic fervor whipped up by "Panzerkampf," delayed opener "Ghost Division" looks at events from the German side, celebrating the seeming invincibility of the Seventh Panzer Division.
It's not just thematically that the album feels a little disjointed, however; if "Panzerkampf" and "Ghost Division" represent power metal at its most epic, the likes of "Union" and "Cliffs of Gallipoli" are relatively banal by comparison, and for that reason The Art of War is less than a fully satisfying listen.