Friday, August 27, 2010

Sabaton - Primo Victoria

A day in the life of BastardHead (as narrated by Sam Elliott)

Hello there. My name is Sam Elliott, also known as "That old man who kind of looks like Frank Zappa" or "Wicked Mustache". Today, I'd like to share a story with y'all. It takes place during my travels of Chicagoan suburbs, searching for the fabled land of Aurora, the supposed hometown of public television legends Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar. While I never did happen upon them two young men, I did meet a rather peculiar adolescent in the neighboring Oswego. He said he had a normal name, but was more widely known as "BastardHead". He looked like this Fenriz character I met during my Norwegian travels and used lots of cuss words. After he spent several hours complimenting my mustache and praising my voice as "the manliest voice among all men", he accepted my request that I study him for a few days. This particular day, he was attending a group therapy session. Let's observe what took place in that session....

"....and even though I am chief of police, I still raped my dog. Thanks for listening."

*applause from the group*

"Alright people, we have a very special addition to our weekly get-togethers here at 'Hypocrites Anonymous'. Mr.... Head, could you please stand up and explain why you are here with us today?"

"Hello everybody, my name is BastardHead, and I am a hypocrite."

*small chorus of meek "Hi BastardHead"*

"As I'm sure none of you know, I am a critic and a reviewer on a very popular heavy metal website. I have been called out numerous times on dodgy opinions and questionable criticisms. Every time a band I dislike is fundamentally similar to a band I praise, I find myself using blanket statements like "they lack charm" to cover up my lack of substantial evidence as to why the piece in question guzzles dolphin jizz. A great example, and the reason I signed myself up for this class, is Sabaton's Primo Victoria.

One of the first points of contention is the incredibly inoffensive pop mentality of the whole ordeal. The opening title track starts with an a capella performance of the chorus. While this isn't something one hears all the time, and while it might get the crowd riled up during a live performance, it ranks as probably the worst and most poorly executed idea ever conceived on record. Ever since the advent of Dragonforce, mainstream radio has finally caught on to power metal's consonant nature and usual inoffensiveness, and it seems like some bands are embracing that, Sabaton being one. I get the feeling that Wolfpack or Purple Heart wouldn't be met with much resistance on an alternative rock radio station. Whether or not this is a bad thing is totally in the eye of the beholder, but the second something makes it on the radio, I find it to lose almost any balls it may have previously had. What could potentially be a steel toe stomping groove never fails to end up into a fluffy prance on Primo Victoria. And here is why I'm a hypocrite, I absolutely love Timeless Miracle. Into the Enchanted Chamber is one of the most innocent and poppish power metal albums I've ever laid ears on, but something about them makes it cunt garglingly awesome. I can't explain things like that, but songs like The Red Rose strike a cord within me that Sabaton can only dream to strike. I complain about the overt bounciness in many of the melodies on this album, but my love affair with a certain Swedish flower metal band makes that criticism completely worthless when coming from me.

Another thing I want to complain about is the vocalist. His range spans maybe a full octave, and attempts nary a single falsetto wail throughout. Do you need a falsetto to rock? Of course not, but his vocal delivery bores me shitless and little spices like that would be most welcome. Unfortunately, Mr. Badass Flat Top seems perfectly content with his mediocrity. Hold on a second, I can't claim this as a reason for suckage either consider I love Grave Digger! Bordenthal has a hilarious mid range gruff that he tends to stick with, as does BFT, so what ground do I have to stand on? I feel like Grave Digger can manage to suck me in to their stories and music despite the mediocre/laughable vocals, whereas Sabaton does little more bore me. It's obvious the man is putting passion behind his vocals as well, and yet it still comes off as either half assed or just bad. But wait! I recently claimed that Wolf was awesome despite several shortcomings based nearly solely on the passion and conviction they put into their music. Fuck, hypocrisy strikes again.

Probably the most superficially egregious violation of my mythical "How Not To Be A Complete Douchenozzle" codebook, is their image. Sabaton prides themselves on themes of war, which is all well and good. But for fuck's sake, do they really need to take themselves so hilariously seriously? They remind me of LARPers, really. Honestly guys, we're all laughing at you, you're not cool. But looking like tools seems to be commonplace in metal, so why bash them for that? Well, they take all of these promotional photos in full combat fatigues carrying assault rifles and even going as far as to wear Kevlar and camouflage on stage. Seriously, if that isn't taking the joke too far, then World War II was a tie. But hold up once again, don't I like Amon Amarth? Fucksticks, I do like them. They seem to actually think they are vikings and reflect as such in foolish videoclips and look and act like complete tits live. Shit, Amon Amarth even gets actors to come out and reenact Viking battles onstage. Why the hell do I let bullshit like that slide while I sit here and jab at Sabaton for wearing silly costumes? I guess it's because I somehow find Amon Amarth's music enjoyable and Sabaton's boring, despite the poppiness in both of their music (well... later era AA, but it's still there). I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that I'm a fucking hypocrite.

Now that I'm finished bitching about the personnel, I think I'd analyze the music further. The music itself tends to remain midpaced for most of the album with a couple bursts of speed (Panzer Battalion, Counterstrike, Into the Fire). The speedy numbers are easily the best parts of the record despite the fact that the midpaced groovers are infinitely catchier. This causes uncomfortable shifts in the pace of the album. The fact of the matter is that it's hilariously awful at times, and yet testicle meltingly awesome other times. Usually, awkward shifts between the segments are what cause my frustration, but it almost seems like the band allots entire songs for this kind of thing. Take the difference between the title track and Panzer Battalion. Primo Victoria is dominated by a bouncy groove and happy keyboard melody, whereas Panzer Battalion is a furious double bass monster with a soaring chorus. Small fluctuations like that are common on nearly every power metal record in existence, but half of the songs are in one style and the other half are in the other. This makes for a very disjointed feel overall. I also feel like this is my one valid criticism of the album.

The thing is, there isn't much to analyze in the music. The long songs are mid paced and catchy-yet-boring, while the short songs are high tempo rippers that are a lot of fun. And apart from pointing out that everything sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a Disney adaptation of WWII, you basically get the gist of the album after the first two songs. And honestly, if the album can't interest me throughout at least a majority of the duration, then what is the fucking point? I hear lots and lots of potential, but the fury is buried under mounds and mounds of cupcakes and artificial sweetener. Despite that, I don't feel justified in giving the album the score I feel it deserves if my argument is based solely on that. Every other piece of evidence I have counterpoises arguments I've made in the past, therefore rendering me useless. Why attack what I can't defend?

*sobs*... I need help.... *sniffle*"

*stunned silence fills the room*

And around that time, all of the hypocrites around the young man began to comfort BastardHead with gentle hugs and cuddles. Despite his hard facade, he really was a big teddy bear inside. He later told me after the session that he actually learned that his self awareness of his hypocrisy changed nothing in the long run. He still has an opinion, and music still strikes him differently than others. And he stands firm in his belief that Sabaton could be so much more than they are, and as such are very disappointing as a musical ensemble. He told me that there are things about Primo Victoria, like the, as he calls 'em "fast as fuck power metal monsters" that are exceptional and somewhat refreshing. But he still feels that the mid paced tracks either plod along in a boring and pointless manner or bounce around like prancing unicorns and rob the music of it's possible intensity and charm. They just can't pull off the pop metal like so many others can, and would most likely be much better suited as a straight up speed metal band as opposed to the "chugtastic groove rut that they got stuck in".

RATING - 43%

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