Sabaton Brings Its History-Lesson Metal To Hartford

Special to the Courant
Sabaton: “I figure if he can survive the Nazis, he can survive a metal concert.”

How do you make one of the most epic days in history more epic? Simple: write a metal song about it. With the title track of 2005's "Primo Victoria," Sweden-based power metal outfit Sabaton get inside the Allied Forces' heads as they invade Normandy in summer 1944. "Through the gates of Hell/As we make our way to Heaven/ Through the Nazi lines/Primo Victoria!" sings Joakim Brodén with a gloriously grandiose tone. Thanks to that voice, those lyrics and a sweeping squad of guitars, Allied soldiers are transformed from flesh and blood into the stuff of Greek mythology. In Latin, the song's title means "first victory" or "victory to the first" (depending on who you trust), and you truly feel the scale of war and sense of heroic duty once "Primo Victoria" unfolds. It's a scintillating enough tune that one intrepid YouTuber even set it to footage from "Saving Private Ryan."

"Primo Victoria" wasn't the first time Sabaton wrote about war — that would be "Panzer Battalion," which concerned the recent Iraq War — and definitely not the last. Since Primo, Sabaton have discussed one historical conflict after another: World War II's Battle of Kursk, Warsaw Uprising and Battle of Midway; the Winter War; the Thirty Years' War; the Great Northern War; and loads more. "Heroes," Sabaton's seventh record, released earlier this year, exclusively analyzes individuals or single units, like America's iconic WWII vet/actor Audie L. Murphy and the daring Polish soldier/concentration camp resistance leader Witold Pilecki. "I always thought that there are so many fantastic stories in our history that are being forgotten, so why make up new ones, really?" Brodén, 33, says of writing about war. "To be honest ... there's already enough bands singing about killing a dragon, [sex] and drinking beer."

Sabaton were forged in 1999, with Brodén coming in as keyboardist. Initially, he was very lukewarm about the project since they were playing death metal, which wasn't Brodén's cup of tea. But after learning that Sabaton's personnel would very much be game to create melodic metal instead, Brodén stuck around and helped usher in the group's revamped sonic palette. In today's group, he and bassist Pär Sundström are the only two Sabaton originals standing.

Considering the success of their lyrical approach and their commitment to it, it's funny to learn that Brodén didn't care about learning military history — except the Vietnam War — when he was in school. In penning Sabaton's lyrics, his interest has grown dramatically. Now, listeners routinely come up to the five-piece to tell them that they knew nothing of a certain war-related subject until hearing Sabaton cover them. This has also created some one-of-a-kind experiences at shows. For example, Sabaton recently played in Brazil, and a 93-year-old man came up to the group. On "Heroes," the song "Smoking Snakes" discusses three members of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force who stayed behind in a WWII battle and fought to the death so the rest of their unit could escape. The Germans were so impressed by their courage that they gave their fallen opponents graves honoring them as heroes. Not only was the 93-year-old a friend of one of those three men but he was also in the unit they died to protect. The man ended up sticking around for Sabaton's performance without any problem. "He was really in good shape," Brodén says. "I mean, I figure if he can survive the Nazis, he can survive a metal concert."

SABATON with Amon Amarth and Skeletonwitch. $25. 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, Webster Theater, 31 Webster St., Hartford. 860-525-5553,

Copyright © 2018, CT Now