Swedish stormtroopers Sabaton are about to release their latest album and embark upon a 2 year campaign of touring tyranny. ZT assembled under vocalist Joakim Brodén’s command to discuss Carolus Rex, war, and Swedish metal…
Before we get into the new album, I caught the video of your friend Heavy looking for cool stuff to give to princess Estelle (see HERE). Did he make it to the castle to give the newborn princess her metal outfits?
Hah, that was for a radio show, he’s tried many times to get into the castle, and wanted to give her some metal clothes. The radio show received a letter with quite a negative answer from government about that.
I read that the Swedish defence minister resigned recently after plans to build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia were revealed. What do you make of this, given your lyrical and thematic focus on war?
It doesn’t surprise me. Sweden was neutral during the war but even traded with the Nazis right until the end. I don’t like politics.
On to Carolus Rex. You’ve mentioned recently that it was the first time in Sabaton history that the sound turned out better than expected, crediting Peter Tägtgren. How was it to work with him?
We’ve known him for years, he’s very nice and relaxed so it was a good atmosphere, but he can have his nasty side:
“Do it again!”
“What? That was the best take of Sabaton’s albums”
“No, it can be better, do it again!”
I don’t know what it was but he got us a ‘full’ sound. With things like the choir on previous albums, people told us to not go all the way, don’t do it full on. Instead of being like “OK, let’s have some choir singing but not go all way, have a bit of the cookie then put it back”, Peter was like “No! Let’s eat the whole cookie and have it too!” He was completely opposite to what everyone was saying.
How did the choir singing turn out then?
I directed the choir. With some people it wasn’t working out, would rather not name names, but they had to be told nicely and taken out, swapped for others. But with the other singers it was fine.
How did the well-known Swedish historian and expert Bengt Liljegren help you guys with the album?
It wasn’t like previous albums where we’d Wikipedia something, then go through the sources. I read his book on Charles 12th – Carolus Rex – the King of Sweden during the Great Northern War, and it turned out someone on the label knows him so we got in touch. At first he didn’t want to get involved, but when he saw how we had chapters from the book to songs and were interested in the history and wanted to do it honestly he was surprised and interested. This part of Swedish history is the only part that’s interesting to me, however.
Many bands sing about war but what is it for you that inspires you to write about it?
Where can you get fear, euphoria, madness, and pure anger and hate? War. I love history, it’s great for metal.
With Tägtgren at the helm and videos like ‘Creative Army on the March’ and ‘Fast as a Shark’ (HERE and HERE) it seems like the studio process was enjoyable.
Yeah, ‘Fast as a Shark’ and that stuff was fun. Singing ‘Carolus Rex’ was also fun, I could be a megalomaniac, which he was, he was mad.
Carolus Rex has a version with some cover songs on it. What made you pick the cover songs in particular? Why the Rammstein cover?
Well its fire and power, what Sabaton is all about. It’s not my favourite Rammstein song, but a few years ago in Germany I sang ‘Master of Puppets’ with Metallica and ‘Feuer Frei’ with Rammstein and I enjoyed that song so it comes from that. When we were writing the album, there was a riff and I was listening to it and realised “Shit! That sounds like ‘In the Army Now’!” so we thought we’d do that song as one of the covers. ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ we thought would be cool to do and Peter does some guest vocals.
Why the Swedish and English versions of the album?
The lyrics are reworded a bit as there are some slight differences in the translation, which is good, we wouldn’t want it to be exactly the same. But one song’s lyrics have two perspectives to go with each version, one from Carolus Rex and one from a soldier’s, so it’s not exactly the same even though the music is.
Judging from the album cover, you’re obviously proud of your heritage, as you should be given the ridiculous amount of great Swedish bands. What is it about Sweden and metal? Why do you think it’s so popular there? And how come you’re all so god damn talented?
Sweden has about the same people as London, but in Sweden metal is accepted. When you’re 10 they say to you in school “Do you want to learn an instrument?” A music teacher will teach you an instrument and the government won’t pay for all of it but will subsidise maybe half of the fee for the music teacher. Rehearsal studios are like £5 a month per member to use and they have amps, drums, PAs. All you need to do is turn up
with your guitar. The government fund a lot, however when it gets to adult stuff like recording an album or something you’re on your own. As for the skill or talent it’s partly because of the Swedish mentality of doing your best, be on time, etc. But also ‘cos in the north of Sweden there’s nothing but snow, so you either play an instrument or drink beer.
Tell us more about the Swedish mentality…
The Swedish mentality is calm, cool. The Amon Amarth mentality is nearly died out in Sweden, which is good cos Vikings were raping, murdering bastards. Better not let Olavi [Mikkonen, Amon Amarth] hear that in case he chases me!
What do people in your country make of the huge Swede-metal worship that has reached places outside of Scandinavia?
We’re aware of the Entombed-style bands and so on, and the traditional heavy metal influence [Sweden has]. Sweden just goes on. We only really see it in Europe when we tour. America doesn’t give a shit and doesn’t notice these things. People talk about how the Gothenburg sound died or has come back but if you’re in Sweden it’s always been there, people have still been playing it.
You’ve got a 2 year ‘Swedish Empire’ world tour on it way. 2 years is a long time, are you guys ready? Is there anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to?
Yeah, but it’s fun, I like touring. There’s good places, I like the Scottish nature and scenery. America is cool. We’ve got the Saboteurs in Germany that started out as fans who wanted to help out and just get a backstage pass or go to the afterparty in return. It’s a cool thing.
But no sign of any UK dates on your site, what gives?
They will be confirmed, but we’re not a band to just come and play London. We want to see the UK. I like the English language – most of the time, not in Glasgow. The people are nice, polite. I like the pub culture – music doesn’t have to be blasted like in Swedish bars. You can sit and relax. I don’t like the weather, but I like the people from the UK.
Carolus Rex is out May 25th via Nuclear Blast.
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