Finland's Kaaos TV recently conducted an interview with frontman Joakim Brodén of Swedish metallers SABATON. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the writing process for their forthcoming new studio album, "The Great War":
Joakim: "It's not like we ever stopped really writing music or reading history, because we like history, basically. But the real hardcore thing starts, I guess, for us, late May, June, early June last year, so a year ago. That's when we're looking at the song ideas that we collected over the time, see where they're going and we lock down on a subject. That's when we decided to do an album about The Great War, or World War I. Ever since then, it's almost been full-time. It becomes more focused this way also because we decided on The Great War before most of the songs were written, the topic is already influencing the songwriting as well, and later on, the production. It's a bit of a darker album, actually and more atmospheric, I guess, than the previous two."
On whether he wanted to stay true to SABATON's musical direction on "The Great War":
Joakim: "That's the problem any artist has who has done more than three albums: How do you keep your core identity musically and still innovate and have some kind of progress? For us, yeah, I would say this is very much a SABATON album, but there are quite a few surprises in there for hardcore fans. It's a bit tricky thing both emotionally and intellectually. Ourselves, we grew up listening to '80s metal, that's what everybody in the band has in common, '80s metal. Every other aspect, some people like '80s metal and harder, some people like '80s and older, so it is a common ground, which makes it a little bit easier for us. SABATON's core identity is based around that era's music, so we don't want to stop doing that, which is a nice thing. However, though, in a sense, we don't decide before we go into an album, 'Is this going to be harder, faster, slower, softer?' That doesn't make sense for us at all. We have to go where the music or the stories take us. This is a bit darker and more atmospheric because we chose to do The Great War as a theme."
On whether he takes into account the larger audiences SABATON has been playing in front of while composing new material:
Joakim: "Not so much, actually, when we are making an album, but certainly when we are choosing a setlist and figuring those things out. I don't think we would do ourselves or our fans any favors by selecting songs because of their live appeal, in a way. I know already of a few songs on this album — we could play any of them live, but may not work in a live setting. Even playing, for example, in Russia, when we play the song 'Stalingrad'. Everybody wants us to play 'Stalingrad', but halfway through the song, everybody's tired of 'Stalingrad' because it's a pretty progressive, hard thing and it's a really prolonged thing. It's like, we know that, for example, I hope one day, we will rotate the second-to-last track, 'The End Of The War To End All Wars' into the live set, but I also know it's now or never because that's never going to turn into a live favorite because it's not easy listening, it's not super catchy in any way, but it really belongs on this album and totally makes sense to do in this setting, but to do it ten years from now? Probably not."
On the task of launching their own history channel:
Joakim: "Quite big, but here's the thing: We are very passionate about history, but we're not experts. But we are not really doing the heavy research lifting, which is where a lot of the time would go and the production. We are actually not much a part of the history thing. We talk about it when we plan the episodes, of course, and make sure the events in the episode are not only included, but certainly included in the way of the story we are telling in the lyrics. In many cases, people have come back, 'Oh, okay. Those lines in the bridge make so much sense now. Now I understand why you put them there or what you're referring to!' I love it because I learn so much. No matter how much research we did, I understand we know nothing when I watch those episodes. [Laughs] I get to rediscover these places. We have so many good memories from writing those songs and finding out about those stories and playing those stories live. To be able to first introduce the songs, then the history segment comes, which we are not a big part of, actually. Our music is in there, but at the end, we talk about how did we find the story, did we meet anyone who was involved in this? Yeah, it's actually the most fun I had outside of being onstage or recording music, all the crazy side projects over the years."
On APOCALYPTICA releasing their own version of first single "Fields Of Verdun" before SABATON:
Joakim: "That would be credited to Pär [Sundström], our bass player and the boys from APOCALYPTICA. I love the idea. I don't think it's been done, actually. Maybe it has been, but I'm not aware of it, anyway. Why not? People ask us, 'Why?' I think it's good for both bands. They're at our festival, Sabaton Open Air, this summer. We really like them and they could make it their own because it's not like we're giving to another five-piece [metal band]. We have a bit of cool cross-promotion; good for both bands. I would really want to hear, if I'm a fan, 'Okay, when you heard the APOCALYPTICA version, how did you imagine the SABATON version sounding?' Finding out did we live up to the expectation? Was it like you imagined or totally different? Were you expecting a ballad? Or something fast with double-kick drums?'"
"The Great War" is due July 19 via Nuclear Blast Records. SABATON started recording "The Great War" exactly 100 years after the end of the First World War (November 11, 1918) and took three months of intensive work to complete the album with longtime producer and collaborator Jonas Kjellgren at Black Lounge studios. The disc was mastered by Maor Appelbaum and the artwork was once again created by Peter Sallaí.