Sabaton
Credit: courtesy Adrenaline PR

Founded in 1999, Swedish power-metal veterans Sabaton cast a microscopic gaze on the horrors of war with a sweeping, majestic, and anthemic sound that walks the line between empathizing with humans on the battlefield and glorifying the unglorifiable. Their records deliver poetic lessons in military history (usually European), and though they aim to stay as free of controversy as possible, that goal isn’t completely realistic given the themes of their songs and the realities of the world we live in. Sabaton released The War to End All Wars (Nuclear Blast) in March, along with a symphonic version a few weeks later. A follow-up to 2019’s The Great War, the album continues the band’s deep dive into World War I. The songs are solid through and through, and the stories they share are memorable; “The Unkillable Soldier” tells the brutally inspiring tale of a famously indestructible Belgian, while “Race to the Sea” is an edge-of-the-seat drama about the Battle of Yser, in which Belgian forces held the line against an advancing German army.

The so-called Christmas truce—brief unofficial ceasefires that became widespread across the Western Front in December 1914—has become a corny, metaphorically abused cliche in pop culture. But Sabaton’s take on it (in the song “Christmas Truce”) is touching in its bittersweet earnestness, especially contrasted with the deliberate false optimism of the following track, “Versailles.” Sabaton aren’t breaking new ground with The War to End All Wars, and they’re less interested in doing so than in further refining what they do best. With the world in the state it is, they’ll never run out of material.

That said, they’re hardly done exploring the trenches of WWI. Last month, they dropped a surprise EP, Weapons of the Modern Age, the first installation in a trilogy about the mechanical and technological horrors of the Great War, and its six songs include the charging (“The Red Baron”), the eerie (“The Attack of the Dead Men”), and the heavy (“Dreadnought”). Sabaton were here last year opening for Judas Priest at Rosemont Theatre, and this concert is part of a rescheduled headlining tour intended for the spring.

Sabaton Epica open. Sat 10/15, 7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, $32.50, all ages