There's really two kinds of German metal out there. There's the traditional power metal; stuff like Primal Fear or Scorpions that just kicks your ass with rhythmic playing and powerful vocals. Then, there's the other variety that sounds like the metal version of a battle at a renaissance faire. Bands like Blind Guardian come to mind. This kind of music has an appeal, but you'd better be brilliant if you want to pull it off. For years, Sabaton has been on the cusp of that greatness. With CAROLUS REX, they fall far short of not only that standard, but their own standard of excellence as well.
p>In short, the best word to describe CAROLUS REX is boring. Everything about it is tired; like a boring tribute to their past work. It's not surprising. Most of the band has quit or been fired from the band, which calls into question where the creativity was even coming from writing and recording this effort. It shows. In many ways, CAROLUS REX runs like a bad tribute to albums like THE ART OF WAR or the brilliant COAT OF ARMS. Replacing dynamic songsmithing this time are tired attempts to be "triumphant" on songs like "A Lifetime Of War". This song is the epitome of dull, with vocalist Joakim Broden's deep voice just wearing you out with his false sense of inspired patriotism. For his part, he sounds decent. Songs like "1 6 4 8" find Broden roaring about as well as he ever does.
The problem is not Broden, and it's not any of the musicianship to be quite honest. It's all fine. The problem is that the songs are just not very good at all. Song after song, you get dealt a sad shell of this kind of music. There's so little inspiration in songs like "Carolus Rex" and "The Lion From The North" that you end up bored as you work through the album. I don't know how else to describe it. In short, CAROLUS REX just sounds like they went into the studio and wrote songs to sound like other stuff instead of really having any creative juices flowing to create another exciting slab of metal. There's NOTHING exciting here.
PITRIFF RATING - 35/100 - This is not only boring, but it's also disappointing as Sabaton has become one of the elite bands in this genre. CAROLUS REX could very well be a misstep considering how much turmoil was going on with the band when it was being written and recorded. That said though, that doesn't forgive this tepid slab of boredom. Sabaton missed the mark here.