Music has been used for thousands of years to inspire and teach humanity. Whether they care more about the lyrics or the rhythm, everyone has a type of music that stirs something within them. As an Alabamian, I have a soft spot for country music and all the tropes that come with it. However, as a history nerd, there is one band in particular that I am a fan of: Sabaton. Sabaton is a historically themed Swedish heavy metal band. Do I have your attention yet? While catchy, clever, and unique, their music has also taught me much about the past.
The band was formed in Falun, Sweden, and has been performing around the world for nearly two decades. Their original songs involved more standard heavy metal themes, those that have caused many conservative parents to hate the genre. However, their shared love of history eventually came to the forefront, potentially encouraged by their practice environment–an old school building. In 2005, they released the album Primo Victoria, which included songs about D-Day and the 1967 Six-Day War.
In 2014, I stumbled across one of the songs from this album while looking for workout music. It was titled “Wolfpack” and detailed the dangers of German U-Boats in World War II. This song helped fuel my already growing interest in metal music. As a football player who kept a novel in his locker, this mix of metal and “nerdy” historical facts was the perfect music for me. While many metal songs contain deep lyrics, the ones by Sabaton are some of the only ones I have encountered that are both educational and super catchy.
Because they are from Europe, I have also learned much about international history through their music. They chronicle the valiant defense of the Swiss Guard that allowed the Pope time to escape during the pillaging of the Vatican in 1527 in the song “The Last Stand.” Alternatively, “The Lion from the North” tells about the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. This king’s innovative tactics allowed the fledgling Protestant forces to be victorious in their attempts to break away from the Catholics during the Thirty Years War. Finally, one story I had never heard before appeared in “Soldier of Three Armies,” which told about a soldier from Finland who served in the Finnish, German, and US armies between 1939-1965, earning medals in all three and dying in the American Special Forces.
Of course, American stories make it into their albums as well. The battle of Midway, Alvin York’s exploits, and Bastogne’s ferocious defense are all creativity shared. Over the years, their albums have grown to include an eclectic assortment of stories from history.
Sabaton is not everyone’s preferred style of music; some of you may not enjoy metal music and those of you who do may consider Sabaton a bit over the top or cliche. However, while I am not much of a purist, I can’t help but find it fun and unique to hear a bunch of rockers singing their hearts out about obscure World War I battles.
In the 1970s, SchoolHouse Rock taught a generation of kids about American history. It’s fun to see a crazy group of musicians doing the same with military history on such a large scale. Even if you don’t like metal music or the lifestyles associated with it, you may enjoy Sabaton’s YouTube channel if you’re interested in history. Their channel explains the stories behind their songs using interviews, research, and historical footage. If, for some reason, none of these great options interest you, here’s a fun fact you can reuse later: the band’s name Sabaton derives from the armored boots knights wore in medieval times.