Interview: PÄR SUNDSTRÖM of power metal giants SABATON on new album THE GREAT WAR and more.
An interview by Kris Kielich
The meteoric rise of SABATON has been fun to witness. The Swedish power metal five piece has slowly and steadily gained traction over the years to now headlining their own festival and gaining international acclaim on all fronts. With a passion for the history of warfare, the band’s catalog tells the tales of the bloodshed, heroes, and the physical, emotional, and political casualties of the many wars fought across history on our planet. And they do it better than anyone else.
With their fervor evident in their explosive live shows and a rabid fan base, their latest album THE GREAT WAR, delves into one of the more forgotten and often overlooked conflicts in recent memory – World War I. The trademark soaring vocal hooks and guitars that rise even higher are all present in spades, but the diversity of the songs on the record, as well as the unearthed stories, absolutely stand out and have garnered the album praise across the board. With the band set to deliver a new tour that will prove to be their biggest yet, I spoke with bassist PÄR SUNDSTRÖM to discuss the new album.
Q: When studying World War I history for “The Great War”, what was the most surprising statistic or fact about the war as a whole that you feel most people don’t know?
Pär: I think there were many such facts that we came across. We are from Sweden and we do not know a lot about WWI. I think the statistics surrounding Verdun were among the most shocking facts that we came across.
Q: World War I is often the forgotten war when it comes to depiction in media. Did you feel a sense of pride in the fact that you’re bringing stories of this huge but overlooked conflict out into public consciousness, especially since you’re covering factions and countries that fought in the war on all sides?
A: Pride is maybe not the right word to use, but when we find a story to bring to the public knowledge that most people do not know it becomes extra interesting for us. When it comes to this album and the conflict in total we tried to cover all aspects of the war, which was very difficult since we had only one album to do it in.
Q: There’s some legendary figures that you write about on this new album like Lawrence of Arabia and The Red Baron, but is there a certain joy you feel when you unearth a story about a figure that perhaps should have been legendary but has been left behind by history band and the fact that you bring them out into the open?
A: Sure! Again when we find something unknown its more interesting. I find the story behind the song “Ghost in the Trenches” interesting about Francis Pegamagabow. It is something we had never heard of before. Thanks to our friend Indy who is the host of the Sabaton History channel we were able to find this story and also the background for it.
Q: You guys have some of the best hooks in all of power metal. I love what a sense of melody you bring to each part and no one member is outshined by another. I get such a feeling of triumph and strength when I listen to your music, so my question is do you all get those feelings when you’re writing, rehearsing or recording? Do you ever break out in those goosebumps when you’re playing one of your songs onstage and think, “Man we write some powerful stuff!”
A: We definitely get that feeling sometimes. Some songs are really like, damn here we go! For sure the song To Hell and Back was such a moment. But the most powerful moment in our entire career was the moment we started to put together the harmonies for the song Primo Victoria. That feeling was amazing and changed my life. From that moment I basically decided to focus all my energy on Sabaton.
Q: Your new history channel on YouTube is really insightful and informative. It is, to me, another example of the attitude a lot of bands have today where they’re branching out with their own products like alcohol things of that nature. You guys have your own festival and I’ve read about that you’re constantly seeking out new ways to put yourself out into the world. Do you feel that this is a vital part of what makes you who you are, this constant drive to always expand?
A: I am always full of ideas, and I cannot do them all at once. But the history channel was something we wanted to do for a very long time. It is a big project that requires lots of people and a lot of work but it’s something that we not only think is good for the fans but also a great amount of fun to film for ourselves too. I am thinking of ways how to expand the channel into the future, adding more content and such!
Q: It’s been really fun to watch you guys grow exponentially over the last few years. What has it been like to experience that from within the band?
A: I have been involved in every little step, decision, and plan of the band so I am aware of most things happening and not often surprised. But it happens that I get surprised by something I did not expect and that is a fantastic feeling. There are a lot of people who think Sabaton came from nowhere, forgetting that we have been around for 20 years and have done lots and lots of shows and festivals all around the world.
Q: I’ve read and seen some previews of the sort of stage show you’ll be bringing out on tour with pyro and props. How much planning do you guys do in terms of what you specifically want for each new tour? Do you throw out a lot of big ideas as a group or do you generally know exactly what you want on stage and how you want it to work?
A: There are always a lot of ideas and then we update as we go along. All the guys are very creative and sometimes we have trouble deciding among several good ideas. The time it takes to plan and build the show is different for each tour. For building all we wanted for The Great Tour, I think we spent about 8 months from the first preparations to the first show. We build different parts in different countries first and then we bring it all together in our warehouse and start finalizing it.
Q: Just as World War I was a watershed moment in history for the next level technology and brutality, do you think this album and tour cycle will be a watershed moment for Sabaton in terms of taking your live experience to the next level and bringing in more people than ever before?
A: Yes I do, I feel it. Not just because what we are doing but also what is happening with the music industry in general worldwide. Live streaming is really taking off now and we are closely watching where this will take us in the future. We see also a race to buy musical rights from some of the tech companies. Interesting times!
Sabaton’s new record “The Great War” is available on Nuclear Blast Records now.
Sabaton – The Great War tracklisting:
1. The Future Of Warfare
2. Seven Pillars Of Wisdom
3. 82nd All The Way
4. The Attack Of The Dead Men
5. Devil Dogs
6. The Red Baron
7. Great War
8. A Ghost In The Trenches
9. Fields of Verdun
10. The End Of The War To End All Wars
11. In Flanders Fields
I am very proud to host this interview with Pär Sundström of Sabaton and valuable contents by our Senior Editor and music journalist Kris Kielich. To find out more about Kris, sneak peek into his music background and bio at:
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