On March 4th 2022, Swedish power metal band Sabaton will release their tenth studio album “The War To End All Wars.” In light of this event, we had a talk with guitar player Chris Rörland about the recording process of the album, history and World War One and LEGO 😉
Metal-Exposure (ME): We have heard the line The War To End All Wars already come by in lyrics and a song title before, and it’s a known name for the First World War. Now it’s the name of your new album. Could you explain why you’ve chosen it for this album’s title now?
Chris Rörland: It felt like the most logical thing to do. The Great War and The War To End All Wars are two common names for The First World War. There is a continuation in the story, and in our story as a band and these albums. We weren’t done telling this story, and we wanted to tell the whole story. We wanted to name it like this because the last song on “The Great War” was “The War To End All Wars,” and it felt like we wanted to continue this story. So we felt like it should be named “The War To End All Wars,” it was natural to do that.
ME: That makes sense…
Chris: Also, it was supposed to bé the war to end all wars, you know? Which, yeah…, it didn’t happen that way.
ME: It’s obvious now with COVID, the recording of the album might not have been the same. I was wondering, in what way did the pandemic have any influence on the recording of the album? And how was it any different from recording the previous albums?
Chris: Well, usually when we go into the studio everybody’s not there at the same time either. Joakim is there, he wants to have a view on everything, because he has the last say in everything, which is great. You háve to have that. You have to have a person doing that, because everybody has their own mind: ‘I want to do this, and I want to do that,’ and the end result will be crap, so it’s good that one person has the last saying.
So usually Joakim (Brodén, vocals) is always there, and then the studio engineer that we have now, Jonas (Kjellgren). The person that starts is always the drums. First it’s those three people; Jonas, Joakim and Hannes (Van Dahl, drums). Then when Hannes is done, usually me and Tommy (Johansson, guitars) come in both at the same time. Then Pär (Sundström, bass) comes in, because he has a lot of things to do and he always wanted to go last, and then last choirs and everything go in.
But for this time, Joakim wasn’t there, and it was only Hannes and Jonas at the start. We wanted to keep down the people in the studio, we only had two people in at the same time, so we don’t spread diseases and stuff like that. It was actually kind of boring, you know, because I always have my second guy, my guitar twin Tommy, with me. It was kind of boring now to stay there for a few days and just being there by myself, but I’m sure we totally understand and we respect it. Especially for Jonas who has kids as well. We don’t want to bring the sickness and then spread it like a… tank. (laughs)
ME: You said it’s important for someone to have the last saying. The absence of that didn’t lead to any confrontations or disagreements, now that Joakim wasn’t there?
Chris: No. I mean, I’m in the band now for 10 years, so he trusts me completely, which is great. He did that before as well, but it’s always good to have a person there that stands on the outside. When Jonas is recording, he’s recording; when I’m playing, I’m playing. So I’m focusing on that particular part, and Joakim is sitting here, and he’s just overviewing everything. He can be like, “that wasn’t good, maybe you should do that again, or maybe we can try that,” and that’s always good to have someone overviewing the recording process. This time, we had to do it ourselves, and it took a little bit more effort. But we were really careful now while recording everything, we listened to it very well, and we really gave everything on this album. We really tried to úp everything; all the guitar solos, the riffing, everything! I think we pulled it off this time. Really good!
It’s always fun to make an album because every album is not the same, that’s the fun part of it.
ME: Every album obviously is not the same, but you do have a signature sound…
Chris: Exactly, the Sabaton sound; absolutely! But we can, here and there, try new sounds, especially for this album. We have an 80’s song, “Soldier From Heaven,” and then we have a really heavy song as well, it’s called “Hellfighters.” We tried to touch different parts of music styles, and really upped the game and see where we can go with this one.
ME: Yes, I noticed. I’ve heard the album a couple of times now, and I also noticed the narrator/ voice over. Could you explain why you’ve chosen this format because I really like it but it was quite new.
Chris: Well she was included on “The Great War” album, when we did the history version. We had a girl from the UK, and she did such a fantastic job narrating that whole sequence before the song starts. We felt like this brings the listener way more into the story. So let’s do this as well on “The War To End All Wars.”
Then Joakim had this crazy idea – he said I want to have an intro and an outro on the album, but it’s going to be a full song. It’s going to be like a regular music song, but we’re going to have a narration on it, and then for the chorus, it’s just going to be us with big choirs and everything. So I was like, oh, that’s different… but it felt like such a good thing to do, because when the song starts, it’s very dark and moody, and then she starts speaking, and you get into the whole theme of the album. Then there’s the shot in Sarajevo, Archduke is dead, and she starts speaking… it just goes bigger and bigger, bigger. I still get goosebumps now when talking about it.
It felt like such a good thing to do. Especially if we bring that live, we can go out and we start the song and we just have the narration going on, and then we start a new chapter of the tour, and in the show we have a new chapter as well. So there, it opens up a lot of possibilities for us to do that. It might feel strange for some people. They will be like: what are you doing? Why you’re not singing here? But I think it was a wise choice to do that.
ME: It’s almost like listening to Discovery Channel, but then heavy metal style.
Chris: (laughs) Yeah, absolutely!
ME: So being a woman, I have to ask about songs about women. You now have the song “Lady Of The Dark,” and you have made a few songs about women before, but I have to say there’s quite a lack of female inspired songs. Are you planning on maybe writing more songs about female war heroes?
Chris: Absolutely! I mean if it fits the album, because we’re changing the history subject and everything for each and every album. I got the question ‘why didn’t you sing about Lady Milunka on the previous album?’, or ‘why didn’t you sing about her on The Last Stand?’ and was like: yeah, but it was at the wrong time era. We can’t sing about her because she’s from the First World War, and we’re singing about the Second World War now (“The Last Stand”). It has to fit, you know.
I’m more involved with the music writing than the lyrics. It’s always Joakim and Pär who write the lyrics, because they’re the history buffs, I don’t know much about history at all. I learned from the Sabaton songs. (laughs) If they feel like it’s fitting the album, it will be on there.
Of course it’s not like that we don’t want to sing about girls or women, because that would be just stupid. We want to bring more of that element into the songwriting as well. There are so many female heroes in the wars and there are so many stories, as there are so many stories in general.
It was the same when we released “The Great War.” People were saying: “why didn’t you think about this or that?” But there are only ten songs on the album, though we could get like 100 of them. It’s always a struggle to deal with.
But of course, we would love to involve more about the female heroes, it’s such a fresh thing to do, because there’s always this masculinity going on, it’s so nice to do something different, I love it.
ME: You just said, you learn a lot about history during the Sabaton songs. I was wondering, are there any moments from the First World War that you’ve learned about in the process of making this album that maybe made an impact on you on a positive or maybe a negative way?
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t know that much at all about the First World War because I only learned about the Second World War in school. We almost didn’t touch that subject at all. When we started doing these albums, I started hearing about the history of the First World War and we got to visit all the sights. When we released the previous album and everything; we went to Verdun and stuff like that. It’s just mind blowing for me to take that in now, because I knew more about the Second World War from what I know, from when I was a kid. But to hear about Christmas Truce, for example, is just amazing. The love of humanity really shows through, you know, it shines through. Even though in the darkest of times, there’s still a light there, it’s like, fuck, we’re not going to kill each other, we got to celebrate Christmas, we’re going to have fun with each other, we’re going to play football! Then they go back to killing each other the day after, it’s just wow, what the fuck? So yes, of course it touches me. Some of the lyrics are just mind blowing, it’s so horrible.
It’s hard to comprehend when you just listen to an album and read the lyrics. When you go to the actual places and see what has been done, you really take it in.
When we did the presentation of The Great War in Verdun everybody was so sad afterwards. We were just thinking, why did we do this, it was supposed to be fun. At the end, we were there for three or four days, and you can see it in the journalist, and also in the band. Everyone was just sitting like, Oh this is fucking horrible. I can’t take it anymore. Then you have a special guide there, that tells the full story of it, and it’s just mind blowing, it’s horrible. But there’s still things that really shine through and are fantastic in what mankind has done, you know? So it’s a hard question to answer. But I think there’s a lot I learned from these two albums from “The Great War” and “The War To End All Wars.” I learned quite a lot, which is good.
ME: Does that also have an impact on your view on the current situation? In the east of Europe for example, there’s some tension now. Writing so many songs about war, does it have any impact on the way you look at it right now?
Chris: Well, I am not really much into politics, I hate that actually, I hate it, I don’t even go there. I hate everything that has to do with politicians and stuff like that. Fuck those guys that are starting all the wars, it’s just horrible. Why can’t people just be more happy and enjoy life and take care of planet Earth? It’s just money and religion… it’s horrible, I do not like it.
But we as Sabaton are not writing about history to show people: okay, this is going on now, let’s do something about that. We get that question as well: “why aren’t you writing music or lyrics about things that are happening right now?” Well, it’s an easy, easy question. That’s politics, and we don’t do politics, we don’t do religious stuff, and we don’t take anybody’s side in that. We just sing about history and what the books are telling us.
ME: Have you ever heard about the Ukrainian band 1914? They actually also focus exclusively on World War One.
Chris: Really? No, I know the band, but I didn’t know that they write about that.
ME: (laughs) We were wondering if you maybe found any inspiration in a way of storytelling, but that’s going to be hard if you didn’t know that.
Chris: I know the band, I’ve seen their logo, but I didn’t know 1914 is so specific on history. I need to check that out! I think it’s interesting.
ME: If you’re ever going to make an album that’s not so specifically about the World Wars anymore, have you ever heard about the Emu War in Australia? It’s a very interesting war to look into. It’s a war where the Australian soldiers fought against emus during an overpopulation after World War One, and actually the emus won the war…
Chris: Now you see. There, that’s what I mean, it’s so fantastic. In school, they teach us about World War Two and then your own history. But then we get messages from fans and other people saying there’s this and that, you can sing about, it’s fantastic. Pär has a big folder on his computer with the years, and then the wars, and then topics, and all stuff like that. The more that we can hear from different stories, or different countries’ history, that’s just fantastic. I am going to check it out. Probably Joakim and Pär are going to be like “Yeah, we know about that” and I will be like: “Oh, okay, of course you have.”
ME: Are there any plans to do more songs in Swedish? Or even maybe in other languages than English that maybe could fit to specific history songs?
Chris: Absolutely, we’re open for opportunities and try to do something different. Each and every time we try to up the game and try new stuff. The Swedish version of “Carolus Rex” went so well here in Sweden, and people have been asking about if we can please do more? And then we did “Livgardet,” “The Royal Guard”, and people thought: ”Oh this is fantastic. Can you do more? Can you do another album?” Yeah, well, it takes a lot of effort to do an album in two languages; to write the lyrics and stuff like that, but I hope we can do it. I would love to do another Swedish album. If we do a German album then we will go to the Rammstein era or topic. So I don’t think we can do so much in other languages, except for Swedish and English of course.
ME: About the videos you’ve made, the Lego videos. Do they serve any purpose or are they just a fun thing to do?
Chris: Actually, I saw it when it came on Instagram, Pär didn’t even tell us about this. I was just laughing like “What the fuck is this? This is great!” He has so many ideas that don’t even come to us. We see it when it gets released, and it’s just a fantastic thing.
People have been asking us about: “Why did you do the Lego?’ Well… why not?!”
Also, people have been asking us: “Do you like all these memes?” Well, I’m open for business, I love it! More memes, do more memes, and stuff like that. It’s just fun, it’s just great fun.
ME: I find it’s quite funny that you only saw it when it came out, I did not expect that.
Chris: There are so many things that Pär wants to do. If Pär went through all the things that he wants to do, we would sit in a phone call with him 24/7 every day. But everybody has their own position in the band now. I’m more focused on helping out with the merchandise, such as the designs that come out for the vinyl edition, the CDs and the booklets. I take all the artwork, put it together and then I check everything through, so I’m sure everything is right. Then I send it back to Pär to make sure that the lyrics are in order and stuff like that. So I’m more on the design side, but Hannes is more on the photo side, when taking the band photos as we’re doing now.
We’re trying to do everything ourselves. Tommy is a phenomenal songwriter as well. When we try to do, like, covers for example, he does it so quickly, because he knows the programs so well. Everybody has their own position in the band, which is great! We try to cover everything ourselves.
ME: Do you have any time left besides running Sabaton?
Chris: No, pretty much takes all my time. People ask us as well: “What are you doing back home now that there’s COVID?” Well, I work my ass off every day. There’s still so much we can do. Even though I’m just sitting by a computer. So it’s great that we can do all that.
ME: How do you see the next year because it’s quite a weird time to bring out an album. There was supposed to be a show here in the Netherlands, but it got delayed again like many other shows.
Chris: Yeah, well, it’s never a good time to put out an album, because you never know what’s going to happen. We had this huge tour plan with “The Great War” and it just got cancelled due to COVID.
Now that we had this album done for one year already, we felt like: okay, maybe there’s gonna be a possibility for us to go out there again; we have to put it out, we can’t do it any longer.
But it looks bright now from what we heard. Denmark is opening up, the UK is opening up, Sweden hopefully will open up here in March as it looks right now. So we have the Swedish tour planned for April, and then the European tour that was supposed to happen maybe will get postponed indeed. I don’t really have any dates yet, but it’s going to happen as soon as possible, we have to stay hopeful.
ME: Yes, I agree. That was the last question, do you have anything left to say for us?
Chris: Thank you very much for having me. I really hope that people can enjoy the new album. We tried our best to make the best album we can do. I really think it shines through that everybody in the band put their 120% effort into the album. You can really hear that, musically and lyrically, just enjoy it. I hope to see everyone on tour soon!