Today, May 30 2018, The Art of War album turns 10 years old.
Timo Isoaho did an interview with Pär for the Finnish magazine Soundi, and it focus a lot on the making of that album so we decided to post it here in English for you all to read on this special day in our album history.
Hope you will enjoy it! :)
How was the band’s “overall feeling” after the albums Attero Dominatus (and Metalizer, too) and touring with such bands as of Edguy and DragonForce? I guess there were already “some signs” that future might look good for Sabaton…
The first tour we did supporting Edguy and Dragonforce inspired us a lot.
Most young bands dream of going on tours and we were no different.
Thanks to one crewmember of Edguy who had heard our album Primo Victoria we ended up on this tour.
After the tour we emerged with a lot of newly born Sabaton fans but with empty accounts. It was a different time then and as we realized later, bands nowadays don’t accept the kind of deals that were offered then. We were also ran over by some management who put a lot of costs on us that maybe we should not had accepted.
But it was part of the deal and we were a small band without any power behind for negotiation so we ended up paying not only our own expenses for the tour but also covering expenses for Edguy and Dragonforce.
One thing led to another of course and we kept pushing and did several tours in 2006-2007 until it was time for us to make another album. It was tough time for our financials.
We owed our record label money for the tours, we did not earn anything from any sales or tours and could not have any jobs since the band required too much time from us.
At this time a few of us took some studies to be able to take student loans from the government while playing which led to even more debts.
I was also personally beaten down during a break-in into our studio which made it impossible for me to do any other work at some time.
But none of this mattered, at least I was 100% sure about what I would do for the rest of my life.
Which are some of your main memories when you think of the song writing period for “The Art Of War”? For example: what were some of Sabaton’s main goals this time? Both music- and lyric-wise… Also, did you realize already during writing period that “guys, we have some good stuff here”?
Some of the memories I have from the song writing period of this album, are related with the repeated rehearsals of the song Unbreakable. I remember that we loved the heavy riffing so much that we kept playing just that part of the song for hours.
But one of the strongest song writing parts of this album is for sure Cliffs of Gallipoli. Joakim worked on this song for years. For the solo part only, lots of hours were spent working on every note.
For this song we had the idea of writing about the battle of Gallipoli. We met a Turkish guy in Netherlands on one of our shows and we loved the story he told us about Gallipoli and later after reading a lot both Joakim and me had the inspiration to write one of the best lyrics we ever did until then.
But the song writing stories don’t stop there. There are so many great songs that really stood out on this one. I remember also that the Price of a mile was written very late. One night in the studio Joakim showed the main riff with the melodies that he was thinking. I loved it the second I heard it and basically forced him to write the rest of the song overnight and include it on the album.
Happy it worked out since its probably my favourite song on that album to play live.
If you didn’t answer this already with previous question, then: When doing lyrics, where did you get the idea to use Chinese military treatise “The Art Of War”, written by Sun Tzu, and how was it to write the lyrics “based on that book”? Well, anyway, as we know these days, the end result was more than good :-)
The idea of the book The Art of War was totally Joakim´s idea.
To find the battles which we could connect to chapters in the book with actual events was difficult but we made it and the result is a very deep concept album. Glad it came out in 2008 since people today do not focus so much on concepts behind the albums.
Most people today just want the songs and do not care if they are written in a certain order, timeline or following a story. It is a bit sad but it is totally the result of downloading and the whole “on demand” idea.
What about the recordings, mixings and mastering during late 2007 and early 2008 in Abyss? Is there any/some memorable stories coming to your mind.
We recorded this album with Tommy Tägtgren who also did Primo Victoria and Attero Dominatus but the main difference there was that Peter Tägtgren noticed Sabaton and wanted to get involved in the making of this album. So, he took over the mixing which was a great thing for us to be able to work with the legendary Peter for something more than just taking some tips from him as previously was the case.
I think most of the album recordings at this time went quite smooth, we had some problems with the change in tempos on songs like Cliffs of Gallipoli, since at this time we did not use computers for recording. Still the recording was done on tapes at this time and when you needed to do retakes or make changes in tempos it was creating problems which thankfully no one who works only with computers will ever face again.
When the album was completed and you heard it for the first time, do you still remember how you felt at that moment?
I was extremely satisfied.
We played it for a few friends and I remember that so many reacted for the song Ghost Division while we had hopes that more people would like Cliffs of Gallipoli since we spent a lot of work on that song while Ghost Division was so easily both written and recorded.
Today we know that difficult songs are not necessarily better, likely the opposite.
The album was of course one kind of a breakthrough for you guys, such as couple of other albums as well… But thinking afterwards, what is the meaning and significance of “The Art Of War” for Sabaton and band’s whole career? Of course, songs like 40:1 have been huge for the band and deal with Nuclear Blast was done later…
For sure this was something different since before this album most magazines in Europe did not even mention Sabaton. We were just a tiny band who would never make it in many magazines eyes and ears, but when they got The Art of War this changed.
The album received fantastic reviews, beyond what we could imagine.
This is unconfirmed but some years ago someone did a collection of all german metal magazines and counted the all time highest ranked album in german metal history and The Art of War won that.
The success of 40:1 in Poland deserves a chapter of itself. I remember sitting at Sweden Rock Festival and borrowing internet from a local house watching the amount of views of 40:1 on YouTube – uploaded by a fan – which were increasing so rapidly. We heard that they were talking about the song on Polish radio and TV and we could not believe how powerful this song became.
At this time YouTube gave out awards and rankings on videos and the fan video received awards for most views music video on YouTube. Most viewed video in Poland. And also most viewed political video on YouTube. It reached several million of views before it was blocked by someone who apparently did not like it. By then it had already changed our career forever.
Do you remember any cool or not-so-cool (hahhah) reviews and/or fans’s feedback concerning “The Art Of War”?
Sabaton has always been a love or hate band and of course we received several really shitty reviews. Especially in Sweden where around this time the hatred against Sabaton was peaking.
And finally, when you think of the times after the album’s release – album’s overall reception and touring here and there -, which are some of your main memories?
The Art of War Tour was the first time we got away from the real small and shitty clubs in Europe and could play in bigger clubs. It was also probably the first tour we did from which we did not lose a lot of money. For me personally, the best part of this was the part we called Always Remember Tour. A six concert long tour in Poland where we played in very big venues for thousands of people and ended up playing on the actual battlefield where the events of the song 40:1 took place. Exactly on the minute 70 years after the battle happened.
Fans came from all of Poland in thousands to this field outside of the little village of Wizna and as the opening act we had a huge enactment of the battle with tanks, soldiers and artillery fire.
The show was visited by people from the Polish government and even we were told that the Polish President would attend the show too if he didn’t have the visit from the Russian President on this day.
He gave us a nice gift though that hangs on the wall in our studio. A tabled with all polish Coat of Arms forged since the first days of Poland.
A big tablet with about 1000 years of history forged in metal is very suitable to give to a heavy metal band who sings about history.
Here you can watch “The Price of a Mile” from our live show at Woodstock festival in Poland 2012: